If this existence is, as Jeff Hardin says, "a strange but accidental / pleasure," it is a pleasure deepened and enriched by language. And in A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being, Hardin plumbs the pleasures and contradictions of language, which offers "a taste of the eternal," even as it reminds us how far we are from actually achieving that plateau. But Hardin is a poet who knows how much of the eternal swells in our bodies and our actions, since "the thing to remember is that you can always / start in one direction and end up somewhere else, / and there'll still be someone to wave you in, / a fellowship of sorts." Jeff Hardin's poems embrace and extend the fellowship of language and make the eternal seem, for a moment, not as distant.
Al Maginnes, author of The Next Place and Music from Small Towns
Jeff Hardin’s A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being invites us to sit with the self in the kind of comfortable uncertainty Keats called negative capability. These are not poems with expectations. Their business is not in telling us how to live, but rather showing by example how we may consider the community in which our lives meet. Stanza by interlocking stanza and page by page, these poems ask us to “agree we are taken right out of these / days as we know them, not knowing / we don’t know them fully, not all of them, / not for long, / certainly not for long enough.” Thank goodness books, like our minds, ask to be opened again and again so we may see and re-see these masterfully earnest lines as they live on the page and in our lives.
Christian Anton Gerard, author of Holdfast
Jeff Hardin writes that “this sense of being a soul is hard to explain,” but more than any other living poet, this fortuitous thrall, this constant unwinding is what he reveals. A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being becomes luminous in your hands. A quietly radical undertaking unfolds: the traditional lyric poem rises out of uncertainty toward insight and conclusion powered by the poet’s acuity, but Hardin’s dexterous, precise poems challenge poetry’s hubris. The premise here is joy, the constant is human limitation, the arrival is not at grandeur—or its easy opposite, irony—but at a beautiful, grateful intellectual humility. These are poems we need, poems clear-eyed enough to find and praise the gaps, the absences, the silences, and the notes “tethered to nothing but a veering toward something else.”
Catie Rosemurgy, author of My Favorite Apocalypse
and The Stranger Manual
It has become all the rage for poetry books to be built around a theme. But books of a sustained philosophical inquiry are less common. Whereas Andrew Hudgins and others have written well of the persistence of nature in our lives, Hardin's book explores the persistence of our consciousness within nature. As we construct lives as impressive and fragile as spiderwebs, gossamer threads from our consciousness are blown about, but, in this book, are also anchored by nature itself, perhaps even to the point of being a salvation, a "momentary stay against confusion." For mature readers and poets, A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being is a delight and a playful challenge. For aspiring poets, this book is a lesson in both humility and ambition.
Mark Dawson, former editor of Black Warrior Review
This engaging manuscript abounds in successful poems. . . . Moreover, the title of this collection seems to me excellent—promising and meaningful, an affirmation of the world we have and of our place in it.
...there’s a timelessness to Hardin’s work...No Other Kind of World is a memorable collection of poems that praises life while acknowledging its challenges. Readers are left with a realistic sense of wonder by this honest, beautiful book.
Erica Wright, Chapter 16
For the last several years, I've watched (and listened to) Jeff Hardin's poetic voice grow exponentially in force and surety. This growth culminates in his fine new collection No Other Kind of World, which is full of quietly powerful and envy-inducing poems. Probing, sly, and always—as is Hardin's trademark—devotional.
To Hardin, so much of our every day lives is emblematic of the power of the infinite, an ethereal conduit to the sublime. Not that Hardin doesn’t account for the weariness we suffer in this world, how “all around, the snow descends, accumulates, makes the front steps one more hazard to avoid,” documenting how we’re “practitioners of the hard season’s bearing down, of the town/slowing to stasis.” He acknowledges the arduous nature of endurance, but in what can only be described as a magnificent defiance, he proffers that while “death, of course, keeps a look-out for the slips we make,” we ultimately “gather what the morning gives, and some of it heals.” Hardin’s ebullient words in poem after poem, lyrical and narrative powerhouses abounding, are part of that healing. They are a balm, a beacon.
Lana Austin, author of Blood Harmony
In a world fraught with naysayers and onlookers, with political exaggeration and too-clever sequels, thank goodness we have poets and men “who define themselves/ by what they have/ a tenderness toward.” Jeff Hardin’s Small Revolution may indeed start one, this man who loves bird flashings and stillness, who, with every breath, “leans a little closer to this earth.” No world, however dewy or overcast, is ever commonplace in his vision and embrace. These poems, reminiscent of those inked by ancient Chinese contemplatives, tap at our windows to say please pay attention. More like postmodern beatitudes for our polarized times, each is a preposterousblessed be Hardin slips in when the forgetful world isn’t looking.
Linda Parsons, author of This Shaky Earth
In Small Revolution Jeff Hardin is a day-to-day wizard, a shaman of moments. He praises those who converse with dragon flies, willows and people no longer here; those who are off “studying moss,/finger-nudging an ant,/shrugging at evidence,/believing/otherwise.” Hardin’s poems honor solitude, missing “what’s most essential: wind and rain against a window;/who [he’s] been; some time alone;/a ripple on a pond gone back to still…” He reminds us that “there are movies you can’t get anywhere else/except by standing in a field, remembering how,/once,/you were a spirit in moonlight,/mended by wind through sage grass.” And even though Hardin ends “To Fellow Poets” with “I guess I’m asking could we be naïve enough/to be naïve again,” he is anything but naïve. He personally understands sorrow and loss in our world and, even so, invites us to stand with him, spirit-filled and “mended.” These lyrical, witty, sensory-rich poems understand the iffyness of existence and how personal syllables form a silence—a language of hope—in a nebulous world. Readers who approach these poems again and again will discover Hardin’s revolution anything but small.
Bill Brown, author of The News Inside and Elemental
Jeff Hardin's poems are shaped like sonnets (even though most, but not all, eschew rhyme), and for someone as besotted with poetry (poems and poets are frequently mentioned) and language (the resonances of words and the weirdness of the way they evoke the world are a recurrent preoccupation) as he reveals himself to be, his circling around but never quite embracing a traditional form seems wholly appropriate. The prevailing tone, even when he is dealing with the recalcitrant subject matter implicit in a hardscrabble childhood, is one of incipient mysticism, the feeling of being on the edge of a revelation of meaning that never quite declares itself (lines can sound like Traherne at times, or even Blake). The poems have a simultaneous tact and openness to the world that is persuasive and beguiling; though the surface tone shifts from poem to poem almost all of them glow with a kind of inner honesty that is both their strength and their beauty, "refracting silvered flashes out of reach" as the poet says.
Dick Davis, Donald Justice Poetry Prize judge
Jeff Hardin is extremely sophisticated, mature, and knows exactly what he is doing.
An "advocate of letting things lean as they must," Jeff Hardin does not shy from the realities of a changing world, each poem "the gist of the gist," that precise and graceful a rendering. Of course there is sorrow in Hardin's awareness of the present slipping into the past, into "a field gone dark with itself." And there is beauty, too--as Hardin shows us--in the inevitability of "a compass pointing here/and nowhere else." Notes for a Praise Book is the welcome new work of a wise and generous poet.
Many of the poems in Jeff Hardin’s Notes for a Praise Book have [an] intimate quality, with Hardin’s strong, individual voice using imagery—usually drawn from rural life and the natural world—to convey philosophical and spiritual insights...More in the Wordsworthian vein, Hardin looks to nature for comfort and revelation. He has a habit of leaping from image to insight, but these leaps are always sure; the connection between immediate experience and abstract thought makes intuitive sense.
Maria Browning, Chapter 16 review
Hardin’s language is a language of expansion, where sprawling lines trawl ever outward, tracing a never-ending “meanwhile.” Most engaging...is Hardin’s willingness to let the self go. His epiphanies are moments empty of thought...Hardin’s poems aren’t afraid of “letting it all slip and be gone.” And maybe this is why we should pay such close attention to them.
Matt McBride, Mid-American Review
Hardin’s world is primarily the rural South, and his people primarily rural people with their deep and rooted knowledge…Out of his world and its speech he makes lyric poetry of praise for the earth…In the end it is simply a pleasure to listen to Hardin think in his poems…A believer’s lyrics, his are the songs of one who has accepted the world for what it is, mostly—a gift.
Mark Jarman, 2004 Nicholas Roerich Prize judge
Virtually every poem in the book establishes the natural world as ultimate value—abode of the divine and moral teacher...His stance is one of humility, almost total self-effacement before the natural world.
Robert Collins, Birmingham Poetry Review
Hardin’s voice is consistently gentle, and often self-deprecating—perhaps too often for some readers, but these poems don’t settle for easy epiphanies; there are plenty of surprising turns. Hardin writes under the watchful eye of the greats.
Mark Dawson, Alabama Writers' Forum
Jeff Hardin manages to combine the conscience and sensibility of the 17th-century English poet-divines with the pagan wonder of Walter Pater. Perhaps Blake is his bridge. In any case, these ecstatic, visionary poems convince by reason of their many tributes to silence, naming themselves “little blasphemes.” To call Hardin a master of hyphenations (“yard-dizzy,” “slush-heat,” “slither-clangs,” “mercy-flushed,” “sidle-sling”—only Heaney’s can compare) is say that he fuses disparate elements in a new synthesis indistinguishable from the prayer he utters as one “light-stunned” by his presence on Earth. Simultaneously rhetorical and modest, this student of the natural world is a 21st-century pilgrim, and Fall Sanctuary is an invitation to accompany him. Drop what you are doing and go.
Philip Dacey, author of Night Shift at the Crucifix Factory
Hardin's is a poetry against despair. Not only is nature's endless beauty reason to rejoice, but language itself can transcend… Despite our best efforts to thwart it, [he says], goodness is around us, is in us, and given the chance will reveal itself in even the direst circumstances.
The Nashville Scene