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Review: Learning to have lost by Oz Hardwick, reviewed by Charley Barnes


Oz Hardwick’s Learning to have lost was recommended to me during an open mic event where I probingly asked what people think of prose poetry. The results were mixed, as they often are. So, then, in this series of ‘reviewing poetry’, where Talis and I will spotlight some of our recent reads, it only feels right that I break the rule of reviewing poetry by reviewing a set of prose poems, a genre that seems to have no rules at all – or, if it does, they are ones that are constantly under interrogation. 

Hardwick’s bitesize collection belonging under this heading, though, is a beautiful exploration of what prose poetry means to so many writers: it is the undefinable. In these moments, Hardwick asks that we lean on ‘a muscle memory… a mix of faith and reflex, like a small religion’ (“Space Invaders”) and it is in doing so that we, the reader, find a way to explore these works fully. Hardwick borrows from familiar languages and less familiar structures – is it prose, is it poetry – to explore the ways in which memories slip down the cracks of mind. The memories, then, or rather the writing, is rooted in moments of familiar; things ‘patterned with words we let drop, smudged at the places where we almost touched’ (The Universal Petting Zoo”), building a mosaic of what it means to age and, inevitably, misplace parts of the whole. 

Learning to have lost, such as the title suggests, then, explores places of near-contact through a series of carefully worded – and equally carefully constructed – pieces of near-prose, near-poetry. Genre aside, this was a beautiful set of writings that I ate greedily in one sitting and, for those who are looking to explore the craft of prose poetry, this is a collection I heartily recommend. 

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Oz Hardwick’s Learning to have lost is available now from a number of retailers, including Waterstones and Amazon UK


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