W. H. Auden, in his essay, The Poet and the City, (the Dyer’s Hand, 1962), starts with a quote by H. D. Thoreau: “There is little or nothing to be remembered written on the subject of getting an honest living…….One would never think, from looking at literature, that this question had ever disturbed a solitary individual’s musings.”
Auden covers much in this essay, but it’s his concept of the modern hero which is relevant here: “the man or woman in any walk of life who, despite all the impersonal pressures of modern society, manages to acquire and preserve a face of his own.”
In Geoff Hattersley’s latest collection, Harmonica, we have Auden’s hero; in fact, a succession of them. These are heroes battling against the complexity, confusion, drudgery and relentlessness of making ends meet.
This collection is appealing on many levels: for its simple language, the way he maps the struggle against these ‘impersonal pressures’, the optimism you unearth as you read more deeply, and the love of people.
Geoff Hattersley was born in South Yorkshire in 1956. His many collections of poetry include Port of Entry (Littlewood 1989), Don't Worry (Bloodaxe 1994), Harmonica (Wrecking Ball 2003), and Back of Beyond (Smith/Doorstop 2006). His poems have been broadcast on local and national radio and have been used as part of syllabuses in schools, universities, and with The Open University. He is an experienced reader of his poetry and has performed and recorded musical arrangements of his poems. He edited The Wide Skirt Press from 1986 until 1998, publishing 30 issues of the magazine and 24 books and pamphlets. He is an experienced creative writing tutor and is currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Huddersfield University. A new collection, Outside the Blue Hebium, is due to be published by Smith/Doorstop Books in July 2012.