“One Metaphoric Wrinkle amidst Quarries of Image: The Hollow of the Hand‘s Initial Works

I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence or not, but the new, incredibly cool New Yorker cover seems in perfect jibe with the pictorial features in this new PJ Harvey book: persons traversing desert lands, struggling against barrenness and desolation, generally a picture very much opposite America. Sparseness seems to be definitely a theme in this poetry book so far, as if Harvey is trying to prepare our brains for when they’ll encounter ebbs in opportunity and surrounding good will, I guess since much of life entails dealing with such things.

One favorite grouping so far is, in “Chain of Keys,” “She keeps her hands behind her back / slips the keys along the chain / worries them and worries them” (Harvey 15). As I mentioned in a post before, Harvey’s poetry tends toward the imagistic, which basically signifies the portrayal of actual images as sovereign over metaphor. Nothing in these poems is emotional; they’re composed entirely of bare, detached observations. Being a realization as it is, this in me called to mind J.D. Salinger’s titular character Teddy: “‘Those are two Japanese poems. They’re not full of a lot of emotional stuff’” (Salinger 185-186). [1]
I had a feeling I’d get a lot out of this PJ Harvey book of poems, and great artists like her have often a way of coaxing us into their worlds, and jolting us, so that juxtaposed are a torpid realness, and some nascent or expressionist surprise.
[1] The more gratifying of the two “poems” is, in its entirety: “‘Nothing in the voice of the cicada indicates how soon it will die.’”


PJ Harvey and Seamus Murphy. The Hollow of the Hand. Bloomsbury Circus: Great Britain, 2015

J.D. Salinger. Nine Stories. Little, Brown and Company: Boston, 1981.

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