“A Summary of the Poetic Styles Rendered within The Hollow of the Hand.”


“The Guest Room”
This was the first piece from The Hollow of the Hand leaked to the public, and the reader’s idea of Harvey’s intention is naturally dominated by images — in fact it’s sparse, bare, and unapologetic, just like her best music. The images, such as the “orange cushions,” the “grey dove” and the “blue gas canister,” bear no logical relationship to one another, they’re simply thrown together on adjacent lines. For this reason of awkward, insensible association, the poem cannot be “realist,” a style which necessarily represents a potentially inartistic description. Wikipedia defines Imagism as “a succession of creative moments.” “Directness of presentation and economy of language” are other obviously applicable attributes.


“The Boy”
This is one of my favorite pieces in the whole book, partly because the “real” scene being depicted is so refreshingly wholesome. We get a break in this poem, in other words, from The Hollow of the Hand’s overall theme, worldwide desolation and hopelessness. Still, the coveted beacon implied by the poem’s diction is something yet imaginary, and as a result “The Boy” doesn’t necessarily clash thematically, it just nestles within as somewhat of a stalwart aberration. The single metaphor within the poem, “Bullet holes in the walls / form a map of the world,” gives an appropriate nod to the book’s totality, but elsewhere we are metaphor free, and the frank descriptions of the situation and then the “smiles” materializing on the faces grant “The Boy” its sanity, and cognitive regularity, thus granting it, in my opinion, “realist” qualities. Again, this should be differentiated from Imagism by the presence of a linear narrative — the separate events have naturally to do with one another, and are not thrown together with seeming arbitration.


“An Initiation”
Around World War I, artistic luminosity split into two camps — the Dada, [1] and the Surrealists. The surreal “An Initiation” may be my choice poem within all of The Hollow, and its singularity is undeniable. In fact, rather than in any way commenting on the other pieces, or complimenting them, such as “The Boy” which is a recurring theme in the book, “An Initiation” stands entirely apart as a haunting hallucination. Metaphor runs rampant in this piece — it’s not in any way imagistic, and it’s about as far from realism as Harvey’s music is from Ace of Base (whom I happen to love as well). With obvious relation to androgynous musical excursions like “Man-Size,” gender emerges potently in this piece, as Harvey juxtaposes herself directly and functionally with “forty men (who) are kneeling in a ring.” What follows seems to play as her imagination’s mad antidote for her own sexual and/or sociological struggles, but it’s meaning grafted through the meaningless, with a juicy and frightening turn back into everyday life at the end.


“A Guy Who Knows What the Fu**’s Going On”
Wikipedia defines Lyric as “a formal type of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person,” and while I find this a somewhat clumsy definition as language as a common rule can’t help but express emotions, I notice a common seam here with “A Guy Who Knows What the Fu**’s Going On.” One thing easily gleaned from the above definition, at least, is its demarcation as a style “spoken” — which implies its malleability into vernacular or colloquial speech. Enter “A Guy Who Knows What the Fu**’s Going On,” with its dialectic abbreviations: “I look at the news an’ I see it right…” As it happens, this is one of Harvey’s less auspicious styles, so rightly it’s placed toward the end. Her attempt to sound direct and authoritative here is feeble, and it’s easy to see why she never made it as a businesswoman. Her tool is her muse, which is more tied to her imagination, and this piece, presented probably as an attempt toward sociopolitical leveling, dissolves before it gets going.


“To the Oldest Homo Sapiens”
“Postmodern literature,” says wikipedia, “is literature characterized by reliance on narrative techniques such as fragmentation…”, whereas wikipedia is just divine, obviously. And sure enough, “To the Oldest Homo Sapiens” chunks in with a “technique” I’ve noticed as pretty common in poetesses (I was sort of forced to take a creative writing class recently) — the simple listing of images or items, devoid of sentence structure. Typically this is a pet peeve of mine, but it makes sense in Harvey’s work to an extent… partly because, mainly in fast-paced, business-minded “postmodern” times, many people actually have a tendency to talk like this, when barking, and this piece collects a certain inherent poignance, with its superlative diction and graveyard imagery.
[1] No, this is not a shoutout to the late-’90’s hit “Da Da Da” by Trio, Dadaism was the first kitschy anti-art and preluded modernism with themes of mindless repetition and mental deadening. It originated in the Germany-bordering neutral country of Switzerland, a gritty foil to France’s highfalutin Surrealism.

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