Hollie Hardy’s jaw-dropping book of poems, How to Take a Bullet, brilliantly expands the “how to” model of expression to include the impossible. What exactly would be required to take a bullet well, a deft last-minute turn or full-frontal acceptance? In “How to Survive If Your Parachute Fails to Open,” we have the perfect model of the Zen of recklessness: “A floating moment / when you wonder / if you will really jump / and you wonder if / you already have.” The Latin poet Horace famously wrote that poetry should “both delight and instruct.” The delight of How to Take a Bullet is not in the book’s moral imperatives (though it is savagely wise), but rather in the striking humor and incisiveness of its lines: “Wrap yourself in an opalescent carapace of fog. / Drink nothing but your mother’s milk.” We abandon ourselves to the craft of “the green night of the dazzled snows” and how to remove the victim’s shoes.
~Paul Hoover, author of Desolation: Souvenir
and editor of Postmodern American Poetry
Hollie Hardy’s poems in How to Take a Bullet and Other Survival Poems are important: brave, whimsical, and wise. Hardy seeks dialog with other poets, authors and artists, burying borrowings like precious jewels, skillfully planting Leonard Cohen and Virginia Woolf, Thomas Pynchon and Sylvia Plath. While her use of form is consistent and understated in the less-is-more sort of way, this quieter, almost traditional manner allows Hardy to enhance the reader’s experience of her rich imagery and sensory detail:
Glistening slices of moon
Splash through the lattice of leaves…
Your fingers find the textures of trees
Barefoot in the moist earth, a guidebook in Braille…
(from “How to leave a trail for rescuers if you are lost in the wilderness”)
Her poem for Oscar Grant, “How to Survive a Riot,” reminds us why it is important to be present to the most pressing need of our time: naming racial inequity before the law and doing something about police brutality and the murders of unarmed black boys and men. Hardy reminds us that we live in a war zone, in a time where lessons in survival must become the business of poets and poetry.
~Mukta Sambrani, author of Broomrider's Book of the Dead and The Woman in this Room Isn't Lonely
Hollie Hardy’s “Survival Poems” teach us to remain whole by being multiple, to live inside our paradoxes in a “symphony of voices,” to take a bullet by merging its motion into a continuous act of self-invention, to “enjoy an orgasm in the public void” and to “use a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness.” If Munch’s Scream embodies the anxiety of urban Modernity, Hollie Hardy’s SHOUT unlocks a music to celebrate all this speed, all this contradiction, arriving toward a new super-Self in both multiplication and recovery, in protest and love. In the fullest sense of the word, your survival may depend on reading this book!
~Chad Sweeney, author of The Parable of Hide and Seek, Wolf's Milk, and Arranging the Blaze
Toss out all the other How To books on your shelves. Those less than useful manuals on how to live a happy life, shod your horse, achieve nirvana in ten easy shake and bake steps. Replace with one shining new poetry book from Hollie Hardy. “How To Take A Bullet And Other Survival Poems,” is part instruction manual, part poetic divination, part rumination of a visionary scout. The poems in this first collection not only teach you how to survive bullets and battles and boredom, but how to survive love, ennui, desire, and the slings and arrows of mates. You’ll not only learn how to land a plane, but how to land a poem, not only how to treat a knife wound but how to repair wounds less visible. This poet takes you to an imaginative precipice and asks
you to jump. As one line predicts, “…eventually you will land somewhere.” Want to know how to survive a fall from that great height? Read this book. With Hollie Hardy you couldn’t want for a better girl guide.
~Toni Mirosevich, author of The Takeaway Bin, and Pink Harvest: Tales of Happenstance
Exhilarating and entertaining, Hollie Hardy’s How to Take a Bullet, And Other Survival Poems takes you on a journey to invulnerability, with instructive poems that teach you how to survive a parachute failure, wrestle alligators, or build a fire. Full of “acts of desperation and/or violence,” Hardy’s fierce first book will grab you by the throat (sometimes literally, as in “How to Perform a Tracheotomy”) and won’t let you go.
~Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Becoming the Villainess
A sensuous and persistent vision defines Hollie Hardy’s How To Take A Bullet, one that sees our age of self-help and DIY culture as an aesthetic vehicle for more ritualistic and artful remakings of the self in language and hip codes. Some fires actually do revise the mountains. Here is one.
~Major Jackson, author of Holding Company, and Hoops
How to Take a Bullet will keep you safe—and stimulated. Satisfied. Strap it on, reader; it’s better than a bulletproof vest, a shot of whiskey, and an EpiPen combined. With sly echoes of Poe, Woolf, Nin, Plath, McCarthy, Neruda, and Barthes, it’ll protect, tranquilize, reanimate, and reinvigorate. And then there’s that edge of menace and comedy that’s all Hardy’s own. Submit to it, my friend.
~John Hennessy, author of Coney Island Pilgrims
and poetry editor for The Common
With wit and candor, Hollie Hardy writes for her life. "Break up your own little tedium," these poems remind us. With their riffs on existing literature and recurrent crises, Hardy's poems show us what can be gained from trying old tricks in new ways. Hardy shows us how to survive a life lived just over the edge. These poems are playful in the way tussling wolf cubs are playful. They are physical and practical. They are recognizing and revealing strength.
~Camille Dungy, author of Smith Blue and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison
Artwork by Donald Morey
Punk Hostage Press (2014)
Winner of the Annual Poetry Center Book Award,
judged by Mukta Sambrani
The poems in this collection have titles ruthlessly appropriated from The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. Between the lines of the literal, contemplative metaphors masquerade as instructions, invoking both survival and surrender. The landscape is often urban, woven of dream. Ocean wet and desert dry, here is a windswept city of powdered bone and liquid night. There is always the potential for desire. Teeth and sky. Blindfolds and breadcrumbs. Mouths naming and claiming the elements: fire, wind, texture, motion. There are dangerous beasts to conquer. Internal and external. Fear on lips and fingertips. These poems are weapons of change, lessons of smoke and rain, freedom, and finally, the breath.
Poet, Writer, Educator