The Beauty of “Similefying” Lines in Non-versed Poesy: A Review of Oz Hardwick’s ‘a Census of Preconceptions’ By Ebi Robert



I first saw copies of "A Census of Preconceptions" flooding Oz Hardwick’s timeline in cyberspace. Indeed, I loved the collection at first sight. Despite the fact that I hadn't been able to obtain a copy, Oz's brief profile served as a sales pitch. When analyzed, the colourful cover is quite simple but full of deep messages. But I am not here to visualise the image—that may be for another day.


I must admit that the title was the first thing that caught my attention before diving into the collection's 78 pages. I had tried to find some meaning somewhere in the inked pages. An introduction like a preface or foreword could have helped a bit. But no, I was straightaway taken to the first lines in this work of poesy. I must also admit that seeing the style Oz had adopted was an invitation to doubt. The lines were not versed or even rhymed. As a result, one would not tick the box of a free or blank verse. Put differently, simply take out the stanzas. A question persisted about whether I was reading a poetic collection or some kind of prosaic work of art.


In the midst of this, I realised the poet’s mastery of the use of literary tools, and particularly imagery. Quite frankly, one of the devices that stood out is the use of simile, such that the first featured poem opened with the magical use of it: "with hands like candle stubs…" it says.


Other lines read: "It’s that city where serious towers bend clouds into animals like balloons at kids’ parties…" (In Awayday) "…and passing red buses glimmer like brass fire dogs." (In The Homing Instinct") "…hands raised like the Statue of Liberty or The Light of the World." (In Routine Maintenance) "There were songs then, like a rainbow stroking a taut waterfall; like a moistened finger slicked on a chalice’s lip; like the single pulse from the furthest star,…" (In Horses and Angels)


The above-cited examples are a few of the comparisons made by the poet. In fact, to be exact, there were ninety-eight mentions of the word "like," excluding the use of "as" in contexts. Perhaps the so-called preconceptions can find spaces within the messages enveloped in every featured piece; this review identifies the similefying of lines in this non-versed poesy. Hey, don’t bother finding the term in your Oxford or Longman list of words. It’s a coinage used to explain the act of using simile to paint lines poetically. The fact is that Oz was able to wittily similefy his thoughts and pass on his message and ideas in a work of narration—something that makes his prose poetry not only literary but truly poetic in narration.


A swift venture into studying Oz’s project reveals that his poetry is prosaic. Simply put, it is prose poetry. Well, I was earlier introduced to the reverse placement of the term—I mean, poetry modifying prose instead. Perhaps the reverse placement may have different meanings, yet they may very much mean the same thing. However, for the purpose of emphasis, prose poetry has been defined as ‘…imaginative poetic writing in prose.’ It qualifies as a literary genre wherein poetry is written in prose form instead of verse. Robert Hirsch’s A Poet’s Glossary can suffice as a reference. But even Matsuo Basho and other scholars in literary scholarship can be citation-worthy.


Additionally, a further scholastic drive was at least convincing. In Paul Munden’s Playing with Time: Prose Poetry and the Elastic Moment, it is stated that "the prose poem typically presents itself in the guise of a paragraph, suggesting that readers treat it as such: a narrative fragment." And right under the sub-topic, The Two-Way Stretch, Paul cited Oz as saying that his treatment of time is enigmatic, quoting Stepping Stones. 


A pointer? Indeed. What is more? Oz has distinguished himself as an authority in the genre under review. But what makes A Census of Preconceptions relevant and significant for readership recommendation is that it has not only reintroduced us to this under-explored genre of non-versed poetry; it has also well demonstrated how a primary figure or literary tool can be used to beautify poetry, especially non-versed poetry. Generally, the book is refreshing. If this isn’t evidentiary enough, a visit to the sales page may help. The book is rated five out of five stars. 

Review was written by Ebi Robert 


Oz Hardwick's Profile culled from Amazon

Oz Hardwick lives in York, England. He is a poet, photographer, musician, and academic, whose work has been widely published in international journals and anthologies. He has published nine full collections and chapbooks, including Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) which won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and most recently the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University.


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