Fresh Featured March Poet: Caroline Hardaker

Fresh Featured for March happened to land on this week’s Thursday Fresh day, so we won’t be posting new poetry twice in one day – just this fab interview and three poems from Newcastle’s own Caroline Hardaker. I became acquainted with Caroline at the end of last year, and it’s been brilliant to see her poetry going places since then! Here she tells us what’s so sad about beige, and why she writes all of the things…

KG: Hello Caroline! How long have you been writing poetry?

CH: I’ve been writing poetry on and off for a long time. At first, I don’t think I realised that what I was writing was even poetry – I thought they were just little pieces of creative non-fiction, or artfully arranged short stories, or dramatic monologues. It’s taken me a while to see that I’m actually writing poetry. I think there’s quite a bit of stigma associated with poetry still, a lot of people are afraid of it. I’m trying to do my bit to show people that it can be a way of channelling an idea or a story in a completely free way, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to read!


Sanitising this hand and that hand
brings feeling ruddy raw and banded
-that’s the law of tainted skin –
not to mention the cucumber zing
and the clear needled ring
sounding the death toll of bacterium,
soon followed by perfumed delirium.
Given no time to flee in haste
just a brief spit to spurn the taste
of bitter antiseptic gel –
surely the worst kind of cleanliness hell.

KG: I know you also write prose of many stripes – fiction, non-fiction and drama – so what is the benefit for you in writing poetry instead?

CH: I’ve always fluctuated between different types of writing, I’ve done that since I was in primary school, but poetry seems to me to be the perfect combination of all of those genres. In a single poem I can be making an important persuasive point about something, while telling a spine-tingling story, while writing a characterful monologue, AND be making up words at the same time. What could be better? My absolute favourite part of writing drama (which is the discipline I’m most trained in) was the dialogue, and channelling a voice plucked from the air. I’ve always lingered on sentences which sound lyrical, and with poetry I get to let my inner music flow.

The Morning

Those ghastly little creatures
and dirty little midgets
sneakily straggling at my garter’s hem.
Rattling the ribbons, tearing
sensual textures then tumbling down
to twisting toes.

Tapping turgid fingers stippling my rubbery skin –
rubbery breasts tension taught
with burnt out throat,
with ache-sore heart.

Your rasping hairy breath is hoarse enough
to screw off sandpaper.

Awful whoreful day.

KG: Who are your favourite writers – of anything: prose, poetry, songs – that make you stop and think “I want to keep getting better at this”?

CH: I have absolutely too many of these. I’m quite flippant too, I seem to have a new favourite every week, or every month! But of my enduring favourites, I have to give a mention to Neil Gaiman for combining pure imagination and simple, accessible language. Musically, I’m a huge fan of Laura Marling (who I know writes poetry too) and Alela Diane. Their lyrics are can be haunting to the point of terrifying. That’s the feeling I’m striving to hit. As for favourite poets – I simply can’t pick a single one, as I can pretty much see something awe-inspiring in all poems I read. They’re someone’s voice – how can that not be special?

KG: What moves you most to write?

CH: I honestly don’t know. When I was younger, I used to describe it as wanting to change people, to make people feel something, to stop and think. I would get incredibly moved by films, songs, stories – and it was such a powerful emotion that I felt inspired to make people feel that way too. There’s a real purity about it. Even though life’s become more muddled since then, I still think that’s my main motivation.

The Whale

Blue secrets swelling flush to tide,
sweep me away, sell me to the sea.

Wash me down
eat me still.

Swallow me in deep dark wells.
Here I might find my resting place –
where the downbeat being dwells.

Crackling oysters clam at my creaking toes but
Why? Hair like branches strains for sky above
and jellyfish stings entwine with mine
and electric pain becomes my feeling flesh.

Cold dead mind
jolts with shock and

I long for the belly of the whale.
Soft, wet, those dull insides –
no need for wind, lifeboat or sail.
I hear the lighthouse with luring light,
not enough for whale to rise.
His jaws are clamped, his will is set, and I
swooning in the warmest womb
am sinking into deepest gloom.

KG: What is your favourite word? Least favourite?

CH: I love ‘tunic’, ‘mandible’, and ‘gesticulate’. No idea why. I do make up a lot of words when I write. If I can’t find a word to convey a feeling I don’t see why creating a word that evokes is is a problem. Some people hate made-up words, but I love them! I hate the word ‘beige’. It’s not just the idea of the word, but also the sad tone it has. It almost sounds like someone exhaling ‘bleugh’.

KG: And finally – give us your best advice on life or writing, whether it’s something someone else has taught you, or something you’ve realised on your own, and it’s made you grow.

CH: Gosh. That’s a biggy. I think just to keep going is important, and not to forget that you’re doing it for YOU. If you’re writing just to get published then chances are you’re in for some disappointment along the way. If you’re doing it for yourself, and remembering to say what YOU want to say, then hopefully receiving the odd rejection letter (which happens to literally everyone) won’t feel so much like a dagger to the heart. Be proud that you’re doing your best to make your voice heard!

If you are an emerging or unpublished poet, and would also like to submit work for a weekly Fresh spot (every Thursday), and/or put yourself forward for our monthly poetry profile Fresh: Featured, you can find out how right here!



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