W. H. Auden, in his essay, The Poet and the City, (the Dyer’s Hand, 1962), starts with a quote by H. D. Thoreau: “There is little or nothing to be remembered written on the subject of getting an honest living…….One would never think, from looking at literature, that this question had ever disturbed a solitary individual’s musings.”
Auden covers much in this essay, but it’s his concept of the modern hero which is relevant here: “the man or woman in any walk of life who, despite all the impersonal pressures of modern society, manages to acquire and preserve a face of his own.”
In Geoff Hattersley’s latest collection, Harmonica, we have Auden’s hero; in fact, a succession of them. These are heroes battling against the complexity, confusion, drudgery and relentlessness of making ends meet.
This collection is appealing on many levels: for its simple language, the way he maps the struggle against these ‘impersonal pressures’, the optimism you unearth as you read more deeply, and the love of people.