Former student Hollie Hardy’s return to her alma mater brought a blend of personal expression and political commentary as she read to listeners her first published poetry collection.
Hardy visited the University Sept. 15 to read selected poems from her collection, “How To Take a Bullet: And Other Survival Poems.”
With a raspy voice from being sick all week, Hardy took to the stage Monday and gave her reading to a respectful, reserved audience in a Humanities Building lecture hall.
“It’s not all literal,” Hardy said to the audience about her collection. “It’s fictional but there are little truths.”
Through Punk Hostage Press, a non-profit publishing company, Hardy published the collection, which was inspired by her first book, “The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.”
Her collections feature poems dedicated to her father, a friend who dealt with addiction, the earthquake in Haiti and an emotionally charged poem about Oscar Grant titled “How to Survive a Riot.”
Hardy said the latter poem stems from current events that have garnered much attention in the news.
Hardy wrote the poem as an expression of the mixed feelings she had of the two sides of the protest. One side being the protesters, who were demonstrating their anger and frustration and the other being the local store owners who had to pay out-of-pocket for damages that occurred during the riots.
“This poem, for me, is a declaration of that tension,” said Hardy when talking about the poem.
Hardy, who is originally from Michigan, has lived in Oakland for 23 years and is strongly connected with the community. She is currently the core producer of the Beast Crawl Literary Festival, an annual event that occurs in downtown Oakland. She has also produced an open mic event called Saturday Night Special, was curator of Litquakes’s Flight of Poets and a former editor-in-chief of Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review.
“(Hardy) puts tremendous energy into whatever local community she is in,” said Robert Glück, a creative writing professor at SF State and the host of Monday’s reading.
Ramon Jackson, a creative writing student with an emphasis in playwriting, said he learned a lot from Hardy, including what it takes to be a writer and how to promote oneself.He said more importantly he was moved by the poems.
“(My favorite was) the Oscar Grant piece,” Jackson said. “When I saw that I was like, ‘Oh wow this is something that I really can get.’ That piece, I was close enough to it. I grew up in Oakland so the images made sense. I was in it. I think she’s a pretty powerful writer.”
For Hardy, now a “real” published poet, finding inspiration is still best drawn from the original roots she came from, the community events that she organizes.
“For my poem ‘How to Navigate a Minefield’ I wrote that for my open mic event in Berkeley,” Hardy said. “I didn’t have a poem for that week, so I decided to write something the day of to challenge myself and ‘Minefield’ is what I came up with.”
Hardy can be seen hosting this open mic event, titled Saturday Night Special, on the last Saturday of every month. The next event occurs from 7-9:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Nick’s Lounge, located at 3218 Adeline St. in Berkeley.