POETRY REVIEW: Hard Water by Jean Sprackland

– Cape Poetry 2003

This is the best poetry collection I have ever read – reason being that I loved most of the poems in the book and hated none.

The title poem is the first, and is my idea of fabulous. I wish I’d written it. It begins with a three line stanza:


I tried the soft stuff on holiday in Wales,
a mania of teadrinking and hairwashing,
excitable soap which never rinsed away,

There’s a flurry of Roger McGough from the joined-up words and the excitable soap just takes my breath away. She continues on to mention how the rain tasted of work and describes the local water of home as fierce lovely. I’ve fallen in love with this poet. Of course something must’ve made me buy the book, and I look forward to discovering that poem again. I bought the book in September at King’s Bookshop in Callander, while soaking myself in the annual poetry festival run by Sally Evans of said bookshop, and this is me just getting round to reading it.

I like The Room of Saints and Virgins, and, Reading Leaves; they have a magical quirk and lift the tone, make the reader smile. Caravan and An Old Friend Comes to Stay hold my attention, keep me liking her work. Learning to Love Money might have been the poem that attracted me to the book. Lifesaving is interesting – loving The Hangman’s New Career and The Man Who Comes to Empty the Bottle Bank. So far, this collection is worth it, worth the time which is most important to me. I like quirky but need to recognise what’s going on and how it makes me feel. This book makes me happy to have discovered it, and Jean Sprackland.

Imagine my delight when I found the poet online, reading her own work – reading my favourite poems from this very collection! And, here is the link to her page in The Poetry Archive:


It’s hard to find the right poetry to read; this book is so accessible that the poet should be sold in Tesco – I would want to see this little book in the hands of ordinary women on their way to work…I want to hear them read sections to their men and sons…I want to hear her words quoted in documentaries about social history. Read it, and weep because it is so connected to the real world.



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