Review: Hard Ground by Tom Waits & Michael O’Brien

Hard Ground, the new book that pairs Michael O'Brien's portraits of homeless men and women with poetry by Tom Waits. From University of Texas Press.

I picked my 6 year old son, Harry, up from school today and we went back to the house and spent time together lying side by side on the living room floor, looking at the photographs in Hard Ground. Neither of us said much; I would occasionally comment on the sadness in someone’s eyes and he mostly just traced along the faces with his fingers. Michael O’Brien’s photographs do what all great art does; they give us pause, they make us look, they help us see. The poetry of Tom Waits’ enhances the experience by helping us to hear as well. He gives voice to the poor and homeless whose faces give us so much more.

The gospel of Matthew states that people’s hearts have become calloused; “…they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn…but blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear.” And blessed are we for Tom Waits, Michael O’Brien, and every one of his subjects; for it is they who help us to see and to hear and to understand.
Kester Smith, BookPeople bookseller

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