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The Hollow of the Hand

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  482 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Between 2011 and 2014, PJ Harvey and Seamus Murphy set out on a series of journeys together to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington, D.C. Harvey collected words, Murphy collected pictures, and together they have created an extraordinary chronicle of our life and times. The Hollow of the Hand marks the first publication of Harvey's powerful poetry, in conversation with Murph ...more
Paperback, Reader's Edition, 232 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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Anthony Vacca
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Despite my designs to one day have PJ Harvey fall as madly in love with me as I am with her, I can distance myself from the longings of my heart enough to say that this is some pretty good stuff! Harvey keeps it simple, putting down poems no longer than a page, with clean and unadorned verse. While her poetry may not draw the amount of attention to her wild talent as does her music, the offering here operates as a moody travelogue for her sojourns through Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC ov ...more
Nada El
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where it begins

a revolving wheel
of metal chairs

hung on chains
squeals in heat

Four children fly
over red dirt

A cassette tape
of a sad song

loud and harsh
from a truck

The chairs blur
and form a ring

that ends
where it begins

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Harvey's poetry is straightforward, but poignant as she surveys ravaged humanscapes in two war torn nations and, tellingly, in the heart of the American empire. Murphy's photographs tend to be more oblique and ambiguous. Both strands are very good, although neither achieves quite the urgency or depth of a true classic. Still, a handful of these images and verses will linger long in the mind. ...more
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
No matter what, PJ Harvey is always queen.
chantel nouseforaname
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a beautiful pairing of work between two talented artists, PJ Harvey and Seamus Murphy. It sparked so many random thoughts in me.

The Kosovo segment was straight forward but unique. I think PJ Harvey’s poems in the Afghanistan section were the most impactful. It’s so interesting to me that back in the day, musicians would go to other countries on a sort of like culture-exchange that from the outside looked like an exploration-in-exploitation type of adventure
Lauren Deville
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful anthology that examines the lives of those living in war torn Kosovo and Afghanistan, with the final section looking at how America (specifically Washington DC) has everything and nothing. Jump straight to the poem Two Ceremonies if you want to get a snapshot of the spirit of the text.

It’s no surprise that I loved reading PJ Harvey’s first collection of published poetry. Just look at the way her lyrics wrangle history and poetry in albums like Let England Shake. Or her story
Jared Levine
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I love PJ but not in this book.

The photos in this are really stunning. They do a good job of depicting the places as complex. As a places that ARE decrepit, but still able to be dynamic—beautiful even. with community. With moments of happiness still.

PJ paints these places more flat. Just as decrepit. From a point of the inability to see past the decrepitness.

But how could these poems be different? An affluent white person travels to these places and publishes her travel journal. It's what one
Nikos Dunno
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is amazing how well the poems of PJ and the images of Seamus work together. PJ's poems are so descriptive that the mind fills with images, and Seamus' photos, even though they're left without any description until the very end of the book, appear full of meaning and emotions. Easy to read because of its size, yet hard to digest because of its subject, it is definitely haunting and will follow me for a very long while! ...more
J D Shaw
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is deeply moving read! Harvey travels war torn countries and picks images of the sorrow of the everyday and transforms them into beautiful poems and prose. Exquisite!

Like her music Harvey writes the melancholy of loss almost too well. Her imagery is haunting and yet beautiful in its construction. And her words are never plagued by posturing or over-dramatisation.

Truly beautiful!
Heidi Kuchta
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, art
These poems were frequently paltry. I realized quickly that the book's theme contains too much borrowed pain. Harvey is expressing a pain to her audience that is not really hers, and the photographs do such a better job of that. The tone of "giving voice to the voiceless" makes me uncomfortable, and the poor execution didn't help. As a collection of photographs, I found the layout boring. ...more
I looked for themes/motifs in Harvey’s poetry. "On A Dirt Road," "The Orange Monkey," "African Voices (National Museum of Natural History)" are poems that start the sections on Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C. They connect as a journey. Poems like "Sight Seeing, South of the River", "To the Oldest Homo Sapiens", and "Medicinals" are three in the same section (Washington D.C.) that stood out to me as intertwined themes on evolution and society.

There are other poems that echo in tandem th
between 2011 and 2014, pj harvey and seamus murphy set out on a series of journeys to kosovo, afghanistan and washington dc. sharing a common appetite and purpose, harvey collected words, murphy collected pictures.

really enjoyed reading this! it was a super fast read, would be able to finish in one sitting. AND THE PHOTOGRAPHS. oh my goodness, they are absolutely stunning and really captures the places oh so beautifully. however, i wished that the poetry bits of it would be a bit more balanced o
Matthew Russell
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
You could consider this a companion piece to PJ Harvey's terrific album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. Both works deal with the same subject matter, and having both really completes the experience. Clearly, some of the lyrics for the album were taken from the poems here. The photographs are both gritty and lovely. ...more
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This sparse, moving collection of poems and photos continues and extends Harvey’s ‘war’ project, seen in her two most recent albums Let England Shake and The Hope Six Demolition Project in which she explores the experience, the emotions and the memorialisation of wars.

Focussing on three sites of conflict – Kosovo/Kosova, Afghanistan and Washington DC – Harvey’s clean, in places sparse, poetry and Murphy’s unsettling photos grapple with past and present conflicts, continuing and unknown (or a le
Apr 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2016
I wanted to like this book more than I did, as I am a big fan of P.J. Harvey's music. The concept is fantastic - Harvey and photographer Seamus Murphy traveled together to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington DC and each chronicled the experience, Murphy through photos and Harvey through poems.

The photos, collectively, are powerful and Murphy's obvious talent and vision shines. He captures the spirit of the travels. I would have liked a bit more context for his photos, though, and the layout was
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
I occasionally read poems and was very interested in this book where photography was combined with poems.
P.J. Harvey came to a literature festival in Utrecht and read from this collection. It was mesmerizing to listen to her.
There are some really difficult subjects touched in this collection but the poems are accessible. It is interesting to analyze a picture yourself and after read a poem about it which gives you other views on the picture.
Simon Sweetman
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These poems form the basis for the lyrics from the recent album, and/or background, so as such they're as much a form of reportage as anything else. Poetry-as-journalism. The design of the book is to be commended, lovely to read poems on a big page, so much white space around the text - the photos too are stunning, again journalism; reason enough to engage with the book. But it's a sublime pairing of words and images. ...more
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Excellent. Read my review here: ...more
Toby Finke
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Unlike similar books I've read, the poetry and the pictures had equal significance. A lot of my enjoyment of this came from what it made me think after, not what was actually in it. ...more
Angie Fehl
3.5 Stars

Seamus Murphy is a traveling photographer who has taken tons of pictures around the Middle East, with a focus on Kosovo and Afghanistan. He met with British musician PJ Harvey in 2011 to do a project titled "12 Short Films" for the album Let England Shake. While working together, they discovered they shared an interest in Middle Eastern culture. Conversations gradually formed into an idea for another project, which eventually became this book. Between 2011-2014, the two traveled togethe
Roger Green
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
PJ Harvey is one of my favorite lyricists, so at first it was hard to get used to her on the page. But juxtaposed against the striking photographs of Seamus Murphy, something entirely different emerges for a PJ Harvey fan. I'm struck not just by the global inequities depicted here but by the of humility in her voice bordering on embarrassment; neither meek nor typical neoliberal condescension. The images are more active in many ways than the words, leaving them more receptive than descriptive. ...more
Janice Raquela
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Worth devouring, the images are a pure reflection of the rawness in humanity, the mundane brought to light. oh and the bits of poetry in between is just the icing on top...
Adam Rocky
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book and art love everything about pj harvey
Karen Mcswain
Seamus Murphy’s photographs are stunning! P.J. Harvey’s poetry isn’t nearly as moving as her music.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous and sad but always gorgeous.
Leigh Anne
Poetry and photography often function as witnesses, presenting things without trying to explain them, letting the reader/viewer derive meaning from what is presented (or from the collage of everything presented). Harvey and Murphy's collaboration serves this function well, presenting the reader with a tryptich of descriptive words and global images.

Created during, and assembled from, a three-year series of travels, Hollow documents slices of everyday life observed in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Was
Michael Beal
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since it's PJ Harvey doing these poems, you know you're not going to get sonnets and love beads… and overall, the book is generally at its most effective when it is its sparsest and most desolate. So to take nothing from Harvey's obvious m.o. which has gotten her through her music, a spike in the intrigue level does occur with "An Initiation," a tribal, wildebeest hallucination in which Harvey takes on a male gender ("Man-Size," et. al.) only to tragically find meaning back within the grimmest v ...more
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the book description: "Between 2011 and 2014, PJ Harvey and Seamus Murphy set out on a series of journeys together to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington, D.C. Harvey collected words, Murphy collected pictures, and together they have created an extraordinary chronicle of our life and times. The Hollow of the Hand marks the first publication of Harvey's powerful poetry, in conversation with Murphy's indelible images."

The combination of words and pictures works well here, adding up to more t
The images and the poems in this book are powerful and moving.

An extract from the book to make you understand what i mean

The hand
People pass the hand
There are sounds of car horns and music.
People pass the hand that begs.

Three boys in hoods fold their arts
and swerve away from the hand,
the hand that begs in the rain.

People come and go, looking at their phones.
Nobody takes the hand
stretching out, shinning in the rain.

In the hollow of the hand
is a folded square
of paper,

but nobody looks twice
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful collection of both poetry and photographs - beautifully presented. Some recurrent images of hands and keys and money gave a cohesion to the whole. It was interesting that all have a punch and the differences between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC were not as marked as I had expected. There are no judgements or political statements here but there is a clear voice and message. The poetry has a lyrical rhythm which is to be expected I suppose - glad I bought it; read it cover to c ...more
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Polly Jean Harvey, MBE (born 9 October 1969), known as PJ Harvey, is an English musician, singer-songwriter, writer, poet, and composer.

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