The Other City

Rhiannon Hooson
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
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Rhiannon Hooson is a gifted young poet born in mid-Wales and currently living in the Welsh Marches. The Other City is her debut collection of poems.

Sharply focused, beautifully resonant, deeply felt, these poems tend to travel in distinct streams: some reference and re-make narratives from classical Greek myth, featuring characters like Zeus, Narcissus, Ariadne, Ganymede; some rework elements of Welsh history, both ancient, as in ‘Y Bydd’, (inspired by a section of ‘The Stanzas of the Graves’ commemorating fallen warriors in the Black Book of Carmarthen, 12th Century), and modern as in ‘Elan’ where we we float through the eerie depths of a submerged Welsh village that was drowned to make a reservoir for Liverpool in the 60’s.

There are also a number of poems exploring the idea of otherness and the uncanny, where actions are done and undone, and the familiar made unfamiliar: “the horrifying stillness of the rocking horse.” Or, in ‘Leaving’, the landscape is dismantled behind the protagonist, ruthlessly and meticulously: “the leaves were turning/ and the trees were lifted from their drab./ We remembered them also and burnt them whole...”

This work is also characteristically steeped in winds and weathers, in the seasons of the year, from winters of fog and wet grass in the Welsh mountains, where the 12-year-old author strides down the hill, “heroic, a lamb under each arm” to hypnotic floodwaters in Ullswater, ‘Years later you’ll wake drenched with the moon’s/ long downpour of light...’ to various elsewhere both real: ‘almond trees blossoming in the streets of Jerusalem’, and imagined, as in the title poem where ‘missing men’ are sought in the “drab city of brick/ penned in by a summer’s haze.”


‘This is a beguiling debut from a poet who already has a recognizable voice and emotional register. Sensuous, musical, darkly involved, the poems make and confound their own realities. Each is beautifully detailed, each rich with memory and possibility, haunted by presence and absence, by a terrific and sometimes terrifying sense of the forces that condition human experience and relationships.

The Other City is compelling and provocative work from an authentically engaged poetic imagination.’ – Graham Mort



Review by Pam Thompson, Mslexia

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rhiannon Hooson’s first collection draws on experiences of her native Wales and of her time living in Mongolia. Questions of belonging permeate and her imaginative reach charts myths and other narratives where the real and fictive collide: ‘At night we’d tell each other stories: / In Egypt we fed at the pomegranate’s mouth … / … Russia’s long night stank of dust / and furs.’ (‘Fictions’) ‘Fictions’, in the poem, are at once ‘precise’ and ‘petty’ subject to distintegration,’sifting to dust’.

At times poems resemble passages from novels. There are distinctive character-studies like the woman in ‘The Placing of Objects’, whose actions and words, rather than knowing who she is (a grandmother, elderly friend?) define her: ‘She lays out the silver … / taps her gold tooth … // her imprecise hands / sliding objects into place for the comfort of it.’

Food is associated with family in many of the poems, meals and their preparation becoming both celebratory and ritualistic, ‘Fridays they ate mackerel … // … Sundays she’d cook a chicken, an old bird.’ This sometimes has a dark edge. A sin-eater is a person who consumes a ritual meal in order to take on the sins of a recently deceased person. In a poem of that name, a sin-eater is brought in after the death of her great-grandfather. The poet fills in details imaginatively: of the man’s passage to her great-grandmother’s house, ‘She would have made him wait on the step, / his Sunday-suit stiff with moisture’, and wondering what she might have served him to eat, supposing that it would not have been ‘anything rich, nothing do juicy / as a steak’ as her ‘great-grandfather / would not have warranted it.’ These poems are unflinching in their examination of place and identity.


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