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Goliat

9781781726563
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Goliat is the second collection by Rhiannon Hooson, a follow-up to her Wales Book of the Year shortlisted debut The Other City. The poems are sumptuous, full of vivid imagery from the natural world woven with pointed observations that chime with contemporary themes, including social issues and climate emergency. ‘Goliat’ is the name of an oil field in the Barents Sea, and the Russian for ‘Goliath’: a whale, a giant, a monster. The title poem is in the voice of the creatures who swim the dark waters of the oil field Goliat, a gorgeous but unstable ocean where, to survive, they must resist the soft, illusory lures of the ‘south’ – an economy based on oil. Nature and climate crisis are always present in the consciousness of these poems, as in ‘Doggerland’, a lament for the nearing extinction of the white fronted goose, or in ‘Horse Skull Crown’, a folk dance for the evening of the world. Along with awareness of climate emergency, Hooson also speaks to social issues. ‘Southiou’ is a poem dedicated to the brilliant Gambian-British photographer, Khadija Saye, who tragically died in the Grenfell Tower disaster. Many of Hooson’s poems show the closeness of women, domestic work, and nature, all joined by a feminist thread, particularly in the series ‘Dirtwife’ inspired by the long history of pigments and dyestuffs, or in those poems that chronicle the experience of illness in the time of covid. There is a deep sense of history across the collection, with poems inspired by traditions of secret Romanian weddings, Typhoid Mary, and historical use of leeches. Stylistically, these poems have a deep, sensuous music, and their narrators often become intoxicated: by a colour described by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; by the urge to follow a stranger on a city street; by blackberries or the life of a comet. This beautiful, intelligent book offers absorbing and moving experiences of a precarious world. Goliat contains the irreplaceable beauty of a wild world, and the terrible damage that humans might do to each other and the earth.