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