The House on Fire

Paper burns the fastest. And the dried flowers
you leave on all the windowsills, and the piano
flaring its final silence. All that silver
running to mercury. The noise of it fills each room
until the roof angles up off its beams.
In the bathtub your hair splays out like white
weed.  The wallflowers dozing against the porch
slump into their own scorched scent.
Each room breathless and slamming its doors,
flames leaning down to touch the water –
Then we’re walking through the ruts of the frozen field again,
my red wellies, the dry sheets of ice that crack like toffee,
the horses echoing out the mist and nuzzling velvet
into the palms of our hands. And you’re in the kitchen
cutting puffballs with the bread knife, and you’re sowing
crumbs into the flowerbeds, and saying not yet.
Then you’re striking matches at the cooker
with your swollen fingers all bent
and the phone is ringing,
and the light is in my eyes. I’ve seen ghosts
pour like water through a dim room, white things,
weak things that scatter in a draught, and now I see you,
and how your ghost is like fire: roaring,
laughing, eating.

by Rhiannon Hooson 

Our next poetry workshop will be led by poet and teacher Sarah Hesketh and entitled ‘“more than skin can hold”: Writing People’. It will take place on Saturday 1 April from 10.30-4.30pm in the John Henry Brookes Building here at Oxford Brookes University. The workshop will consider the questions that arise when we attempt to represent and remember others in our writing, and all are welcome! Visit our website for more information and to sign up. Please note that places are limited!

The Centre is co-sponsoring an exciting symposium called ‘Poetics of Home: Place and Identity’ which will be in London on 18 March. It will feature presentations and dialogues by a diverse range of established and emerging poets and poet-researchers whose work engages with and interprets the meanings of homeland and cultural identity. It also includes a reading by George Szirtes and Hannah Lowe. For more information, contact the organizer, Jennifer Wong, via

And finally, Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate, this week’s publisher, Seren, is offering its acclaimed anthology, Women’s Work at half price! Visit the website for more details.

‘The House on Fire’ is copyright © Rhiannon Hooson, 2016. It is reprinted from The Other City (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

A thoughtful, complex and lyrical first collection of poems by Rhiannon HoosonThe Other City is inspired by personal history as well as stories from classical mythology, and in the book the poet uses gorgeous specific details that bring her poems to life. She also has a lively way with a narrative, pulling one into a story that might be about Zeus, a lover’s infatuation with her hair, or a cat that tracks ‘finches/ across the thin crust of snow’. There are quite a few poems about her childhood in Wales: the farm where she grew up, the rooms presided over by her father and mother: ‘…the fizz of green kindling,/the line of boots in the porch’.

Rhiannon Hooson was born in Mid Wales in 1979, where she lived until moving to the north of England in 1998.  She studied and later taught at Lancaster University, where she was awarded first an MA in Creative Writing (with Distinction), then a PhD in poetry. Her first pamphlet, This Reckless Beauty, was published in 2004, and in 2008 she received an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Her work has appeared in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. She now lives in the Welsh marches after time spent living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Writing about her new book, The Other City, Graham Mort has commented: ‘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.’ You can read more about TheOther City on the Seren website, and more about Rhiannon’s work on her site.

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ MyFamily and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.