The seated scales, the empty wheelchair, a confused man and his penis.
Hannah Hodgson is a poet living with a life limiting illness. She has been published by BBC Arts, The Poetry Society, Wayleave Press, Verve Poetry Press and Seren amongst others. A recipient of the Northern Writers Award for Poetry in 2020, she is also a Diana Legacy Award 2021 recipient.
This is not the first poetry selection we’ve read this month that focuses on mortality. Hannah, however, is considered a palliative care patient, which adds an extra dimension to the work here. Her book, 163 Days, is undoubtedly one of the best collections I’ve read not just this year, but ever. Life is different when viewed through her experiences, with every single aspect transforming into unbelievably powerful moments.
Lessons from the Text
The first poem in this pamphlet, Year 11, is such a staggeringly complex and accomplished piece of work as to beggar belief. It paints disability and illness, lies and truth as overlapping, brilliant concepts, the complexities of what we do as humans to fit in or stand out, how we often deceive to feel connected. Except, in Hannah’s world, the inescapable permanence of mortality underpins so much.
We are in the world of hospitals, where normal actions take on extraordinary secondary significances, but in amongst it all is the comfort of repetition, seeded with the worries and issues built into us. When presented in lists, as is the case in Danger:, the two worlds overlap, allowing the terrible to sit easily beside the mundane. Age Progression Software is a beautiful example of how every conversation inevitably leads back to mortality.
There are 25 poems here, and every single one is affecting. It is a magnificent tour de force from a young woman whose authentic voice is so strong, powerful and so often angry, with utterly good reason. I’ve seen how hard Hannah works, what she brings to every reading, the tenacity of her outlook and the brilliance of her wordplay. This is also worth far more than a fiver in terms of educational value alone.
Will you read it again? Yes. Absolutely, and this is going on the pile of ‘Learn to Write Poems like This’ that I need to study for future reference.
Would you recommend it for me to read? Buy two copies. Also go and buy 163 Days. Hannah deserves ALL the plaudits.