We live in uncertain times, and that voters chose ‘Death Rattle’ by Hannah Hodgson as the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for February 2020 not only indicates their overwhelming admiration of the poem and the poet but is also an acknowledgement of the fragility of us all. ‘Death Rattle’ is ‘moving and powerful, stark and black’ yet also ‘effortlessly beautiful and effective.’
Hannah is a 22 year old poet living with a life limiting illness and disability. She writes about these themes as well as hospice, feminism and other topics. Her first pamphlet Dear Body was published in 2018. www.hannahhodgson.com.
Back in the day, everyone loved a good hanging –
curiosity gathered in the town square, red-nosed,
waiting for the theatre of mortality to end.
Today I attract the equivalent crowd –
have to untangle my vocal cords
from intrusive questioning.
Hospice is an experience with the brink,
as near the cliff edge you can go without falling.
Natural death isn’t quick.
It begins with a storm brewing in the chest –
thunder of increasing intensity,
crackles of lightning in the airway.
It ends with a moment of clarity,
final words like a rainbow
Other voters’ comments included:
It is simple, a little sad but also calm in the face of death.
It just connects with me in a way that the others don’t
Such a tricky subject matter, but this poem also manages to be beautiful. The “untangling vocal chords” is such a powerful image and the whole poem gets across the idea of intrusion and desperation. I was left speechless the first time I read it.
Such a massively powerful poem that nails its subject matter with great force
I love the line about crackles of lighting in the airway.
Very moving poem and I love Hannah’s economy of expression.
Powerful, spare and thought-provoking
Insight, honesty, economy, essence.
So powerful – and that ending…
I like this poem’s clarity and its lack of sentimentality
Hannah Hodgson’s poem is powerful and emotive without straying into the realms of cliche. The final image of the disintegrating rainbow is one that will stay with me.
Extremely well written
It’s a stunningly honest and clear sighted poem
I love the overlap between sound, physicality and natural phenomena in ‘Death Rattle’, particularly the lines: It begins with a storm brewing in the chest – thunder of increasing intensity, crackles of lightning in the airway
Very moving and yet not sentimental poem, well done to her.
Words that evoke Hannah’s reality.