SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2023 ARCHIBALD LAMPMAN AWARD
Poetry that navigates the science of cold waterways to consider the warmth of the poet's Chinese-Mauritian family ties
Fire Cider Rain is about the limits to which shared cultural and geographic histories can hold a family together. It follows the lives of three Chinese-Mauritian women on the course of dispersing, settling, and rooting over northern landscapes, and the brittle family bonds that tie them to one another and to their home country. Told from the perspective of the youngest of the three women, the book follows the events leading up to and following the death of her grandmother, an ex-lighthouse keeper and matriarch whose fractured relationship with her own daughter haunts the narrator's life in soft, painful aftershocks. As she navigates the cold cities and waterways of Southern Ontario, our narrator struggles with conflicting desires to run toward and flee from her island identity, which grows ever distant, ever more difficult to find her way back to.
At its core, Fire Cider Rain is a book about parent-child relationships as vessels for cultural identity, and the ways in which expressions of love and non-love within those relationships can rupture sense of place, self, and at times, a collective diaspora. Throughout the book, Ng Cheng Hin explores the geopolitics of island nations, the dilution of family histories over time, and the experience of water as a medium for the cyclical movement of island bodies, stories, and cultures. The Mauritian landscape and waterways of southern Ontario recur through the book as convergence points for its many themes.
"In this stunning debut, Rhiannon Ng Cheng Hin weaves wondrous verse across geological spaces that extend from Mauritius to Canada. In this poetry, the Indian Ocean converses with northern landscapes to give voice to the (un)settling of diasporic women in search of rootedness. Water becomes a medium, a metaphor, a rhythm, a motif, and a metamorphosing figure through which memory, loss and mourning become bodies. Rhiannon Ng Cheng Hin's sweeping poetry is infused with dexterous and lavish verse that makes the reader want to live within the nuances of each line. Fire Cider Rain is a dazzling debut " - Kama La Mackarel, author of ZOM-FAM
"Mauritian waters of memory migrate through 'imperial decay' and 'calcic dust' to the cold northern continent where Rhiannon Ng Cheng Hin's lustrous poetic telemetry manifests a lexical biogeography of uprootedness--her lyrical 'I' the connecting thread between past and future, between mother and moth, grandmother and cyclone, selia lover and terra nullius. Fire Cider Rain erupts as ebb and swell, distilling belonging and meaning in postcolonial drift, filling absence with terraqueous inquiry and salvaged wake." - Jeffrey Yang, author of Line and Light
"In reading Rhiannon Ng Cheng Hin's poetry, I became immersed within a deep sense memory of why I came to love poetry in the first place. Her attunement to language and cadence vibrates, or as she writes 'love - or recognition, catches in my throat and stings.' Hers is a voice that can make nerve endings sing and one that speaks with such artful earnestness to the difficulties there are in a personal history. Ng Cheng Hin's poetry is cousin to the spider's web, which belies a kind of vulnerability through its delicate beauty, yet each of its strands contains an exceptional tensile strength." - Liz Howard, author of Letters in a Bruised Cosmos