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Rhian Elizabeth

the last polar bear on earth

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'Rhian Elizabeth's the last polar bear on earth is the literary equivilent of eating £500 gourmet-Tacos in a restaurant that you very much enjoy but which always feels too good for you, no matter how many times you visit. In this collection, the brutal everyday reality of so many British people (living at the bone-edge of poverty, parenting alone, struggling to date while battling a severe disability) is transformed, through humour, glitter, and wit, into exotic magnificence. Tacos originated as the food of the poor. So did paté. They've always been delicious. Rhian Elizabeth's experiences are (unfortunately) shared by many (brutally) forgotten people. Her composition and arrangement of this life are scintillating. Her palate is tuned to the flavours of rose petals, raw flesh, and lingering salt.' – Bethany W. Pope

'From motherhood to Joan Baez, internet dating to the inside of an MRI machine, Rhian Elizabeth’s moving and often witty poems cover a range of subjects. One is reminded of the work of writers like Andrew McMillan and Sharon Olds in this author’s understanding of the power of poetry to question traditional divisions between the private and the public. While this is a collection about nights out and trips to Madame Tussauds, of tenderness and joy, of being young, at its heart is a group of poems about Multiple Sclerosis – the interactions with doctors, the symptoms, the rubbish benefits system. Brave and unflinchingly honest, these are poems of the greatest importance and achievement.' – Jonathan Edwards

'Rhian Elizabeth's The Last Polar Bear on Earth exemplifies a similar sense of everyday mundanity to relay the austere beauty of being: the quiet, desperate simplicity of life under duress. Elizabeth finds the value of life in its restrictions, not as an act of acquiescence but as an act of defiance. She understands that to aestheticise your surroundings, to play with one's perception of them, is to assert control. The life presented here is lived through lenses: [...] She relates to the world through late night news, pornography, Hollywood movies, and this in turn is how we relate to her. [...] While the other collections discussed here have more of a palpable "Welshness", with Elizabeth this is often felt only through its absence. [...] Solidarity here is presented in its societal and political lacking. The speaker's life is instead at the mercy of the bureacracy and the callousness of the state, the banal evil of the DWP in granting and moderating life. But again, as with the other works, a potential for solidarity fights through: the aestheticisation fades as the collection progresses, real life comes into focus, and the 'coping mechanism' function of the hyperreal imaginative play found in earlier poems becomes clear...' – Gareth Leaman, Poetry Wales


Some poems about being sick and being in love. two things that are one and the same. 

the last polar bear on earth charts the fallout after the writer’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. The collection also covers relationships, online dating, sex, polar bears and motherhood with an honest frankness and a dry and self-depreciating humour.

Rhian Elizabeth was born in the Rhondda Valley and now lives in Cardiff. Her novel, Six Pounds Eight Ounces was shortlisted for The International Rubery Book Award and she has been a winner of The Terry Hetherington Young Writers' Award, shortlisted for The Bangor Poetry Prize and highly commended in the Disability Arts Wales poetry competition. Word Ward is a creative writing group she set up for people with long term health conditions. In 2017 she was named by the welsh agenda as one of Wales’ Rising Stars. She is a Hay Festival Writer at Work and a Coracle Europe International Literary Resident.