Friday Poem – ‘The Cats of Aghia Sophia’, Richard Gwyn

This week or Friday Poem is ‘The Cats of Aghia Sophia’ from Richard Gwyn’s forthcoming collection, Stowaway.

StowawayRichard will give a sneak preview of the book at Fiction Fiesta in Cardiff this weekend. Fiction Fiesta is an innovative programme of literary events celebrating fiction and poetry from Latin America alongside work by writers from Wales and the rest of the UK and will feature authors W.N. Herbert, Ailbhe Darcy & Andrés Ehrenhaus.

This is a free event – reserve your place here.

 

The Cats of Aghia Sophia

The cats of Aghia Sophia are all of a breed;
possibly, like the founders of their palace,
a single family. Disdainful and dignified,
they wash and wash, never fronting up
to the audience. Sacred animals,
they know they are the object
of tourist scrutiny. Custodians of Byzantium,
their purpose is as lost as all that gold,
as certain as the collapse of Empires,
or overuse of the descriptor ‘labyrinthine.’
The cats’ names, which, tradition has it,
cannot be spoken, suggest an intricate history
of affiliation, of blood feuds, betrayal,
and the smoky perfume of metempsychosis.

 

Stowaway is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

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Friday Poem – ‘Song a Year after My Mother’s Death’, Carrie Etter

Friday Poem Carrie Etter Song a Year after My Mother's Death

This week our Friday Poem is ‘Song a Year after My Mother’s Death’, from Carrie Etter’s recently published collection, The Weather in Normal.

Carrie Etter The Weather in NormalEtter’s fourth poetry collection, The Weather in Normal is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Its focus is Etter’s hometown of Normal, Illinois, lamenting its loss through the death of her parents, the sale of the family home, and the effects of climate change on Illinois’ landscape and lives.

‘Song a Year after My Mother’s Death’ first appeared in Poetry Review.

 

 

Carrie Etter Song Mother's Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weather in Normal is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

 

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Countrywoman’, Katrina Naomi

Our Friday Poem this week is Katrina Naomi’s ‘Countrywoman’, which was released yesterday, having been specially commissioned for National Poetry Day.

Katrina Naomi poetKatrina Naomi is the author of three poetry pamphlets and two full collections. Her latest is The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016). Her next collection will be published by Seren in 2020, and is supported by a 2018 Authors’ Foundation grant from the Society of Authors.

The poem ‘Countrywoman’ was commissioned by BBC local radio, working in partnership with National Poetry Day. It is written in response to a BBC Radio Cornwall listener’s story. A video of Katrina reading the poem was broadcast on BBC Spotlight, and the film is available to view on Katrina’s website.

 

Friday Poem Countrywoman Katrina Naomi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find out more about Katrina Naomi on the Seren website.

 

 

 

National Poetry Day 2018: poem videos & events

National Poetry Day poems

We’re in the habit of celebrating poetry all throughout the year but to our delight, it’s National Poetry Day today – and that means there are loads of excellent events taking place, and creativity bursting out of every corner.

The good people behind the National Poetry Day campaign have recommended 36 amazing books for people of all ages to enjoy – and we’re thrilled to say that Seren poets Claire Williamson and Paul Deaton both feature on the list. As a treat today, we’ve filmed Claire and Paul reading a poem from their collections.

Claire Williamson, ‘My brother and mother as horses’

Visiting the Minotaur Claire Williamson

‘My Brother and Mother as Horses’ is taken from Visiting the Minotaur, published earlier this year.

In Visiting the Minotaur, the poet must enter a labyrinth of her own complicated family history, a history beset with secrets and lies, in order to come to terms with her own identity.  She borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, of city life, fashioning her artful meditations on experience and mortality.

Paul Deaton, ‘That Bang’

Paul Deaton A Watchful Astronomy‘That Bang’ was Highly Commended by the Forward Prize judges and features in the Forward Book of Poetry 2019. The poem is taken from Paul’s debut, A Watchful Astronomy.

A Watchful Astronomy is full of poems that are artfully formal, quietly precise, yet full of powerful emotion. A father ‘like a wounded bear’ haunts much of this book, yet nature is a guiding presence and the poet’s gaze turns often to the skies: to wildlife, the weathers and the stars, in powerful reflective pieces.

 

National Poetry Day events: what’s on?
There are over 100 events happening all over the UK today, so why not have a browse of the National Poetry Day events map and see what’s happening near you?

National Poetry Day events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local to Cardiff? Come along to October’s First Thursday event tonight which (as luck would have it) coincides with the National Poetry Day celebrations. Poet Marianne Burton and novelist David Llewellyn will read from their new books, guest poets Chad Norman and Emily Blewitt will treat us to a couple of poems, and then everyone will be invited to share a poem or piece of prose in the open mic.

Another Seren poet will also be hosting a National Poetry Day celebration – join Carrie Etter in the Chichester library for an evening event with wine, live music and open mic poetry.

 

Wherever you find yourself today, and whatever you decide to do with your time, we hope you feel inspired and enriched by poetry, new and old. Happy National Poetry Day.

dead poets society poetry GIF

 

Friday Poem – ‘The longing of the bees’, Siobhán Campbell

Friday Poem The Longing of the bees

Our Friday Poem this week is Siobhán Campbell’s ‘The longing of the bees’ from her most recent collection, Heat Signature.

Heat Signature Siobhan Campbell‘The longing of the bees’ is a boisterous and artful study of these small and essential insects, without which, the poet warns, ‘nothing is fertile’.
In Heat Signature we often find that the natural world is full of portents and warnings – here, the incipient violence of the swarm is detected, a force that seems unamenable to censure or even warning. Throughout the collection there is a blend of dark comedy, tragedy and politics – and this is entirely typical of Campbell’s complex, thoughtful and profoundly entertaining poetry.

 

 

Siobhan Campbell Friday Poem The longing of the bees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat signature is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘The Rose’, Tamar Yoseloff

Friday Poem The Rose Tamar Yoseloff

Tomorrow brings the Free Verse Poetry Book Fair to Senate House, London, at which we’ll see a great gathering of our poetry publisher friends and readings from a whole host of talented people – including Seren poets Tamar Yoseloff and Bryony Littlefair. In anticipation, our Friday Poem is Tamar’s ‘Capacity’, which featured in her most recent book, A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems.

Tamar Yoseloff A Formula for NightA Formula for Night is a significant journey for both the poet and the reader. Take it.’
DURA

Tamar Yoseloff is the author of four collections, including Sweetheart, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation and the winner of the Jerwood / Aldeburgh Festival Prize. A Formula for Night includes selections from all her previously published books, plus pieces from collaborations with artists and new work.

The Rose
Image credit: Vici McDonald @ShopfrontElegy

Friday Poem Tamar Yoseloff The Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Formula for Night is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Summer’, Catherine Fisher

The weather has suddenly taken a cold turn in our corner of the world, so to remember this year’s hot months our Friday Poem this week is ‘Summer’ by Catherine Fisher, from her collection The Unexplored Ocean

Screenshot 2017-09-05 14.45.38‘She writes imaginatively, bringing dead things to life, boldly placing them in the present world.’
Planet

This beautiful collection mixes vivid poems about the Welsh landscape —such as ‘The Four Seasons’ which this poem is part of— with historical monologues like ‘Incident at Conwy’, and scenes from myth like ‘Merlin on Ynys Enlli’.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-14 at 10.20.57

The Unexplored Ocean is available from the Seren website: £5.95

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

Short Story of the Month | ‘The Walk’, Jonathan Page

Jonathan Page The Walk short story

Our new Short Story of the Month is ‘The Walk’ by Jonathan Page.

After the anniversary of his lover’s death, a man walks purposefully along a familiar hillside path and ruminates on the relationship that has come to define his life.

Ten years have passed since he bid farewell to the woman, the artist, he loved so dearly – and as her life and the last of her works become public property, he finds himself resisting calls to give up what little he has left of her.

Jonathan Page lives in Bronllys, close to the Black Mountains. He works as a senior technical author and writes literary fiction in his spare time. Jonathan was the winner of the Earlyworks Press Short Story Competition 2015 and the Earlyworks Press Flash Fiction competition 2017. His story, ‘The Hill Farm’, took second prize in the ShortStory.net Competition 2016. His stories have appeared in five anthologies between 2016 and 2017. His current project is Century, a novel of closely connected stories that spans a hundred years in a Welsh border town.

 

The Walk

This is an extract. Read the full short story for free on the Seren website.

John walks a path in the sky. The world falls green away, severe and pleasing in its scale. The soft dissolved fields are as far away as the sky. Cairns stand at intervals on the ridge.

He is full of love for this place. A skylark sews the air over the long drop, like a message to him, like something he should carry home for translation. The light blooms in the long grass and rocks cascade down the steep sides of the hills in suspended glittering motion. The rocks look like coal dust pitched from the end of a spade.

Every time he comes up top it feels new to him. The lark singing in plain sight. The way a rock carries the light on its back. But what do you tell people when you come down again, what can you say. You talk about a rock and a bird and you drift over your pint into more solid matter about the state of your legs or the path or the weather. Your pictures go unseen by others, as they must, as is their nature.

Pictures. His pictures began here.

His longing for Rose overtakes him and he sits on the ground with his hands about his knees. His first paintings were muddy things. He ridged the paint like he planted potatoes and cut paths with his palette knife. There was nothing wrong with them, they sold, but they were wrong. They hid what he wanted seen.

That was when, seventy-six? Rose had been painting a long time. Her pictures were sparse, a few lines and she was done. She smiled at his piles of unvaried muddy panels. Then she took him up here to walk and draw, though there was no intention to change him. He had lived in Llanandred all his life and never come up.

After those first walks he made simpler paintings using reds and golds and blues, the colours and strong architecture of the high moor. They came from his experience of a place and he was no longer so ashamed to draw from it. He had been a teller in a Bank the year before and it was hard to believe he was any good. His father did not think pictures proper work. He thought he shirked. He thought it a phase. He thought it sex.

John closes his eyes and sees Rose’s hand  – the skin thin and soft over the bones in her hand – cover his. The tickle of the air is the hover of her hand over his, about to rest upon it. Maybe the old bastard was right about the sex.

He goes on all fours, his bottom in the air, to help himself get up again. Part of him wants to stay where he is, sheltered by the small cairn and warmed by the sun. His bones are getting old. For a moment the path ahead intimidates like stairs in early childhood.

Come on you lazy sod.

Critics and dealers were always coming to the chapel to see Rose. He saw something switch off in their eyes when they learned the paintings at the back were his. She was the One they came for, the famous Rose Hartwood. If they praised his work it was to please her. If they asked him what he did and what he thought and what he liked it was to please her. They were not unkind, not unperceptive. He was her lover and her assistant, an anteroom they must pass through.

He did not mind. He did not begrudge. Without Rose he would never have left the bank.  Without Rose he would not have found love. Her work besides was extraordinary. She reinvented her work constantly and whatever she did worked. Besides he was still young – youngish – and assumed there would be more for him. He took his hunger to succeed for satisfaction. He took the dead eyes of the critics as proof that his work was truthful.

Later he found himself a footnote in articles and books. The writers and academics milked him for stories of their life together. The age-gap titillated and repulsed and sex was always on their minds when they talked to him. He was a means to an end, an aspect of Rose’s psyche.

A Rose by any other name.

When did he stop painting? Eighty-four or eighty-five, whenever Ted Brentwood’s biography came out.  Rose hated that book. It was a fiction, lies. She hated what he had made of her, what he had made of both of them. Still it secured her legend. It got her commissions and kept her in the public eye. It was glamour of a kind, to be Rose’s lover.

He could not make paintings nobody saw. They were props for his walk-on role. When he looked at one of his paintings his saw a shut door.

John stands on a peninsula jutting out into the flat below. The cairn he uses to shield him from the wind is spiky with slants of greenish rock and the light burns low on the opposing hill. The sun pulls reddish browns and slate and three or more kinds of green out of its rounded forms. One minute the hills are as severe as a vast falling wave, the next all curves.

He sees another walker on the slope opposite, a miniature red upright on the zig-zag path. John raises his hand and he sees the red figure pause and raise its hand to him.

John is nobody without Rose. The figure – a man or woman he can’t tell from here – may be the last person he ever sees.

Continue reading ‘The Walk’ for free here.

 

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Extremities’, Claire Williamson

Tonight Claire Williamson will be reading alongside fellow Seren poets Elizabeth Parker and Ross Cogan, and three Parthian poets, for Cardiff Book Festival’s Friday Night Poetry Party. In anticipation, our Friday Poem is ‘Extremities’ from Claire’s recently published collection, Visiting the Minotaur.

Visiting the Minotaur Claire Williamson‘Claire Williamson’s poems are beguiling hybrids – self-assured yet emotionally raw, mysterious yet not precious, meditations of wonder and exorcisms of grief.’
– Michel Faber

In Visiting the Minotaur, Williamson’s inventive and intensely felt collection, the poet must enter a labyrinth of her own complicated family history, a history beset with secrets and lies, in order to come to terms with her own identity.  She borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, of city life, in order to fashion her artful meditations on experience and mortality.

 

Claire Williamson Friday Poem Extremities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the Minotaur is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

 

 

Chocolate Mousse – a recipe from The Occasional Vegan

chocolate mousse occasional vegan

This weekend you’ll find Sarah Philpott at the Cardiff Book Festival chatting to fellow vegan cook Gaz Oakley. While you wait for the event, why not whip up some of Sarah’s delicious chocolate mousse? Believe it or not, this recipe uses chickpea water in place of cream – and miraculously you can hardly tell the difference.

Tip: I find that cheap supermarket dark or plain chocolate works well here as it’s usually higher in sugar.’ – Sarah

Chocolate Mousse

vegan chocolate mousse

If you fancy a sweet treat or if you’re cooking for friends and need a quick dessert, you can make this quickly and leave it to set in the fridge while you’re eating dinner. The surprise ingredient here is chickpea water, also known as aquafaba. It might sound crazy but it acts in the same way as egg whites and gives you a light and fluffy mousse. You really should give this a try because it’s truly delicious.

 

 

Ingredients

– 150g dark chocolate
– A dash of plant milk
– 120ml chickpea water
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– A pinch of sea salt (optional)

Directions

Carefully place a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water and add the chocolate and plant milk and stir gently until melted. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool slightly. If you have a microwave, heat the bowl on a medium power at 60-second intervals until melted.

Pour the chickpea water (one can should give you about 120ml water and you save the chickpeas for cooking something else) into a large bowl and whisk vigorously for 15 minutes, or until you have stiff peaks.This requires a strong wrist although you can use an electric whisk if you have one.To check if you have said stiff peaks, tilt the bowl slightly – if the water runs down the edge, you need to whisk more.When stiff, fold in the chocolate mixture then add the vanilla extract and the salt and stir well.

Pour into glasses or ramekins and leave in the fridge to set for at least an hour.

The Occasional Vegan Sarah Philpott

The Occasional Vegan is available from the Seren website: £12.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.