Friday Poem – ‘Sundays too my Dad got up early’, Ben Wilkinson

Friday Poem Sundays Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem, ‘Sundays too my Dad got up early’, is a sneak peek into poetry critic Ben Wilkinson’s startling debut, Way More Than Luck (publishing 28 February).

Way More Than Luck Ben WilkinsonFrom the thumping heartbeat of the distance runner to the roar of football terraces across the decades, Ben Wilkinson’s debut, Way More Than Luck, confronts the struggles and passions that come to shape a life. Beginning with an unflinching interrogation of experiences of clinical depression and the redemptive power of art and running, the collection centres on a series of vivid character portraits, giving life to the legends of Liverpool Football Club. By turns frank, comic, sinister and meditative – ‘the trouble with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head’ – these poems uncover the beautiful game’s magic and absurdity, hopes and disappointments, as striking metaphors for our everyday dramas.

 

Sundays too my Dad got up early Ben Wilkinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Way More Than Luck is available to pre-order from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

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Opening Night at the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival

Seren/Cornerstone poetry festival Cardiff

Good morning poetry lovers! Today’s the day we launch our inaugural poetry festival in the beautiful Cornerstone building on Charles Street, Cardiff.

So what can you look forward to, and how can you get tickets? All the important information is below…

Cornerstone Seren poetry festival
Festival venue: The Cornerstone building, Charles Street, Cardiff, CF10 2GA


Jonathan Edwards poet7:00pm: Jonathan Edwards, Welcome Buffet
Jonathan Edwards will open the festival with the Welcome Buffet event – listen to readings from Edwards’ Costa Prize-winning collection My Family and Other Superheroes plus new material while you enjoy a selection of food from the on-site Pantry Café.
£7 – For tickets contact Lucy King: 07445 816617
(booking recommended)

 

The Glass Aisle Paul Henry Brian Briggs8:30pm: ‘The Glass Aisle’: Paul Henry & Brian Briggs
Poet Paul Henry and singer/songwriter Brian Briggs perform their remarkable poetry & music collaboration at 8:30pm, with songs inspired by a stretch of the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal. This event also launches Henry’s book of the same name.
£10 – For tickets contact Lucy King: 07445 816617
(booking recommended)

 

The full festival brochure, with details of all the weekend’s events, is available to view & download on the festival website: http://rcadc.org/seren-poetry-2018/

Online ticketing has now ended but tickets can still be pre-booked over the phone. Contact Lucy King: 07445 816617

Tickets will also be available to buy on the door, but to guarantee your place pre-booking is advised (in particular for the food events)

 

Friday Poem – ‘Two men’, David Foster-Morgan

Friday Poem Two men David Foster-Morgan

This week our Friday Poem is David Foster-Morgan’s ‘Two men’, from his debut collection, Masculine Happiness.

Masculine happinessDavid is one of five fabulous poets taking part in the New Poets Showcase event, Saturday 17 February, 11:00am. Listen to him read alongside Emily Blewitt, Susie Wild, Katherine Stansfield and Stephen Payne – tickets available here (£5.00). The event is part of our inaugural Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival.

Masculine Happiness is a provocative yet subtle collection which explores the author’s ambivalence towards models of masculinity handed out to us by the media and modern society. There is also a considerable amount of humour here, along with astute satire and insightful character poems. Foster-Morgan’s work repays the careful attention of thoughtful readers.

 

David Foster-Morgan Two men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masculine Happiness is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

Why the Welsh Assembly being named Britain’s best employer for LGBT is no surprise

This is a guest blog by author and activist Norena Shopland, whose new book Forbidden Lives we published in late 2017.

Why the Welsh Assembly being named Britain’s best employer for LGBT is no surprise

The National Assembly for Wales has just been named Britain’s best employer for LGBT staff in Stonewall’s annual list of top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers. Fifth last year, they made the top spot due to their range of policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) staff, as well as introducing new measures to improve the workplace for transgender employees.

I have seen first-hand the positive work done by Assembly employees, particularly the LGBT staff network group Prism and Seren Books and I would like to congratulate the Welsh Assembly on their award. It didn’t surprise me though – given how influential people from Wales have been in British LGBT history, and by extension in societal history here and abroad.

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesThis was something I was made acutely aware of when writing Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales, and several chapters are dedicated to these influential people.

In 2017 we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Wolfenden Report (1957) and the fiftieth of the Sexual Offences Act (1967). I was delighted to be invited to speak at a House of Commons event on the roles played by people from Wales. I took as my theme that great period of flux in the mid-twentieth century when so much happened with regard to LGBT people: prosecutions against gay men reached its highest point; in 1931 there were 622 prosecutions, a figure which rose to 6,644 in 1955 – because of a law that prohibited gay men from simply being. We know that Alan Turing was convicted for nothing more than confessing he was a homosexual, and whilst gay women and transgender people were not prohibited under law, simply being so was socially unacceptable and discrimination was high. When society began to question the purpose of this law, particularly following the sensational Montagu trial (1954), an increasing number of people began speaking up.

Opponents included Roy Jenkins MP, and Rev. Llywelyn Williams MP from Abertillery among others, but it was Pembrokeshire’s Desmond Donnolly MP who first brought the subject of decriminalising homosexuality up in the House of Commons, a risky move at the time.  Robert Boothby MP pressurised the Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe into considering the situation and reluctantly Maxwell-Fyfe agreed, tagging homosexuality onto a commissioned report on prostitution, which became known as the Wolfenden Report.

Initially the Wolfenden committee refused to speak to homosexual men, as they could not consider talking to criminals. Welshman Goronwy Rees, described as the most ‘lateral thinking and perceptive member of the committee’, thought differently and complained that few members had ever encountered a homosexual ‘in a social way’. He persuaded John Wolfenden, the chair, to meet some homosexual men and to accept the testimony of Peter Wildeblood, who had been imprisoned following the Montague trial. Wildeblood had subsequently written a book and Wolfenden therefore considered him an ‘attention seeker’. Rees also facilitated the inclusion of Patrick Trevor-Roper, a Harley Street consultant; Carl Winter, the director of the Fitzwillian Museum; and author Angus Wilson. Only these four self-identified homosexual men appeared before the committee but they played an important role in influencing the outcome of the Wolfenden Report.

The recommendation of the report for more leniency towards homosexual men was on the whole positively received, but whilst the recommendations on prostitution were enacted, those on homosexuality were not. Maxwell-Fyfe, having reluctantly commissioned Wolfenden, was now stalling it and Harold Wilson, then Prime Minister and personally supportive of change, felt that it would cost the labour party too many votes.

When it became apparent that nothing was going to happen, Tony Dyson, an English lecturer at Bangor University, wrote to every notable person he could think of, asking them to sign an open letter to The Times requesting Wolfenden be enacted. Writing on Bangor University headed note paper, Dyson was placing himself at great risk of being either arrested, sacked or both. As it happened, the university took no action against him – a progressive reaction at the time. The Times obituary for Dyson in 2002 drew attention to his contribution: ‘it is difficult to comprehend,’ they said, ‘the danger of living as a homosexual before the law was reformed in 1967, with the ever-present threat of criminal proceeding or blackmail.’

On the back of The Times letter, Dyson and others set up the Homosexual Law Reform Society, the first openly gay campaigning group in Britain – others followed. What was needed was someone to spearhead a campaign to get Wolfenden enacted and that person was Leo Abse, Cardiff solicitor and MP for Pontypool. As a backbencher he was able to concentrate on unpopular causes and did much for women’s rights, among other achievements. But even he struggled to get this bill through and it was Roy Jenkins, then Home Secretary, who gave the final push needed for the legislation to pass and so changed British society for good.

Of course others have been at the forefront: Katherine Philips; Mary Lloyd; Cliff Tucker; Cranogwen; John Randell; Cliff Gordon; Jan Morris; Gwen John; Ernest Jones; Cedric Morris; Griff Vaughan Williams; Lady Rhondda – I could go on and on about the number of Welsh people who have influenced LGBT and British life.

Wales is a small country but in LGBT history it has always had a huge presence – and that is why the Welsh Assembly award shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

 

Friday Poem – ‘Reeling in the River’, Philip Gross

Our Friday Poem this week is Philip Gross’ ‘Reeling in the River’ from A Fold in the River, his collaborative work with artist Valerie Coffin Price.

Philip Gross once lived on the banks of the River Taff at Quakers Yard and his journals are the source for the powerful poems in this book. Price walked along the river there to create the beautiful prints and drawings that accompany the poems.

Don’t miss Philip & Valerie’s joint event at the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival, Saturday 17 February, 12:00pm.

Want to win a copy of this book? A Fold in the River is our giveaway prize for February – sign up to Seren News before 01 March to be in the running to win.

Philip Gross Reeling in the River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Fold in the River is available from the Seren website: £12.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

The Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival: what to look forward to

Seren Cornerstone Poetry Festival

Our ‘winter weekend’ of poetry events, the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival, kicks off in less than three weeks. Here’s what to look forward to, and where to buy tickets.

Today only – get your three-day festival pass for only £90! (£100 from 1st February).

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Jonathan Edwards poetFood and poetry: welcome buffet with Jonathan Edwards
Friday 16 February, 19:00

£7.00 – Book now.

 

The Glass Aisle Paul Henry Brian Briggs

The Glass Aisle: music and poetry with Paul Henry & Brian Briggs
Friday 16 February, 20:30

£10.00 – Book now.

 

New Poets Showcase

Fresh voices: New Poets Showcase
Saturday 17 February, 11:00
£5.00 – Book now.

 

Philip Gross Valerie PriceA Fold in the River; Turnings/Troeon: Philip Gross, Valerie Price, Cyril Jones
Saturday 17 February, 12:00

£5.00 – Book now.

 

JudasDamian Walford Davies: Damian Walford Davies
Saturday 17 February, 13:00

£5.00 – Book now.

 

 

Film & Fiction: ‘Diary of the Last Man’, Robert Minhinnick
Saturday 17 February, 14:00
£5.00 – Book now.

 

The Other Tiger Richard ClareLatin American Poetry: Richard Gwyn & Clare E. Potter
Saturday 17 February, 15:00
£5.00 – Book now.

 

Afternoon Tea Gwyneth LewisAfternoon Tea & Desert Island Poems with Gwyneth Lewis
Saturday 17 February, 16:00
£20.00 – Book now.

 

Dai George Gwyneth LewisGenerations: Gwyneth Lewis meets Dai George
Saturday 17 February, 18:00
£5.00 – Book now.

 

Rhian EdwardsPoetry & Art: Brood by Rhian Edwards
Saturday 17 February, 19:00
£5.00 – Book now.

 

The Spoke poetry group‘The Spoke’: Poetry & Music with Little Red
Saturday 17 February, 20:00
£10.00 – Book now.

 

Sunday Lunch with Gillian Clarke
Sunday 18 February, 13:00
£20.00 – Book now.

 

We hope you enjoy our poetry-filled Cardiff weekend. Find the full programme on the festival website, and book your tickets before they sell out.

 

Friday Poem – ‘Festival Field’, Paul Henry

Paul Henry Friday Poem Festival Field

In just under a month, Paul Henry will read from his remarkable tenth collection, The Glass Aisle, at the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival. In the meantime, please enjoy ‘Festival Field’, one of the poems from the book.

The Glass Aisle Paul HenryThe Glass Aisle is Paul Henry’s tenth book of verse and features all the lyrical precision, empathy for the human condition and deep sense of temporal loss that have become the hallmarks of his work. The poems move between rage and stillness, past and present, music and silence. The title poem is a moving elegy to displaced workhouse residents, set on a stretch of canal in the Brecon Beacons National Park, in which a telephone engineer unwittingly connects the centuries.
Paul’s event at the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival will feature a stunning musical collaboration with singer/songwriter Brian Briggs, lead singer of the band ‘Stornoway’. Tickets are available: book now.

 

Festival Field by Paul Henry Friday Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Henry on ‘Festival Field’ (from The Glass Aisle):

An earlier draft of this poem began with cows slithering in the mud of a churned up field, a few days after a music festival. (I was thinking of a field in Portmeirion where ‘The Flaming Lips’ had played). Poor field, like a tourist resort handed back to its quieter self in winter, a patch of land disturbed by who knows what other gatherings across the centuries – fêtes, battles, rituals….

Then I found myself in a smaller field, a smaller festival, in Flintshire, in the late summer – a much calmer affair. There were hay bales scattered about, a blacksmith, real ale, craftspeople sharing their skills… and music, of course. The late sun arrowed about the place and the field, for moments, held all of its time. And love was as old as the field.

Find out more about Paul and his forthcoming events on his website.

 

The Glass Aisle is available to pre-order from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Building my Grandfather’, Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards Friday Poem Building my Grandfather

Next month, Costa-winning poet Jonathan Edwards opens our Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival in Cardiff. Our Friday Poem, ‘Building my Grandfather’, is taken from his award-winning collection, My Family and Other Superheroes, which he will read from at the festival event, along with never-before heard new material.

my family and other superheroes jonathan edwardsMy Family and Other Superheroes is a vibrant, joyful and celebratory collection of quirky family portraits, working-class Welshness, pop culture and surrealism. Winner of the Costa Poetry Prize 2014, Edwards’ quirky and confessional poems harbour a motley crew: Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun and a recalcitrant hippo all leap from these pages and jostle for position, alongside valleys mams, dads and bamps, all described with great warmth.
You can hear Jonathan read on Friday 16 February at Cornerstone, Cardiff, as part of the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival. Tickets for the event are £7 and include a buffet of food from the Pantry café. Book now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Family and Other Superheroes is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

January Sale: Best of the Best

January Sale Bestsellers

Our half price January sale is nearing its end, and we can see you have a few favourites. Take a look below for the best of the best – the most popular poetry, fiction and non-fiction books this week!

The half price sale ends midnight tonight (11 January). Have a browse on our website to discover all our books before the time runs out.

Top of the Poetry:

Giraffe Bryony LittlefairGiraffe by Bryony Littlefair
£5.00 £2.50
Joyous and uplifting, Bryony Littlefair’s debut pamphlet won the Mslexia Prize and is packed full of wry and feminist lyrics. A voice full of wit and wonderful humanity shines through. Heartbreak can be summarised by one glance at the ‘Lido’. Love can be inferred by the tender description of someone from the back, as they are walking away. Giraffe, the title and a euphemism for happiness, is a beguiling, beautiful and entertaining debut.

 

The Art of Falling Kim MooreThe Art of Falling by Kim Moore
£9.99 £4.99
Kim Moore recently scooped up the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for this mesmerising book. The central section, ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’, offers portraits of a violent relationship that are harrowing, haunting and exact. Elsewhere the poems are unpretentious and vividly alive:  suffragettes, a tattoo inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and a poetic letter addressed to a ‘Dear Mr Gove’ all mingle together in a collection that is ‘moving and magnificent’ (Bel Mooney).

 

Basic Nest Architecture Polly AtkinBasic Nest Architecture by Polly Atkin
£9.99 £4.99
Polly Atkin’s complex, intelligent, and densely metaphorical lyrics are influenced by the beauties of the Lake District, and offer a celebration of nature in all its glory. The contrast of urban and rural is skillfully explored, as in the Troubadour Prize-winning ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’, where ‘Going back to the city is to speed myself up/ to a drawn out buzz that I know is killing me.’ Basic Nest Architecture will nurture the part of you that is enthralled by the natural world.

 

Top of the Fiction:

Maria Donovan The Chicken Soup MurderThe Chicken Soup Murder by Maria Donovan
£9.99 £4.99
Thoroughly addictive and beautifully written, The Chicken Soup Murder weaves together murdery mystery, crime and thriller in a meditation on grief. Eleven-year-old Michael is investigating the suspicious death of his elderly neighbour, who died whilst making him chicken soup. Is it really a murder, or has his magical creative thinking gotten the better of him? You won’t be able to put the story down until you discover the truth.

 

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees by Clare Dudman
£8.99 £4.49
Impoverished and oppressed, they’d been promised paradise on earth: a land flowing with milk and honey. But what the settlers found after a devastating sea journey was a cold South American desert where nothing could survive except tribes of nomadic Tehuelche Indians, possibly intent on massacring them. A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees is a lyrical and insightful evocation of the trials of the first Welsh Patagonian colonists as they battle to survive hunger, loss, and each other.

 

Bilbao–New York–Bilbao Kirmen UribeBilbao–New York–Bilbao, Kirmen Uribe
£9.99 £4.99
On one level, this is a novel about three generations of Uribe’s family: his grandfather Liborio, a fisherman whose boat was strikingly named Dos Amigos (‘Two Friends’ – but who were they?); his father José, who fished the waters around the islet of Rockall in the North Atlantic; and Kirmen himself, the writer. Through letters, diaries, emails, poems and dictionaries, Uribe creates a mosaic of memories and stories that combine to form a homage to a world that has almost disappeared, as well as a hymn to the continuity of life.

 

Top of the Non-Fiction:

Real Barnsley Ian McMillanReal Barnsley by Ian McMillan
£9.99 £4.99
‘Bard of Barnsley’, the inimitable Ian McMillan, dives into the history of his hometown with characteristic wit and charm. As you’ll discover, Barnsley is nothing if not eclectic: a mix of brass bands and the Barnsley Chop on the one hand, and the Arctic Monkeys and Saxon on the other. These pages are peopled by Michael Parkinson, cricket umpire Dicky Bird, sculptor Graham Ibbeson, Lord Halifax, poet Ebenezer Elliott, the highwayman Swift Nick and a host of other interesting characters. Don’t step foot in McMillan’s turf without a copy.

 

The Clydach Murders John MorrisThe Clydach Murders by John Morris
£9.99 £4.99
In this widely researched book, Morris picks apart the devastating Clydach murders case of 1999, a crime that sparked the largest criminal investigation ever mounted in Wales. Morris argues that the conviction of Dai Morris (no relation) is unsound, offering compelling evidence – including police files, court papers and key witness statements – suggesting a miscarriage of justice.

 

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesForbidden Lives by Norena Shopland
£12.99 £6.49
Wales has a rich and fascinating LGBT history that has for the most part remained, rather frustratingly, untold. This glorious new book shines much-needed light on key Welsh LGBT figures, from the twelfth century to the present day. Among them are seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

 

Visit our website before midnight tonight for more half price delights.

January Sale half price books

 

 

 

 

 

January Sale 2018: Half Price Highlights

The New Year festivities may have been and gone, but here at Seren we’re still celebrating – all our books are half price until midnight Thursday, 11 January.

You might wonder, “with so much choice, how will I ever decide what to read next?” And to that we say: take a look at our recommendations below. Or ignore them! It’s really up to you…

Best for… curling up with on cold winter nights:

Maria Donovan The Chicken Soup MurderThe Chicken Soup Murder by Maria Donovan
£9.99 £4.99
Clear your diaries before you pick up this addictive, engrossing book – you won’t want to put it down until the mystery has been well and truly unraveled. The narrative follows sharp and imaginative young Michael, who believes his sweet elderly neighbour has been murdered whilst making him chicken soup. Nobody seems to care, so Michael decides to take on the burden of doing the right thing himself: seeking answers, and justice.

 

Best for… wintery adventures:

Wild Places by Iolo WilliamsWild Places, Iolo Williams
£19.99 £9.99
It’s not only in summer that you can explore Wales’ stunning landscapes – the colder months are filled with beauty too. From the frosty fenland at Magor Marsh to birdwatching at beautiful Dolydd Hafren, Iolo Williams’ stunningly illustrated book will guide you to the best and most nature interesting places Wales has to offer.

 

Best for… devouring along with your comfort food:

Masque by Bethany W PopeMasque by Bethany W. Pope
£9.99 £4.99
This rich and gothic re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera skillfully fleshes out the dark desires and deadly ambitions of the three central characters: the intensely ambitious Christine finds herself caught between the twin evils of the Phantom’s murderous pursuit of artistic perfection and Raoul’s ‘romantic’ vision of her as a bourgeois wife. Love, lust, adventure, romance, and the monstrous nature of unfulfilled creativity await you here.

 

Best for… moments of reflection:

Paul Deaton A Watchful AstronomyA Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton
£9.99 £4.99
Sombre and exquisite, Paul Deaton’s PBS-recommended debut collection is a thing to be treasured. These quietly intense, formal poems are haunted by the ghost of the author’s father, a figure embodied in glowering mountain ranges, icy blasts of weather, and bits of bleak, monosyllabic dialogue. Nature is also a prime factor and facilitator: both rural and urban scenes are beautifully observed and presented. There is a gift for the visceral here, for tastes and sounds. A rigorous intelligence meets an adept sensitivity.

 

Best for… satisfying your wanderlust:

The Road to Zagora by Richard Collins
£9.99 £4.99
The gloriously eccentric author stumbles across fresh snow leopard tracks in the Himalayas, is robbed in Peru, and watches a volcanic eruption in Ecuador – all in his quest to visit as many strange and beautiful places as he can after he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. You will find great humour and honesty here in equal measure, as Collins’ rich descriptions bring the many little wonders of the world to life.

 

Best for… broadening the mind:

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesForbidden Lives by Norena Shopland
£12.99 £6.49
Wales has a rich and fascinating LGBT history that has for the most part remained, rather frustratingly, untold. This glorious new book shines much-needed light on key Welsh LGBT figures, from the twelfth century to the present day. Among them are seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

 

Best for… brief escapes from reality:

Writing on Water Maggie HarrisWriting on Water by Maggie Harris
£8.99 £4.49
Worlds of heartbreak and tenderness, separation and fierce familial bonds are played out in Maggie Harris’ mesmerising stories, which refuse to loosen their grip on the reader even long after they are finished. These tales transport you into the Caribbean scenes and memories with which they are infused, into dreams and lives, where there is struggle, hardship, and endurance.

 

Best for… staying under the covers with:

This Is Not A Rescue Emily BlewittThis Is Not A Rescue by Emily Blewitt
£9.99 £4.99
Uplifting and witty, these poems tackle love and cats, Welshness and The Walking Dead. Sharp, satirical poems confront issues such as office lechery, misogyny, domestic violence and depression, whilst consistently subverting expectations. The poet is a whirlwind, whose passions and influences swirl around, chaotic and irresistible.

 

We hope you enjoy browsing our January sale. The half price offer ends at midnight on Thursday 11 January, so don’t delay – see what you can find before the time runs out.

January Sale half price books