Three Poems for World Poetry Day

In celebration of World Poetry Day, we are featuring three poems by Seren poets, which you can read below.

Coinciding with the start of Spring, World Poetry Day is the perfect opportunity for us to brighten up your week with some of our favourite poems. It has been dreadfully difficult to narrow it down, but we hope you enjoy our selections: poems from Kim Moore, Paul Henry, and Rhian Edwards.

 

 

The Art of Falling Kim MooreKim Moore: ‘And the Soul’
Taken from Kim Moore’s outstanding debut, The Art of Falling – which was shortlisted for the Cumbria/Lakeland Book of the Year – ‘And the Soul’ considers the animalistic nature of the soul, be it domestic (‘And if it be a cat, find some people/ to ignore’) or primal.

 

And the Soul
And the soul, if she is to know
herself, must look into the soul…
– Plato

And the soul, if she is to know herself
must look into the soul and find
what kind of beast is hiding.

And if it be a horse, open up the gate
and let it run. And if it be a rabbit
give it sand dunes to disappear in.

And if it be a swan, create a mirror image,
give it water. And if it be a badger
grow a sloping woodland in your heart.

And if it be a tick, let the blood flow
until it’s sated. And if it be a fish
there must be a river and a mountain.

And if it be a cat, find some people
to ignore, but if it be a wolf,
you’ll know from its restless way

of moving, if it be a wolf,
throw back your head
and let it howl.

 

 

Boy Running, Paul Henry

Paul Henry: ‘Moving In’
This poem is taken from Boy Running, Paul Henry’s latest collection, which reached the shortlist for the Wales Book of the Year Poetry Award (2016). Paul is currently touring with Stornoway singer-songwriter Brian Briggs as they perform their collaborative work, The Glass Aisle – a haunting piece which crosses the borders between poem and song lyric. Find the full list of events here.

 

Moving In
I cannot see the flowers at my feet…
Keats – ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’

They look and wonder what they’re doing here,
those who’ve moved with me across the years –
Dylan Thomas, Picasso, Nightingale Ann,
Goble, David Trevorrow, young Fanny Brawne…
all strewn about this flat where I hide.
(Did I dream, last night, of a tide
laying its artefacts on sand?) They stare
but do not judge, or change, or care.

Dylan’s just opened Manhattan’s cigar box.
‘Try one,’ he says, ‘before you die. Fuck books.’
Pablo’s still pushing against his pane.
He listens for a nightingale in vain.
Goble tilts back in his top hat.
He and Trevorrow could not have shared a flat
but I loved them both, and Fanny Brawne.
There are crows on my roof. The light has gone.

 

 

Rhian Edwards: ‘The Universal Doodle’
Taken from Rhian Edwards’ new poetry pamphlet, Brood, ‘The Universal Doodle’ carries on the pamphlet’s ever-present theme of birds by musing on the appearance of a murmuration cloud of starlings. Keep an eye on our website, as numerous launch events are on the horizon – and we would love for you to celebrate with us.

 

The Universal Doodle

A scattering corralled, lassoed
into the universal doodle of birds.
A mutable speech bubble

of pondering ‘m’s. This is the bombast
of starlings as they corkscrew the sky.
Each twist and fold is summarised

to a simile like iron filings,
flocked and flung across the sky
by the metaphorical whims of a magnet.

Can you hear the pathetic fallacy?
The siren song of a metal’s hum
crooning behind clouds, a bit like a God.

 

 

We hope you enjoyed our World Poetry Day selection. If it has inspired you to expand your poetry collection, then you can find our full list of Seren poetry books here.

 

A literary Mother’s Day Gift: the Writing Motherhood anthology

Writing Motherhood 30% off Mother's Day

Today we welcome the arrival of Writing Motherhood, a creative anthology of poetry, interviews and essays by established writers, edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-CookeThe perfect literary gift for Mother’s Day, Writing Motherhood explores the relationship between creativity and motherhood, with contributions from writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, Sharon Olds and Hollie McNish. Until Sunday 26 March, you can buy Mum her copy at 30% off, direct from the Seren website.

‘This is a truly inspiring collection, all the more so for its wit and its grit, its poetry and its honesty; here we have women producing ‘good art’ despite – and often  because of – ‘the pram in the hall.’ – Shelley Day

Read a free excerpt from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s Introduction, below.


INTRODUCTION

There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.
– Cyril Connolly

This book presents a selection of the most important contemporary
writing by women on the tensions between motherhood
and writing.
Cyril Connolly wrote about the ‘pram in the hall’ in his 1938
book Enemies of Promise, yet his caveat is directed at men (he took
it as given that women create babies, not art). Nonetheless, the
quote is still in use to capture those devastating effects brought to
artistic creation by a new baby. I’m not alone when I admit the
arrival of my first child felt like stepping inside a whirlwind. I had
plenty to worry about – SIDS, whether she was gaining enough
weight, whether we could afford maternity leave, etc. – but I do
remember that among my worries was a serious concern that I
might never be able to write again. My brain felt completely
scrambled. I could barely construct a text message for weeks,
months. Time was disjointed. It seemed to take an inordinate
amount of time to do even the smallest task. I remember thinking,
over and over, why did nobody tell me how hard this is? After the birth
of my son, however, writing proved effective in pushing back the
darkness of postnatal depression, and also inspired a new direction
in my creative practice; I had always thought I would only
ever write poetry, but the problem-solving, immersive elements of
narrative proved much more potent in batting back depression.
After the births of our third and fourth children, let’s just say that
I became a bit more creative in how I managed my time.
PUBLISHING MOTHERHOOD

In 2014, Arts Council England funded my Writing Motherhood
project to tour literary festivals in the UK to discuss the impact of
motherhood on women’s writing. I had read a number of reports
and articles that claimed the key to literary success was childlessness,
or for a woman to have just one child, or at least to bear in
mind that each child ‘costs’ a female writer four books. None of
these reports aimed their caveats at men. I became curious – and
not a little dismayed – by the idealization of motherhood, and by
the casual sexism that was prevalent and unchallenged in discourses
about motherhood. I set up the Writing Motherhood
project because I wanted to empower mothers and to encourage
them to talk about their experiences. Although the assumption
about mothers and writing was that we just didn’t have the time
or inclination (we’re all too busy dealing with that pram in the
hallway!), I perceived that other forces were at work, prohibiting
women’s writing from making it into the public sphere and/or
being perceived as good literature.

 


 

A few highlights from the kalaidescope of female experience featured here are Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s interview with Sharon Olds (where she discusses her famous rejection by a US literary magazine for writing about her children), excerpts from Hollie McNish’s motherhood diary, and Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful portrait of being and having a daughter. This is a poignant and beautiful book celebrating motherhood, recognising it not as the ‘enemy of good art’, but often as its inspiration.

Writing Motherhood 30% off Mother's Day

Writing Motherhood: 30% off until Mother’s Day (26 March). Order your copy now

 

Friday Poem – ‘Translating Mountains from the Gaelic’, Yvonne Reddick

Friday Poem Translating Mountains from the Gaelic Yvonne Reddick

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Translating Mountains from the Gaelic’ from Yvonne Reddick’s Mslexia Poetry Prize-winning pamphlet, Translating Mountains.

The difficulty and occasional humour of translating language is at the forefront of this poem, yet alongside this we see a daughter contemplating how she will take her lost father on one last memorialistic mountain trek.

The poems of Yvonne Reddick’s prize-winning pamphlet, Translating Mountains, are all multi-layered compositions. They tell of grief for a beloved father as well as a close friend, who both died in mountain-climbing accidents. These poems are also hymns to stunning landscapes, with mountains and place names often in a craggy, atmospheric Gaelic. Full of tension, emotion and action, this writing grips our attention.

 

 

Translating Mountains from the Gaelic

A pebble on the tongue –
my clumsy mouth stumbles their meanings:

I mumble Beinn Laoghail to Ben Loyal,
Beinn Uais to Ben Wyvis,

humble Beinn Artair
from King Arthur’s Hill to The Cobbler –

turn Bod an Deamhain
from Demon’s Penis to Devil’s Point,

stammer on An Teallach
with its rearing anvils and impossible spelling,

my throat a stream-gorge
where quartz chunks chatter against each other –

my English rolling off their sharp consonants.
Next summer, I’ll shoulder my red rucksack,
a Platypus bottle, and a vial of Dad’s ash

up Schiehallion –
Fairy-Hill of the Caledonians –
via the less-worn path.

A deerfly, its eyes peridot ringstones,
will pincer my skin for blood,

my voice a trespasser,
echoing charred moors and razed crofts.

Dad, I’ll pour your English dust
for the hungry roots of the hill’s oldest pine –

a speck of you will lodge in a walker’s boot-tread,
the breeze catching a mote of your collarbone,

the rain will seep through you,
mingle you with Aonach Bàn,
Loch Teimheil, Sìdh Chailleann.

 

 

Translating Mountains is available from the Seren website: £5.00
Join our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for a 20% discount every time you shop with us

 

 

 

Seren’s women on the books that have inspired us

Seren's women on the books that have inspired us

To mark International Women’s Day 2017, Seren’s female staff have come together to shine the spotlight on the books that have inspired us. Countless works of literature written by female writers have changed the world; the few mentioned here have personally changed us.

Sunshine, Melissa Lee-Houghton (Penned in the Margins, 2016)
Sunshine Melissa Lee HoughtonSuggested by Rebecca Parfitt, Editorial Assistant for Poetry Wales

“It both shocked and enthralled me in equal measure. Here is a poet laying her soul and body bare for all to see and its as uncomfortable as it is beautiful. Her poems have an energy that crackles on the page and her verse often long and sprawling as to almost seem unkempt. A truly authentic and honest contemporary female voice.”

 

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, Eimear McBride (Galley Beggar Press, 2013)
A Girl is a Half-formed ThingSuggested by Rosie Johns, Marketing & Communications Officer

“Girlhood, growth and sexuality – this book is uncompromising in its depiction of the protagonist’s agonising journey through all of these. After puberty, she is seen by the men in her life (including her uncle) as a simply sexual thing. In reality she is fragmented, transgressive, troubled. There is nothing toned-down or dishonest about this book which, sadly, might explain the author’s staggering 9-year search for a publisher.”

 

Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer
Shakespeare's WifeSuggested by Amy Wack, Poetry Editor

“I’m a fan of this book by Greer, a scholarly and provocative imaginary life of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. Greer constructs a plausible and sometimes unexpected Elizabethan England based mostly on her research sifting the actual records from Stratford at the time. I know Greer can be wrong-headed and stubbornly persistent, but I always appreciate that her goal is to get people to think, to argue back, to defy received opinions!”

 

 

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, and commemorates the moment for women’s rights. The day is also an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements. This year the campaign centres around calling people to #BeBoldForChange – to help forge a better working world, and a more gender-inclusive world. Join in and be bold.

A treat for International Women’s Day

Treat for International Women's Day Women's Work half price

Today is International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration of women’s achievements and a call for gender equality.

We can’t think of a better book to treat yourself to than Women’s Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English, so for today only, you can buy your copy at half price on our website.

Women's Work International Women's Day 2017

 

With over 250 contributors, this generous selection of poetry by women features poets from the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand. You will find familiar names as well as new discoveries amongst the contributors: Margaret Atwood, Sujata Bhatt, Colette Bryce, Siobhán Campbell, Amy Clampitt, Polly Clark, Wendy Cope (and many others). Some may ask: is the literary establishment still as dominated by men as it once was? Who gets to decide the canon? Eva Salzman opens Women’s Work with a lively polemic, making the case for the women-only anthology with characteristic wit and flair.


Buy your copy of Women’s Work today:

£14.99
£7.49

Offer ends midnight, 08/03/2017

 

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘The shame of our island’, Siobhán Campbell

Friday Poem The shame of our island Siobhan Campbell

This week our Friday Poem is ‘The shame of our island’ from Siobhán Campbell’s brand new collection, Heat Signature.

Heat Signature Siobhan CampbellIn ‘The shame of our island’ we are confronted with a sense of contested history, in which the hunter’s tongue-in-cheek aim is to ‘see the steaming innards’ of his almost-extinct prey. The ‘shame’ of the title permeates the poem, with the speaker’s questions demanding justification, yet receiving no answer.
Heat Signature is Siobhán Campbell’s fourth full collection, and is composed in her characteristically spikey voice: infused with an intelligence that resists easy answers to the conundrums that have faced her Irish homeland, but also suffused with a grudging admiration for the citizens who have survived their tumultuous history. The blend of dark comedy, tragedy and politics is entirely typical of Campbell’s complex, thoughtful and profoundly entertaining poetry.

 

The shame of our island

is that we killed the wolf.
Not just the last
but the two before that.

I knew a man who met a man
who was the cousin removed
of the great-grandson of the man
who killed the third-last wolf
on the island.

Slit it he did,
to see the steaming innards –
how long they were, how tightly wound.

Had it a white paw to the fore?
That gene would have been recessive.
Was there a black bar across the yellow eye?
No time to notice its différence.

Is this a wolf with its bared teeth
and its lairy smell
and its fetlock tipped with white?

Is this wolfish?

 
Heat Signature is available from the Seren website: £9.99
Join our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for a 20% discount every time you shop with us

 

Attend the Heat Signature book launch in London

Join us at The Flying Horse on Wednesday 15 March, 7:30pm, where we will be celebrating the launch of Heat Signature with a poetry reading by the author and book signing opportunity. Refreshments will be provided and entry is free, so bring your friends for an evening of poetry and merriment.
Find out more

 

 

 

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Find a free Seren book this World Book Day

Seren books World Book Day 2017

Today we are celebrating all things literary for World Book Day, now in its 20th year. We want the world to discover our fantastic authors, and to help a few of you do just that, we’ve left a selection of our books all over Cardiff for lucky people to find and keep.

If you’re out in Cardiff today, stop for a coffee in one of the lovely independent cafés and you might well find a Seren book hiding somewhere near you! Take it, enjoy it, and pass it on to someone new to enjoy afterwards to spread the World Book Day love.

Seren books World Book Day book drop
Can you guess which books we’ve hidden? Poetry, fiction, non-fiction – there’s a real mix out there, just waiting to be found.

 

Happy World Book Day, and happy book hunting…

 

Friday Poem – ‘Big Sky’, Sheenagh Pugh

Friday Poem Big Sky Sheenagh Pugh

This week our Friday Poem is ‘Big Sky’, from Short Days, Long Shadows by Sheenagh Pugh.

Short Days Log Shadows Sheenagh PughIn ‘Big Sky’ the overwhelming vastness of the sky is viewed as if for the first time, at a distance from the claustrophobic trappings of the everyday. We are catapulted to the ‘great ragged brush-strokes of cirrus’ and further still, to the ‘cluster and prickle’ of planets.
Short Days, Long Shadows is Sheenagh Pugh’s twelth collection, and takes her into a new, northern landscape, the Shetland Islands, with poems steeped in the wilder weathers and views of rugged coastlines, sweeping sea-vistas and the hardy historical characters who have inhabited these lands.

 

Big Sky

Unbroken by forest or town, this skyline
all hills and ocean: you look up
and your gaze, stopped by no branch, no office block,
overflows with sky, too much to take in
even when you turn slowly in the circle
of green and blue. Who knew how vast
cumulus could boil over, or how sweeping
the great ragged brush-strokes of cirrus,
or, at night, how many bright worlds,
hundreds of years away, cluster and prickle
above our heads? It is as if,
having lived all your life in the jewelled oval
of a miniature, you stepped into a frame
the size of a gallery wall, a landscape
where a few small figures, lost against distance,
seem to be looking for the way out.

 

Short Days, Long Shadows is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for a 20% discount every time you shop with us

Friday Poem – ‘Questions’, Kate Bingham

Friday Poem Questions Kate Bingham Infragreen

This week our Friday Poem is ‘Questions’, from Infragreen by Kate Bingham.

infragreen‘Questions’ unpicks the intricate imagined details behind moments of silence, as the speaker interrogates ‘your mouth’s unstated strategy / for the avoidance of speech’. The poem gives voice to the part inside us all that pleads for communication.
Infragreen is Kate Bingham’s third collection, with poems that are perceptive, persuasive and intricately made. Bingham takes the reader on a startling and unfamiliar journey through everyday experiences and phenomena. Her keen eye, reflectiveness and quiet wit endow her subjects with a shimmering freshness.

 

Questions from Infragreen Kate Bingham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infragreen is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for a 20% discount every time you shop with us

 

 

 

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Seren’s Top Ten Literary Romances

seren top ten literary romances

Valentine’s Day needn’t be a cause for stress when there are so many great literary romances to get lost in. Happy ending or otherwise, love in literature is beautiful and intense – the perfect distraction on this much-maligned day of devotion. Here are the Seren team’s top ten literary romances – in no particular order.

  1. Jayne Eyre and Edward Rochester – Jayne Eyre
    Unassuming and lacking in contemporary beauty, Jayne is perhaps not the convential heroine figure, yet her honesty and intelligence captures our hearts as well as that of wealthy Edward Rochester, whose impulsiveness and secrecy derails their budding romance. Rekindled much later after great suffering, their love seems all the more pure.
  2. Claire Abshire and Henry DeTamble – The Time Traveler’s Wife
    ‘I am at a loss because I am in love with a man who is standing before me with no memories of me at all’. Claire and Henry’s romance is unconvential and at times agonising, but each moment time-travelling Henry is brought back to Claire is cherished by both.
  3. Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley – Emma
    Like a slow burn, Emma’s imperceptible love grows out of friendship for the frank and critical Mr Knightly – the only character whose genuine concern and care for Emma is strong enough to prompt such well-meaning rebukes. Their romance is compassionate and selfless, and each improves the other through their genuine affection.
  4. Catherine Ernshaw and Heathcliff – Wuthering Heights
    Both strong, wild and passionate, Catherine and Heathcliffe fall prey to an obsessive kind of love, all-consuming in its intensity, to the ruin of both. Heathcliff is not our typical romantic hero – his coarse brutality turning him into something monstrous – yet his enduring love for Catherine, which dominates him even after her death, makes for a captivating and unforgettable story.
  5. Beatrice and Benedick – Much Ado About Nothing
    The will-they-won’t-they romance between Beatrice and Benedick begins with the two on equal footing – both clever, witty and utterly opposed to marriage. Throughout the play they continue to be evenly matched,  their heated linguistic duels blossoming into love. Each has the power to turn the other into the best (or worst) version of themselves, and the “merry war” of witty insults between Beatrice and Benedick ends with a romance we will remember always.
  6. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew – One Day
    This much-loved contemporary romance opens with Emma and Dexter’s one-night-stand, which unbeknownst to both characters will define the tragectory of their lives. Though ultimately tragic, the love between Emma and Dexter endures over decades of separation, and is captivating in its intensity.
  7. Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters – The Fault in Our Stars
    A short and hearbreaking romance, Hazel and Augustus stole hearts in the book and on the big screen as we followed them in their battles against cancer, love and loss. Embodying Tennyson’s phrase, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, the story ends with neither character regretting having pursued their doomed relationship.
  8. Pip and Estella – Great Expectations
    Arguably one of Dickens’ strongest female characters, Estrella is cold and cruel to Pip as a child, rejecting the notion of romance and warning him to stay away from her. Pip, passionately in love, continues to pursue Estrella even after her marriage to the repugnant Drummle, and as the novel draws to a close, we are teased with the notion that Pip and Estella may finally be united.
  9. Margaret Hale and John Thornton – North and South
    An intelligent and wealthy mill owner, Mr Thornton represents all that genteel Margaret Hale is prejudiced against. He comes to love Margaret both because and in spite of her pride, and this passionate love persists even after she refuses his preposal and he comes to (wrongly) believe she has another lover. Margaret’s prejudices against the North and about social class slowly alter and when re-introduced to Thornton much later, the two finally declare their love.
  10. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy – Pride and Prejudice
    How could we leave off this most famous of literary romances? Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy both have their flaws – quick to jump to conclusions, Elizabeth misjudges Darcy from the start and he, falling prey to his pride, looks down upon her socially inferior family. Through hatred, to begruding respect and finally love, the two overcome their initial failings, and eventually embark upon a joyous marriage.

 

We hope you enjoyed this short list of great literary romances – though there are plenty more out there we haven’t mentioned. Happy Valentine’s Day, book lovers!

Seren literary romances love heart

And before we go, a couple of honorary mentions from the Seren list:

Dark_Mermaids_Web72Sophia and Hajo – Dark Mermaids
In Sophia’s struggles to investigate her friend’s murder and come to terms with her own abusive childhood as a young swimming star, fellow police officer Hajo begins as a wishful fantasy, his thick dark curly hair something coveted from a distance. But by the novel’s close, we see the two united, Sophia’s torment dulled by the reciprocated feelings from one whose love is patient, gentle, and pure.

Masque by Bethany W PopeChristine and The Phantom – Masque
In her pursuit of artistic perfection, young opera singer Christine encounters the Phantom, whose mentorship and murderous control of the theatre propel her to new heights. Much unlike Gaston Leroux’s original story, in Masque the Phantom is a complex character with great emotional depth, and ultimately Christine comes to recognise, despite his monstrous faults and physical deformity, that she admires and loves him.

 

 

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