Friday Poem – ‘Iraqi Bride in Transit’ by Abeer Ameer

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Iraqi Bride in Transit’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile which has just been shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year!

Cardiff-based poet Abeer Ameer writes of her forebears in her first collection, Inhale/Exile. Dedicated to the “holders of these stories”, the book begins with a poem about a storyteller on a rooftop in Najaf, Iraq, follows tales of courage and survival, and ends with a woman cooking food for neighbours on the anniversary of her son’s death.

Iraqi Bride in Transit
She’s nineteen, waits in Charles de Gaulle airport
unsure where to go. She hopes that Groom comes for her soon.
Her first experience of a plane journey hasn’t been Oh là là.
Far from her Baghdad home, her white suit is not so white now.
It’s the first time she wears high heels; she has blisters,
struggles to balance.
She wears her mother’s fur coat, a white headscarf,
white clutch bag holds her green passport.
Feels bare without her abaya.
Groom waits in Heathrow arrivals. It’s 23rd December 1974.
Three flights have arrived from Paris in the last eight hours.
No sign of her.
Iraqi Christians who boarded the same plane
from Baghdad waiting for their New York flight
recognise she’s the bride, take her to the gate.
Last flight before Christmas.
He is pupil. He do drugs. She rolls her Rs.
Groom’s lost hope. It’s late.
He gets up, ready to leave Heathrow,
gathers coins to make the international call.
What will he tell her father?
Announcement. Groom is summoned to Immigration.
Your wife says you do drugs.
He realises at that moment he should have taught his bride
the correct English term for pharmacy student.

Inhale/Exile is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Voting is now open for the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award. Head to the Wales Arts Review website to vote for your favorite www.walesartsreview.org.

Friday Poem – ‘43. When I open my ribs’ by Kim Moore

To celebrate her collection All The Men I Never Married being shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘43. When I open my ribs’ by Kim Moore.

This cover shows a collage image of the figure of a man made up of tiny pictures of nature. He is against a black background surrounded by butterflies. The text reads: All The Men I Never Married Kim Moore

Kim Moore’s eagerly awaited second collection All The Men I Never Married is pointedly feminist, challenging and keenly aware of the contradictions and complexities of desire. The 48 numbered poems take us through a gallery of exes and significant others where we encounter rage, pain, guilt, and love.

“All the Men I Never Married is a work of immense focus, intelligence and integrity.” – The Yorkshire Times

43.
When I open my ribs a dragon flies out
and when I open my mouth a sheep trots out
and when I open my eyes silverfish crawl out
and make for a place that’s not mine.
When I open my fists two skylarks soar out
and when I open my legs a horse gallops out
and when I open my heart a wolf slips out
and watches from beneath the trees.
When I open my arms a hare jumps out
and when I show you my wrists a shadow cries out
and when I fall to my knees
a tiger stalks out and will not answer to me.
Now that the beasts that lived in my chest
have turned tail and fled, now that I’m open
and the sky has come in and left me
with nothing but space, now that I’m ready
to lie like a cross and wait for the ghost
of him to float clear away, will my wild things
come back, will the horse of my legs
and the dragon of my ribs, and the gentle sheep
which lived in my throat and the silverfish
of my eyes and the skylarks of my hands
and the wolf of my heart, will they all come back
and live here again, now that he’s left,
now I’ve said the word whisper it rape,
now I’ve said the word whisper it shame,
will my true ones, my wild, my truth,
will my wild come back to me again?

All The Men I Never Married is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Catch Kim at the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival on the 30th July! She’ll be taking part in a session on Poetry & Empowerment and discussing The Result is What You See Today, an anthology about running which she co-edited with Paul Deaton and Ben Wilkinson. See the full programme and buy tickets at cardiffpoetryfestival.com. All our in person events are also being streamed online.

Friday Poem – ‘The Artist Mixes Colour in the Renaissance’ by Rosalind Hudis

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Artist Mixes Colour in the Renaissance’ by Rosalind Hudis from her collection Restorations.

This cover shows an abstract print of blue and red mountains blocking out the sky. The text reads: Restorations: Roaalind Hudis. "If a poem is like a picture, these are history paintings, rich in human detail and many-layered in their brushwork." – Matthew Francais

Inspired by the art restorer’s keen eye and by a vivid empathy for people and events, Restorations, is a journey through memory. Suffused with colour, inspired by thoughts of people and places, by artefacts and how the passage of time shifts perspectives and erodes surfaces, these poems are beautifully complex explorations, full of curiosity and the adventure of seeing and listening.

The Artist Mixes Colour in the Renaissance
Don’t think of me as lime-robed and lost
in undailiness; I come with sleeves rolled-up,
worker in a mire of substance. Yes, I stink!
I chew on a rotted wafer of dried fish glue
my saliva in the mix. How else to stretch the hue
of some frosty cleric? My paints are part kill:
rabbit skin, horse hoof, pig’s blood.
I knife, mine, grind, churn, pound, steep, sweat
my way to that primal blue you worship.
When you varnish me with meaning, remember
the grit under my nails, the fumes. Green
comes from the labour camps you made
for your longing. And that hair-coiled girl
resolved from light. She’s no touched-up
pink fix. She took on the earth
to coagulate: egg-yolk, red clay, mineral, old linen
marble dust. Do you think, if she looked up
she wouldn’t roar with the energy of her roots?

Restorations is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Dogwoman’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is the opening page of the sequence ‘Dogwoman’ by Deryn Rees-Jones. ‘Dogwoman’ draws on the work of Portuguese artist Paula Rego, who passed away earlier this week. It first appeared in Deryn’s collection Burying the Wren, and later in What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems.

This cover shows a drawing by the artist Paula Rego of three children leaping in the air. The text reads: Deryn Rees-Jones What It's Like To Be Alive Selected Poems

What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems brings together poems from five of Deryn Rees-Jones’s early collections: The Memory Tray, Signs Round a Dead Body, Quiver, Burying the Wren, and And You, Helen. We see the arc of development in her writing as she visits and revisits the concerns that are the mainstay of her writing: memory, love, desire, and heartbreak in all its manifestations. The cover features a drawing by Paula Rego.

Dogwoman
after Paula Rego
No one can love this horror, no one can want it.
I’m crouched between my own thighs,
with my dog heart and my dog soul. For now I’m a woman
brought up by dogs, bitch in the muck and the blood and the dirt.
For once, now, I’ve got no words, and look –
I’m trampling my bed, I’m baying at the moon.
And no one can hear me, with my skirts pulled up,
head back as my eyes roll. Look. I’m swallowing sorrow.
No one can hear me in spite of the howls.
*
I am lying on my back, my legs outsplayed.
That would be my dog-look, now, I’m giving you,
my half-cock, something askance and going to hell,
take me/leave me, inbreath, outbreath.
Trembling, I’m all upturned. Heart-hit, flesh-bound,
saying love love in a ring of devotion.
Here’s my dogbelly with its small pink teats.
I’m waiting for the pressure
of your well-shaped hand.
*
Now dog’s the divine. Strange thought. Dancing on hind legs,
head to one side, and the face of her master. Dog sudden, well-met.
Dog sitting, dog listening, dog running with big joy
and ghost dogs on the fields now with her. Dog blur,
hellhound, dog shaking, hare-bound; dog in the wind, sky-bound.
(Once, attendant in my blue dress, I hadn’t the words to call you back.)
Dog in the snow, dog in the sea. Dog glorious, glories herself.
Dog racing with gleam and thunder. Best friend. Neither
fish nor fowl. Just for this moment hound bliss.

What It’s Like to Be Alive is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Burying the Wren is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘On Suitors’ by Katrina Naomi

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘On Suitors’ by Katrina Naomi from her collection Wild Persistence.

This cover shows a black and white photo of three dancers in 1940s style dress jumping with toes pointed. They are facing each other in a circle with their arms stretched out. The text reads: Wild Persistence, Katrina Naomi

Katrina Naomi’s this collection Wild Persistence is a confident and persuasive collection of poems. From the first poem we are warned to be on guard for the off-guard, to suspend our expectations of pure realism and to stay awake for what comes next. Though never didactic, the poetic voice convinces us of the need to live well, to take time to celebrate, dance, make love, embrace the outdoors, muse over the biography of someone admirable, make a stand for feminism.

On Suitors
Emily Dickinson had the right idea
speaking with her suitors through a door
seeking to be swayed not by gifts or looks
but by the qualities of a voice –
what a person has to say, the essence
of intonation, distilled with wit and intelligence.
To listen, to listen only, and imagine
the kind of man or woman
outside. And I think of Skype, the similarities
of talking without pixilation’s dull entreaties
to see and be seen. I am freeing
myself in this lovely prison of my making.
I prefer isolation. And when they come,
I stay in my room, leave them
at the foot of the stairs; I stay alone,
I’m not being rude but I choose to listen
to the syntax, the accent, the colour
of a voice, not to be wooed by a suitor,
how they choose to show
themselves, how they modify or allow
their words to be uttered, whether they are found
worth listening to, whether they listen in return.
There are those who’ve tried thrusting
photos under doors, onto screens. The good looking
I won’t tolerate, let alone the rest. I do not discriminate.
I’ll allow a suitor to ruminate –
briefly. I want to fall in love with a voice
and then – only then – decide on a face.
You’re welcome to whisper at a keyhole,
to speak by the pale green wall.
Without mystery there can be no drunkenness
of love. And you may have guessed –
like Emily – I’ve no real interest in release.

Wild Persistence is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Watch Katrina Naomi read ‘Poem in Which She Wears Her Favourite Wedding Dress’

Friday Poem – ‘Politics of Water’ by Peter Finch

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Politics of Water’ by Peter Finch. Originally published in his 1996 collection Math, it now features in Volume One of his newly published Collected Poems.

This cover features a photo of a geometric concrete sculpture made up of hexagons. The text reads: Peter Finch Collected Poems One 1968-1997

Peter Finch’s remarkable career spans over fifty years. He has been taking poetry to places it didn’t know it wanted to go from the beginning; blending the avant-garde, concrete, visual, sound, performance and more conventional forms to create something unique. His new two-volume Collected Poems, edited by Andrew Taylor, cement his reputation as one of Britain’s leading poets.

This cover features a photo of a geometric concrete sculpture made up of hexagons. The text reads: Peter Finch Collected Poems Two 1997-2021

Volume One brings together work from long lost chapbooks, broadsheets and limited editions, as well as more conventionally published work. Volume Two focuses on the second half of Finch’s career with poems from later collections sitting alongside works from his prose books and those engraved in the public realm on sculptures, walls and buildings, particularly in his native Cardiff. Nerys Williams and Ian McMillan provide appreciative forewords to each volume.

POLITICS OF WATER
there (here) are (were) places (pimples) in (on)
Wales (wheels) I (we) don’t (can’t) go (gone)
reservoirs (places) that (this) are (will be) the (a)
subconscious (subterranean) (subtotal) (subliminal)
(superfluous) (serenity) of (in) (on) a (the)
people (people). Here (where) were (will be)
pimples (scars) (gouges) (savage stripes)
on (in) wheels (fields) (folds) I (you) (we)
can’t (can) (cannot) gone (grown) (green)
places (princes) (parsons) (people) this
(those) will be (will not) a (the)
subterranean (terminal) (termination) (treeless)
invasion (inversion) in (of) the (the) people
(person) (personal) (private) (so private)
(so personal) (only) it is (never) not (yours)
(mine) (moan) (theirs) (his) (hers) (ours) (whose)
dig (dirge) (deep) (down) (down) (down)

Order the Collected Poems Complete Set on the Seren website for £30.00, or buy them individually for £19.99 each.

We launched the Collected Poems at Jury’s Inn in Cardiff earlier this week. Watch the live stream recording on demand on our AM channel now amam.cymru/seren.

Photos by John Briggs.

Friday Poem – ‘Rhys’ by Rhian Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Rhys’ by Rhian Edwards from her collection Clueless Dogs.

This cover shows a cartoon collage of a Dalmatian. The text reads Clueless Dogs Rhian Edwards.

Clueless Dogs is the multi-award-winning debut collection by Rhian Edwards. Full of verve and humour, Rhian Edwards’ language has a winning honesty and intensity. Poems like ‘The Welshman Who Couldn’t Sing’ chronicle a fraught childhood in Bridgend, south Wales, where the sensitive child escapes through imaginative games of ‘Playing Dead’ and ‘Broken Lifeboat’. Later poems explore teenage lusts, student rivalries, damaged peers and tense situations. Although the author doesn’t flinch from ruthless depictions, in which we are often implicated by her use of the second person ‘You’, there is an underlying sweetness, an elegiac thread to this remarkable collection.

Rhys
Like the time you invited me inside
the ottoman on the landing
and sat on the lid laughing
while I scratched and screamed at the wood.
Or when the babysitter wasn’t looking,
you taught me the quickest way to add nine,
showed me to tie my laces with the tale
of two rabbits disappearing down a hole.
Like the day you caught the slow-worm
that tried to whip away the sun,
letting it loose into the folds
of the blanket that I held like a lover.
Not to mention the crimes I invented
for which I never knew you were beaten,
or that summer you took away the stabilisers
to be the sole witness to me riding away.
Like the times I spied in your bedroom,
played your records and fanned open your books,
only to slip between the sheets
with a nakedness meant only for bath time.

Clueless Dogs is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Samuel Taylor Colderidge Walking from the Queen’s Head…’ by Jonathan Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge Walking from The Queen’s Head…’ by Jonathan Edwards from his collection Gen.

This cover shows a colourful painting of a street scene croweded with people. The text reads: Gen, Jonathan Edwards

Gen is a book of lions and rock stars, street parties and servants, postmen and voices. In the opening sequence’s exploration of youth and young manhood, the author sets his own Valleys upbringing against the 50s youth of his parents and the experience of a range of pop culture icons, including Kurt Cobain and Harry Houdini. These poems give way to a sequence of monologues and character sketches, giving us the lives of crocodiles and food testers, pianists and retail park trees.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Walking
from The Queen’s Head, Gray’s Inn,
to Hornsby’s and Co., Cornhill, to Buy
an Irish Lottery Ticket, November 1793
At twenty-one, he needs something big to happen
to cover his bar tab, run up trying to escape
thought of his debts. What his life is going like
is this: the blown scholarship
nothing that can’t be dealt with
by opium; ladies with abracadabra
clothes to make the girl who will not love
disappear. A night
of weighing up options: on one hand,
the army, in the other,
a pistol. Then drunken inspiration, a solution
to his life and here he is, on his way,
inventing a new walk –
the wobble-stride. He’s walking, walking,
writing in his head To Fortune, a poem
to read whose rhyming couplets
is to hear him walking
now. A month or two and his brother
will clear his debts,
a day or so and his lottery ticket
will lie in a ditch, a couple of weeks
and To Fortune will appear in The Morning Chronicle,
his first published poem, and they’ll pay a guinea,
which he’ll try – and find it good –
against his teeth.

Gen is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Under One’s Hat’ by Hannah Hodgson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Under One’s Hat’ by Hannah Hodgson from her debut collection 163 Days.

This cover shows a photo of the artist Sue Austin diving underwater in her wheel chair. The text reads: 163 Days Hannah Hodgson.

Hannah Hodgon is an award-winning poet and a palliative care patient. In her compelling debut collection 163 Days, she uses a panoply of medical, legal, and personal vocabularies to explore what illness, death and dying does to a person as both patient and witness.  

“Hannah Hodgson takes us to the paradoxical heart of poetry itself” – Caroline Bird

Under One’s Hat
My mother thinks my tongue is retractable tape.
That I reveal too much, that I’m not good
at keeping secrets. One of my friends said
the only reason he can keep things quiet,
is his body has the handy feature of forgetting.
Never registering which truths belong to who,
blank pages recorded in place of events. Part of it
is my inheritance. My nan is a lethal gossip.
I’m a witness to so many lives unspooling,
that I’ve stopped waiting for the Police to arrive
and collect statements. Truth is slippery.
There’s a reason why water polishes riverbeds
and stones. I close my mouth around the things I know,
lock them inside of me as treasure.
I understand now, why NHS noticeboards
are laminated. It’s because of blood.
Turns out, doctors can’t keep secrets either.
They hide them, chirping, tiny birds nesting
in their desks; fed by a tiny paintbrush.

163 Days is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Listen to a radio play of 163 Days on the BBC New Creative Website

Friday Poem – ‘The Creel’ by Kathleen Jamie

To celebrate Earth Day, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Creel’ by Kathleen Jamie from 100 Poems to Save the Earth.

100 Poems to Save the Earth. Edited by Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans.

Our climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. 100 Poems to Save the Earth invites us to fine-tune our senses, to listen to the world around us, pay attention to what we have been missing. The defining crisis of our time is revealed to be fundamentally a crisis of perception. For too long, the earth has been exploited. With its incisive Foreword from editors Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans, this landmark anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have. 

Kathleen Jamie
The Creel
The world began with a woman,
shawl-happed, stooped under a creel,
whose slow step you recognize
from troubled dreams. You feel
obliged to help bear her burden
from hill or kelp-strewn shore,
but she passes by unseeing
thirled to her private chore.
It’s not sea birds or peat she’s carrying,
not fleece, nor the herring bright
but her fear that if ever she put it down
the world would go out like a light.

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