Friday Poem – ‘The Calling Basket’ by Sarah Wimbush

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Calling Basket’ by Sarah Wimbush from her pamphlet Bloodlines which won the Mslexia/ PBS Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2019.

Bloodlines is an exploration of Sarah Wimbush’s own Gypsy/Traveller heritage, a journey made by piecing together fragments of distant stories and a scattered language. Along the way, we meet people who are ‘tethered to the seasons’; voices that reverberate with a sense of family and resilience, and always with that constant wonder of being part of something colourful, untamed and rare.

“A thrilling debut…” – Daljit Nagra

Bloodlines is available on the Seren website: £5.00

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The Mslexia Women’s Poetry Prizes are currently open for entries for 2020. Find out more on their website

Sarah will be joining us for our Virtual First Thursday National Poetry Day Special next week (1 October) where she will be reading alongside Rhian Edwards and Marvin Thompson. Tickets are available at www.eventbrite.co.uk

‘Late Afternoon by a Hedge’ by Sarah Wimbush, from Bloodlines

Friday Poem – ‘London, Forever Tired in Your Arms’ by Lynne Hjelmgaard

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘London, Forever Tired in Your Arms’ by Lynne Hjelmgaard from her collection A Second Whisper

A Second Whisper is Lynne Hjelmgaard’s moving new collection in which she looks back upon her life in New York, Demark, The Caribbean, and London. There are elegies to her late husband as well as to her mentor and partner, the renowned Welsh poet Dannie Abse, who died in 2014. Her lyrics are precise, warm in tone, and suffused with optimism for the future.

“The pictures that Hjelmgaard paints with words are… akin to pale watercolour…a quiet soundscape of inner thoughts and emotions…” – WriteOutLoud

A Second Whisper is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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See Lynne reading from A Second Whisper on our Youtube channel. Here she is reading her poem ‘The Gift’. 

Friday Poem – ‘Little Black Dress’ by Tamar Yoseloff

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Little Black Dress’ by Tamar Yoseloff from her collection The Black Place. Tamar was one of two Seren poets highly commended in this year’s Forward Prizes and her poem ‘The Black Place’ is featured in the Forward Book of Poetry 2021, alongside ‘Our Front Garden’ by Cath Drake.

The Black Place is a dark and gorgeously multi-faceted collection that eschews the sentimental, embraces alternatives and offers antidotes to cheery capitalist hype. But there is a sort of dark grandeur to Tamar Yoseloff’s view of mortality, one that matches the sublime desert painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, the subject of the title poem. The book’s subjects include Georgia O’Keeffe, the poet’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

 

The Black Place is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Watch Tamar reading ‘Little Black Dress’ on our Youtube channel:

 

Friday Poem – ‘If I Could Wake’ by Cath Drake

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘If I Could Wake’ by Cath Drake from her debut collection The Shaking City.

The shaking city of Australian poet Cath Drake’s debut poetry collection is a metaphor for the swiftly changing precarity of modern life within the looming climate and ecological emergency, and the unease of the narrator who is far from home. Tall tales combine with a conversational style, playful humour and a lyrical assurance.​ The poet works a wide set of diverse spells upon the reader through her adept use of tone, technique, plot and form. She is a welcome new voice for contemporary poetry.

The Shaking City is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Fires’ by André Mangeot

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Fires’ by André Mangeot from his latest collection Blood Rain.

Resonant, complex, rich in heft and texture, these are mature poems that grapple with serious themes. Beautifully crafted, and partly inspired by the poet’s love of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, they address the natural world, its endangerment and other pressing global issues from multiple perspectives, and with great lyrical power.

‘A thought-provoking book for turbulent times.’
– Matthew Caley

Blood Rain is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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André is joining us for Virtual First Thursday next week (3rd Sept). He will be reading alongside Euron Griffith and Paul Henry. Tickets are £2 (plus admin fee) and available at www.eventbrite.co.uk.

Short Story of the Month – ‘Circling the Night’ by Helen Gordon

Our new short story of the month is ‘Circling the Night’ by Helen Gordon.

“You look pretty,” Gemma says, accusatorially. “You’re going to pull tonight.”

For Leila and her friends a night at the fair is full of opportunities that only the heady world of teenage relationships, fancy dress and friendship can provide. 

Helen Gordon‘s short fiction has won the Cambrensis Short Story Competition, been shortlisted for the Real Writers Short Story Awards and longlisted for both the Bridport Prize and the Fish International Short Story Prize. Her non-fiction has been published in The Big Issue and The Church Times as well as in local lifestyle magazines. She currently lives in Shropshire, where she brings up her two boys and works as a freelance journalist.

This is an excerpt, read the full story for FREE on the Seren website here.

Circling the Night

Leila makes her father drop her by the bridge, where they can hear the muffled boom of the fairground shaking through the dusk.

“You look beautiful,” he tells her as she slides out of the car and fluffs her skirts back into a bell.

“Go!” she hisses. But he doesn’t. He watches her tug at the ringlets she’s spent the whole afternoon curling, fiddle with the silk daisies in their midst. And he’s still watching as she picks her way down the alley, turns the corner and lets the fairground take her.

It’s a scratchy excuse for a fairground; a few spidery rides cornered into the tiny car-park that can barely contain them. It’s a sideshow to the pub-spilled streets, thick with messy delight; a gathering-ground for teens too old for costume competitions but too young to squeeze up against heaving bars in the hope of getting a pint.

Leila’s shoes – her mother’s old tap shoes that she found crushed at the base of the dressing-up trunk – tap across the pitted tarmac towards the waltzer, where Gemma and Lizzie are waiting.

Gemma has added a short chequered tie to her school uniform, pulled a flimsy police hat firmly over her curls and rolled her skirt so short that the gusset of her fishnet tights is showing. She has a thick truncheon in one hand and a bottle of 20/20 in the other, and both of them look dangerous.

She puts the bottle down on the bottom step of the waltzer to take in the pink ribbons curling through the net of Leila’s skirt, the pinafore frills of her top, the improbable white of her tights.

“What the fuck are you? Little Bo Peep?”

“A clockwork doll” Leila says, turning to show the gold-sprayed cardboard key sticking sideways out of her back and then completing the circuit self-consciously, fingers splayed, just as she had for the camera at home.

“You look pretty,” Gemma says, accusatorily. “You’re going to pull tonight.”

It’s a promise and a threat, and Leila’s heart leaps and cramps, leaps and cramps until it merges with the disco beat pounding through her veins.

Lizzie, in a pink fur-trimmed cowboy hat and thigh-high leather boots that go no way towards closing the gap on her skirt, takes a deep swig of the 20/20 and thrusts the lurid green liquid in Leila’s direction. She’s got a psychedelic rock dummy strung round her neck and she sucks on it provocatively, her eyes fixed on the bare chest of the boy spinning the cars of the waltzer.

Leila drinks, breathes through the syrupy burn, and looks out across the night. The fairground’s already busy. Clumps of oddly dressed youths cluster together letting the disco beat thump them into a state of excitement. She scans them, endlessly, her heart twitching in hope and fear, but she can’t see Rhys Davis amongst them.

“Come on then, who d’ya fancy?” says Gemma, curving her back against the waltzer railings and puffing out her chest. “Oh don’t be a stuck up bitch. Come on.”

She thrusts the half-empty bottle into Leila’s face, watches her swig, then pushes it back until it re-connects with her lips.

“It’s not fucking cough mixture” she says, “Drink!”

“Right then,” she repeats, when Leila’s swallowed to her satisfaction “Tell us who you fancy.”

“I don’t-“

“Come on. It’s Rob Thomas isn’t it?”

“No-” she says far too quickly, because a year ago it had been, and the thought of Gemma knowing makes something delicate crunch inside her, like a ladybird under a boot.

“It is!”

“No, it’s not. It’s not. ”

Shame’s burning through the pink circles she’s painted so carefully onto her cheeks and Gemma’s watching it cat-like, her claws twitching in anticipation of the kill.

“Honestly. Not Rob Thomas. Someone else.”

Gemma eyes the bait coolly, waits for it to turn its pale belly towards her.

“Go on then…”

“It’s Rhys Davis,” breathes Leila and even the words have a music to them, a soft rustle of pleasure that whispers somewhere in the tissue of her skirt and lingers like a sigh, cooling the burning circles of her cheeks. Rhys Davis. Rhys Davis. Rhys Davis.

Gemma curls her lip in revulsion.

“What d‘you fancy that lanky dick for? He’s rank. Anyway he’s been getting off with my cousin.”

Gemma’s cousins are many and nameless and Leila knows better than to mess with the suggestion of one. She reaches instead for the booze and holds the fiery green liquid in her mouth until it dissolves the surface of her teeth, burns away the horror crawling at the base of her belly.

“Alright alchy!” says Gemma, snatching the bottle back and taking a long answering swig of her own. “It’s not just for you, you know.”

Leila hardly notices. Because there, at the far end of the car park, is the silhouette she’s been looking for all night, and a tight spiral of joy is corseting her lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Rhys Davis: in khaki shorts and a cork-dangled hat, with two white streaks of sunblock slanting each side of his perfectly crooked nose, is walking across the car park.

Finish reading ‘Circling the Night’ on the Seren website here.

Friday Poem – ‘Afternoons Go Nowhere’ by Sheenagh Pugh

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Afternoons Go Nowhere’ by Sheenagh Pugh, the title poem from her latest collection.

A fascination for history, both as a source of human drama and a field for artful speculation, characterises this collection of poems by Sheenagh Pugh. In Afternoons Go Nowhere the past seems more relevant to the present than ever, human nature never entirely predictable and often non-sensical, the natural world seeming full of a paradoxical beauty. Complex but with clear themes and lucid, musical language, Sheenagh Pugh’s tenth collection will delight discriminating readers.

Afternoons Go Nowhere is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘How to Celebrate a Birthday’ by Katrina Naomi

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘How to Celebrate a Birthday’ by Katrina Naomi from her latest collection Wild Persistence.

Wild Persistence by Katrina Naomi is a confident and persuasive collection of poems. Written following her move from London to Cornwall, it considers distance and closeness, and questions how to live. She dissects ‘dualism’ and arrival, sex and dance, a trip to Japan. The collection also includes a moving sequence of poems about the aftermath of an attempted rape.

“Funny, moving, surprising, unflinching and, above all else…joyous.” – Helen Mort

Wild Persistence is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Secret Reverse’ by Zoë Skoulding

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Secret Reverse’ by Zoë Skoulding from her collection Footnotes to Water which recently won the poetry category in Wales Book of the Year 2020.

In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.

 

Footnotes to Water is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Zoë Skoulding wins the Poetry category in Wales Book of the Year 2020

We are delighted that Zoë Skoulding and her collection Footnotes to Water have won the poetry category in the Wales Book of the Year 2020.

In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.

 

Zoë was shortlisted for the award alongside two other titles, Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones and Fur Coats in Tahiti by Jeremy Over (Carcanet). The English-language winners were announced in a special awards programme on 31 July hosted by Nicola Heywood Thomas and broadcast on BBC Radio Wales.

Speaking about her win, Zoë said: “I’m delighted by this award, especially as Footnotes to Water is in conversation with Wales in all sorts of ways. Some of the poems grew out of dialogues with artists Ben Stammers and Miranda Whall, whose work explores Welsh landscapes through visual and performance art, while my own thinking about place and its relationships developed while I was editing Poetry Wales. I’m also glad that this award – and the shortlist – recognises the excellent work done by Seren Books in sustaining English-language poetry’s role in Wales’s cultural life.”

Amy Wack, poetry editor at Seren added: “Zoë Skoulding’s wonderfully inventive and subtly musical work remains both challenging and delightful, so pleased she has won this prize.” Lleucu Siencyn, CEO of Literature Wales, also commented that Zoë’s work “always feels fresh and new.”

The winner of English-language Book of the Year was Niall Griffiths with his novel Broken Ghost (Jonathan Cape) and Babel by Ifan Morgan Jones (Y Lolfa) was the overall winner of the Welsh-language award.

Speaking about the awards, Lleucu Siencyn said: “Wales Book of the Year is one of the highlights of our cultural calendar, and this year more than ever we are extremely pleased to be able to continue to shine a light on our incredible literary talents. Literature helps to guide us through our darkest hours, as well as bringing joy and hope to readers of all ages. Wales consistently produces excellent writers, and this Award is testament to this each year. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!”

Wales Book of the Year is an annual award hosted by Literature Wales. Other categories include Fiction, Creative Non-fiction and, new for this year, Children and Young People. You can see the full list of winners in both Welsh and English on the Literature Wales website.

 

Footnotes to Water is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Watch Zoë reading alongside the other two shortlisted poets at our online WBOTY Poetry Shortlist Reading which is now available on our Youtube channel.