Friday Poem – ‘The Pub at the End of the World’, Tamar Yoseloff

Friday Poem Pub Tamar Yoseloff

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Pub at the End of the World’ by Tamar Yoseloff from her recent New & Selected collection,A Formula for Night.

Tamar Yoseloff A Formula for NightA Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems encompasses selections from four published volumes: Sweetheart, Barnard’s Star, Fetch and The City with Horns, and poems from Yoseloff’s collaborations with artists: Formerly, Marks and Desire Paths. Her new poems are often artful explorations of paradox: death/birth, dark/light, clarity/mystery.
‘The Pub at the End of the World’ is an almost post-apocalyptic vision of a back-end bar with walls ‘darkened/ by nicotine’ and ‘pockmarked by countless failed bullseyes’. You may well know somewhere like it – somewhere you also feel ‘strangely at home’.

 

The Pub at the End of the World Judy Brown Friday Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Friday Poem- ‘The Madonna of Oxfam’, Judy Brown

Judy Brown Friday Poem Madonna of Oxfam

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Madonna of Oxfam’ by Judy Brown, from her latest collection,Crowd Sensations.

The Madonna of Oxfam Crowd Sensations Judy Brown‘The Madonna of Oxfam’ performs a surprisingly elaborate and intimate study of the act of charity shop browsing, as the poet’s thoughts turn to strangers’ lives and memories.
Like many of Judy Brown’s poems, the title and first lines draw you right in, and then surprise you with a narrative you hadn’t quite expected.
Judy has lived in London and Hong Kong and, having experienced both life in the city and countryside, she is able to portray an original and uncharacteristically unnerving portrayal of both landscapes. Crowd Sensations, much like its author, is an exploration of dazzling contrasts, of thoughtful paradox, intimate confidences and precise evocations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowd Sensations is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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An extract from The Wellspring by Barney Norris

Barney Norris The Wellspring extract

‘A rare duet, in which father and son rediscover a whole world through the redeeming power of art.’
– Declan Kiberd

Barney Norris The WellspringIn The Wellspringacclaimed novelist and dramatist Barney Norris conducts a conversation with his even more acclaimed father, the pianist and composer David Owen Norris, on creativity, cultural identity, and how the two intertwine.

In this free extract, the conversation between father and son turns towards David’s career as a pianist: how it began; the impact of failures and accolades; the strangely altering milestone of 30.

This extract begins on page 87 of The Wellspring.

Playing

BN: I’ve titled this second sequence ‘Playing’. Ostensibly, what I hope to cover here is the bulk of your professional life – your work as a performer. But I have it in my mind as well that what we’re circling is one person’s route into a life, into living well, and I want to draw attention to that as we begin. This book will take the same path everyone does as they find their way into the world – first we listen, then we simulate, then we live. In some lives, I don’t think the path is as easy to trace. Not everyone has a vocation. Not everyone’s entire life can be expressed as the development of a single project. Of course, your life isn’t adequately summarised if we turn it into a single developing theme, either. If we were to exhaustively catalogue everything you’ve ever done, a meaning would emerge that was too diffuse and complex to express – or you might end up with a catalogue of infinite drift, I don’t know how open you are to the idea that lives have inherent meanings at all, or whether it’s fairer to say all narratives are superimposed. But the opportunity we have here is that it’s in the nature of an artist’s career, where the life feeds the work and the enthusiasms are buried deep in childhood and the work is all-consuming, that a narrative can be constructed more easily than is usually the case that expresses something like a linear development through life. So when looking at an artist’s life, you can say things about the way all people move through time more easily than you can with some other careers. The milestones are easier to make out. So for the purposes of this book we’ll read your performing career as a second stage in a development that leads, eventually, to the writing of music. Not an adequate summation, but perhaps it’s an interesting one, you see the two as connected?

DON: It was the break-down of my early composing career that led directly to my performing career. I’ve already hinted that my composing didn’t go down too well in 1970s Oxford, though come to think, I left with a composition scholarship to the Academy. But the contemptuous reaction to my B. Mus exercise a year later – ‘This fugue subject implies harmony’ was one criticism I still recall with some puzzlement – and the prevailing narrow taste in ‘modern music’ funding circles, led me to concentrate on something I did to everyone’s satisfaction, namely, play the piano. Young performers play a wide range of music, partly because they know they need a wide range of experience, and partly for frank commercial reasons, and so I formed hands-on opinions of the work of still-living composers like Tippett & Britten & Messiaen, and I gave innumerable premieres of works by composers now forgotten.

BN: It’s a very interesting environment, the generation of contemporaries one works with at the beginning, before it’s clear who’s really going to make it. I’ve been going through that myself for the last few years – it’s still a bit too soon to tell which of my generation of theatremakers will one day be filed under that ‘now forgotten’. Because there’s no precise formula for identifying the ones who’ll last, is there. It’s not only talent, it’s not only prevalent fashions in funding circles, it’s not only luck, it’s not only hard work, it’s not only whether you choose to have a family, or where you’re from, or who you know; it’s not even whether you’re someone that anyone likes. It’s terrifying, because of course, after the first six months when a few people who thought they were serious wake up and back out, anyone who’s tilting at the windmill of the arts can’t imagine doing anything else, and doesn’t have a back-up plan, even though some will end up needing one. The arts are so hard to break into, you’d never do it if you were capable of doing anything else. But it’s also a very wonderful moment, because, in a Schrodinger sort of way, you live suspended in this moment where anything might be possible for you and your friends – even if in actual fact, when you get to the end, you will look back and find that it wasn’t.

DON: ‘Now forgotten’ sounds callous, doesn’t it? I meant it more as a merciful imprecision. Your list of things that need to slot into place is pretty scary – and very carefully ordered! Academy Professors, as I discovered when I became one, all agreed that we should exert ourselves to the utmost to put students off, because only the students that can’t be put off stand the slightest chance in the business. Good as far as it goes, but things change, become less narrow – good changes as well as bad changes. Some of the less positive changes at institutions of higher education are down to money, which has all sorts of repercussions – not all new courses fill purely educational needs. Then, if half the population is going to university, degrees will need to change, not necessarily for the worse: but we need to make sure that the former methods of study, where they were valuable, can be continued – which has emphatically not happened in secondary school music.

But there are positive changes too. I’m thinking especially of social change. What’s often called dumbing-down (something I’ve hinted at in the previous paragraph) can also be seen as a welcome acceptance that art need not always be on the verge of unintelligibility to be worthy – which is why my music can reach listeners now, though it was so out of tune with the seventies. Another helpful social development is a public acceptance of the portfolio career. We can take real advantage of the new opportunities the twenty-first century has brought us, the communications revolution. I wonder if I could have created a taste for my sort of music back in the seventies, if we’d had the Internet. But it lumbers up too late, like Chesterfield coming to the assistance of Dr. Johnson. Still, it gives us new ways to reach audiences, if only we had time to develop them.

BN: You told me once that the thing to watch for was what happened when everyone turned thirty – it was around then that things started shaking out. Having turned thirty not so long ago, I can increasingly attest to the truth of this. Did that advice come from personal experience?

DON: Observation rather than experience, luckily. There were so many schemes and scholarships that you could compete for till you were thirty. After that, you were on your own, and many winners didn’t make the change into actually earning a living. It’s an age that concentrates the mind in many ways. Clocks are ticking, clocks of self-esteem as well as of biology. Is it still too late to become a bank manager? we used to ask ourselves back in the day, in blissful ignorance, probably, of how difficult it is to be a bank manager.

 

 

The Wellspring is available on the Seren website: £12.99

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An interview with novelist Naomi Krüger

Interview novelist Naomi Kruger

Naomi Krüger MayNaomi Krüger’s debut novel, May, provides a sensitive and moving insight into the life of the title character. We see May in glimpses through the eyes of her loved ones, and from her own perspective: from the past to her present in a care home, where she now struggles to maintain her identity and memory as she wrestles with the effects of dementia.

What moved Naomi to write such a novel, and how did she go about it? In this interview, Seren’s Rosie Johns asks Naomi all about the creation of May.

 

What do you think it is about fiction that makes it a good form in which to address subjects such as dementia? 

Dementia is something that inspires a lot of fear and is often represented in the media in reductive and sensationalist ways. What I think fiction can do is give nuance to these kinds of representations. It can allow us to imagine what it might be like to live with a disease that affects memory, identity and perception. It can remind us that someone with dementia is more than a diagnosis. It can complicate the stereotype. But in some ways dementia resists narrative representations because the very things we need to write and read a story (the ability to make connections between past and present, the ability to anticipate what comes next) are disrupted. So it’s a complex thing to try to narrate in first person.

 

In May, there are several different narratives of which May’s story –despite being the thing to connect them all – is only a part. What influenced your decision to depict this story in such a way? 

I wanted May to be part of a community of voices. In some ways this was a practical choice because it would be hard to sustain a whole novel in such a fragmented consciousness. But I also wanted to show that May’s identity is inter-subjective. She has dementia but she is also part of a family and a community. She is influenced by her past experiences and her current environment in the care home. As I began writing the other narratives, interesting parallels emerged. Many of the other characters feel lost or alone. They forget things, lie or fail to speak. They are not as different from May as you might imagine at first. There are opportunities for connection and although the characters don’t always take these, I wanted readers to sense these spaces, to see May through the eyes of other people and build up a complex picture of someone who struggles to speak fro herself but still has things to communicate.

 

Given the delicate nature of the subject matter and the abstract style in which you approached it, did you find narrating May’s perspective difficult? Were there any other characters whose narratives were particularly easy or difficult to write? 

Capturing May’s perspective was a shifting experiment. At times it felt like a giant imaginative leap. Although she is a fictional character I did feel a sense of responsibility to research the effects of dementia and spend time with people who live with the disease to get a sense of the reality. But of course this varies from person to person and diagnosis to diagnosis. Ultimately it is an approximation of something often beyond language that has to feel as ‘real’ as possible. Afsana was another character that I felt a real responsibility to. I didn’t find her difficult to imagine or write, but because I was taking a cultural leap I spent a lot of time researching and trying to make sure the details were right.

 

Another character we get very close to throughout the novel is May’s grandson, Alex. He finds his grandmother’s deterioration particularly hard to deal with, especially when her memory of him fades. What would your advice be to those who find themselves in a similar position to Alex?

I think it can be very scary and upsetting to feel unseen and unknown by a person who has  previously been a big part of your life and identity. This can hit particularly hard for young people who are still in the process of finding their place in the world. I am very fond of Alex as a character. Although the book is not autobiographical his experience is very loosely inspired by my own reaction to my grandfather’s Parkinson’s related dementia. He lived with my family for my whole life and died when I was sixteen. When he began to get confused and hallucinate I didn’t deal with it very well. I went from daily contact to avoiding him as much as possible. When he was transferred to a home I didn’t visit him as much as I could have. I didn’t know what to say. My advice to my younger self would be to go anyway, to meet him wherever he is. To listen, to communicate through music or photographs or touch, to feel the fear and still go.

 

Finally, if you could recommend one book that readers of May will also love, what would it be?

I’m going to cheat and say three!

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively: A book that plays with memory, hope and regret in really interesting and beautiful ways.

The Turning by Tim Winton: A collection of interconnected short stories set on the Australian coast. I love the way the characters re-emerge, trespass and become more and more complex with each story.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: Another collection of stories, but this time focused on one main protagonist. I love how the book builds layers of relationships often through the mundane and domestic details, the moments that build and accumulate.

 

 

May is available from the Seren website: £8.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Young Summer’, Leslie Norris

Friday Poem Leslie Norris Young Summer

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Young Summer’ by the prize-winning poet, Leslie Norris.

Leslie Norris Complete Poems‘Young Summer’ is one of the many vivid and captivating poems to be brought together in the landmark Leslie Norris: The Complete Poems, and offers a vision of the poet poised between youth and manhood: ‘Forward is the only way to go’, he reluctantly admits.
The Complete Poems contains 300 of Norris’ poems in total, some previously unpublished, and reflects the sixty plus year publishing life of the late Leslie Norris, who died in 2007, aged 86. Norris was best known as a nature poet and elegist of passion and rare expression. Lyrical and individual, to his closely observed poems, each word weighted and in its correct place, Norris introduces a strong metaphysical element which makes the poems, as Edward Lucie-Smith noted, “much larger than the sum of their parts”.

 

Leslie Norris Friday Poem Young Summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leslie Norris: The Complete Poems is available on the Seren website: £25.00

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Friday Poem – ‘How to make a good crisp sandwich’, Katherine Stansfield

Friday Poem How to make a good crisp sandwich

Did you know it’s British Sandwich Week, 20-26 May? Yes – there really is a day (or week) for everything. And in celebration, our Friday Poem is Katherine Stansfield’s ‘How to make a good crisp sandwich’.

playing house katherine stansfieldThis is a poem that really does what it says on the tin: ‘crisps don’t work alone’, the poet warns, then proceeds to carefully list the potential permutations of this most British of sandwiches. ‘Who does this sandwich want to be?’ You may not have asked yourself this question before – so grab the bread, open a pack of crisps, and ponder.
Katherine Stansfield’s poetic debut, Playing House is marked by a concise wit, a distinct voice and an unsettling view of the domestic.
‘Striking imagery, strange leaps of thought, wit and menace aside, the unmistakeable thrill of Katherine Stansfield’s poetry is in the voice. It addresses the world directly, takes it personally, and comes at the reader from constantly unexpected angles, a tangible, physical thing.’ Philip Gross

 

Friday Poem Katherine Stansfield How to make a good crisp sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing House is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Hues’, Elizabeth Parker

Friday Poem Hues Elizabeth Parker

Our Friday poem this week is ‘Hues’ by Elizabeth Parker, from her recently released debut collection, In Her Shambles.

‘Hues’ is a shimmering, lyrical account of a river journey that highlights Parker’s artful skill with language and surrealist imagery.
In Her Shambles is a ‘radiantly-written’ collection from a ‘rising star of British poetry’ (David Morley), filled with poems that are emotionally rich, vibrant and original. From the alternative reimagining of Lavinia from ‘Titus Andronicus’ through to the collection’s opening, ‘Crockery’, where a potential lover is fragmented into reflections, In Her Shambles offers a fascinating, observational account of things seen aslant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Her Shambles is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Beat the Blues Salad recipe – National Vegetarian Week

National Vegetarian Week Beat the Blues Salad recipe

National Vegetarian Week 2018 runs from 14-20 May and is the perfect excuse to indulge in exciting and colourful veggie fare – so out with blandness and in with this scrumptious salad!

Sarah Philpott’s Beat the Blues Salad brings together smoky marinated tofu, beetroot, orange and salty black olives in a celebration of all things plant-based. You will need to press and marinate the tofu so we suggest doing this in the morning before you head to work – or even the night before (it takes a little time but it’s oh so worth it).

Beat the Blues Salad

Ingredients

For the salad
– 1 x 400g block firm tofu
– 2 bags of lettuce or spinach– 1 cucumber, diced
– 2-3 large beetroots, peeled and sliced (or use the vacuum-packed kind)
– 3 tsp capers, drained
– 1 330g jar pitted black olives
– 2 oranges, divided into segments
– 1 tbsp sesame oil
– Flat-leaf parsley (optional)
– Pomegranate seeds (optional)

For the marinade
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp sea salt
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
Take the tofu and use kitchen roll or a clean tea towel to blot and absorb all its water. Take a heavy wooden chopping board or a hardback book and place it on top of the wrapped tofu. This will press down on it and absorb excess moisture. Leave for 30 minutes or more then slice into medium-sized strips.

Make the marinade by mixing together all the ingredients. Pour into the base of a large dish and place the slices of tofu into it, making sure to turn them so that both sides are covered in the marinade. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the tofu slices for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally – you may need to do this in two batches. Remove from the pan and set aside while you make the salad. Simply combine all the ingredients in a large bowl then drizzle with a little sesame oil. Divide into bowls and serve with the smoked tofu. Garnish with the parsley and pomegranate seeds.

The Occasional Vegan Sarah Philpott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Short Story of the Month | ‘The Visit’, Jaki McCarrick

The Visit Jaki McCarrick Short Story of the Month

May’s Short Story of the Month is ‘The Visit’ by Jaki McCarrick, an award-winning writer of plays, poetry and fiction.

the scatteringMcCarrick won the 2010 Papatango New Writing Prize for her play, Leopoldville, and her play Belfast Girls, developed at the National Theatre London, was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award. The Scattering, from which ‘The Visit’ is taken, was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize.

‘The Visit’ takes place against the backdrop of Bill Clinton’s visit to the border town of Dundalk in Ireland – a visit that was very much a part of the Peace Process. 

 

The Visit

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

It had been a day of weather: snow and wind, sunshine and rain.
Water dripped from the overhanging hedges in the drive and
the path was thick with pine needles. Brendan made a mental
note to sweep them up once Pat had gone. He stopped before
the gates and pulled his trousers up by their creases to check
his shoes and thought that maybe he should’ve worn his boots.
He walked on. Pat would make him forget. Pat could make you
forget all kinds of silly woes. He glanced over at Coogan’s and
noticed the stars and stripes flag, still and wet on the pole.
After McCaughey’s he looked over at Joy Callan’s neat line of
laundry crowning her raised side lawn: a small satin-rimmed
blanket, black stockings, two blue ballroom gowns, a pair of
orange nylon pillowcases. As he approached her house he saw
her in the yard, bright and chic in pink slacks and a tight white
jumper. She was raking up leaves. He watched her part the
dresses then yank the wet leaves into a pile. It made him smile;
she might have hung the gowns out after she’d raked, but Joy
always seemed to do things differently from others. And anyway,
he was glad, because she made the task so mesmerising. He
recalled how after her husband had gone she had kept body and
soul together by moonlighting, rather originally he thought, as
a mushroom picker in Clones. Otherwise, as a relief teacher
she had taught both his children in the Friary, though she had
not been popular. He waved and wondered would she be at
the Square tomorrow. He made a mental note to call in one
of these evenings with the picture of Sean’s wedding in the
paper.
Walking on, his thoughts returned to Pat. He looked forward
to seeing him. There would be much talk of the ‘great
adventures’ as Brendan called them, the London times, the days
of the Black Lion where he had been manager for nearly a
decade and where Pat had been its most notorious barfly. He
was proud to think he’d organised some of London’s most
celebrated lock-ins, booked musicians from Dublin and Doolin
and Donegal, and had the likes of David Bailey and Donovan
in attendance. Soon he and Pat would be reminiscing about
those times, about the dog races at Hackney and White City,
the times they’d played poker in Holland Park with Jack Doyle.
He walked up the cobbled lane towards the station. He could
see clearly on the cold day the sprawl of the town towards the
hills. The trees by the church were draped in ropes of white
lights, and a flurry of flags hung from Carroll’s Apartments. He
was amazed to think that here, in this small dot on the face of
the globe, he and Pat would stand together tomorrow evening
and see the President of America.
The big station clock said ten to three. He had a few minutes
yet to gather his thoughts, stare over at the glass wall of the
brewery. He sat outside on the iron seat. The gulls hovered
above him, filling the air with their cries. The sweet wort’s more
pungent today, he thought, as his gaze fixed on the huge copper
kettle glistening through the glass. It had been his first job in
the brewery to wash the kettle out once the sweet wort had been
siphoned off. He would then prepare it for the following
morning’s shipment of hops and grain. He had spent the best
part of five years inside that copper drum, up to his ankles in
the remnants of fresh hops, proteins and sticky clumps of
caramelised sugar. It had given him time to think; to put into
perspective all that had happened in ’74.
There was a rumble on the tracks. He turned and saw the
sleek green body of the Enterprise stack up like a metallic snake
along platform two. He walked over and watched from the
ticket office. The doors of the carriages swung open. Women
with pull-up trolleys, young men in dishevelled suits, Mrs Little
and her daughter, Edel. As the crowds dispersed he saw a ghost,
the tall, hulking frame of Pat Coleman standing stock-still on
the busy platform. The springy hair was all white, the once firm
chest now visibly lax. Brendan watched his friend remove a
cigarette from behind his ear, ask a girl for a light, then take
three or four concentrated puffs before flicking the stub behind
him onto the tracks. Pat’s short-sleeved shirt seemed frowsy
and unironed; the thick brown arms with their blue tattoos
recalled to Brendan Pat’s nickname on the sites: Popeye. Popeye
Pat had had the strength of ten men, and once, in a drunken
rage, Brendan had seen him flatten as many.
He followed Pat’s gaze. Up to the pale, elusive sky of the
North; out to the striking sweep of the white-capped hills, the
green spire of the Protestant church peeping up against them.
He began to feel unfamiliar pangs of pride for the town, as if
through Pat’s languorous impression, he, too, was glimpsing
it for the first time. The town was his wife’s town, and he had
always found it hard to appreciate its people with their
wariness, their industrious, practical approach to things. His
wife had been right; he had put up a resistance. She had
accused him often of hiding away in the brewery kettle like a
genie. But the friendships he had formed here had been
without the closeness of his London bonds. The men he knew
from the town were nothing like that famous man on platform
two.

Continue reading ‘The Visit’ for free here.

 

Friday Poem – ‘Penguin Love’, Nerys Williams

On Wednesday the world celebrated its cutest holiday, World Penguin Day, so in continued praise of these adorable birds our Friday Poem this week is ‘Penguin Love’ by Nerys Williams.

Nerys Williams Sound ArchiveTaken from Nerys’ 2011 collection Sound Archive, ‘Penguin Love’ is a vibrant and evocative portrait of black, white and yellow – of curiously wistful creatives who stand ‘angled at constellations’ and ache for the gift of a perfect smooth stone – the symbol of budding penguin romance.
Sound Archive was shortlisted for both the Forward Best First Collection Prize and the Michael Murphy Prize, and won the Poetry Now / Mountains to Sea DLR Strong Award. This is a strikingly original debut in which the poet conjures a complex music, intriguing narratives, and poems full of atmosphere that query identity, gender, and the dream of art as a vehicle for emotion and meaning.

 

 

World Penguin Day poem Penguin Love Nerys Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound Archive is available from the Seren website: £8.99

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