Seren Christmas Gift Guide 2022

This Christmas, find gifts for the whole family with our 2022 gift guide. We’ve got special offers on some of your favourite authors, books which are hot-off-the-press and popular classics.

Bestsellers

All The Men I Never Married by Kim Moore

'All The Men I Never Married' by Kim Moore

Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Poetry 2022, All The Men I Never Married is the astounding second collection by Kim Moore. Pointedly feminist, challenging and keenly aware of the contradictions and complexities of desire, this collection speaks to the experiences of many women. The 48 numbered poems take us through a gallery of exes and significant others where we encounter rage, pain, guilt, and love.

Four Dervishes by Hammad Rind

'Four Dervishes' by Hammed Rind

“Easily the most remarkable work of fiction to come out of Wales in a thousand moons” says Jon Gower. Hammad Rind’s debut novel Four Dervishes is a satirical comedy which takes inspiration from the dastan, an ornate form of oral history. Forced onto the street by a power cut, the unnamed narrator finds himself sheltering in a cemetery where he comes across four others – a grave digger, an aristocrat, an honourable criminal and a messiah – each with a past, and with a story to tell. Crimes have been committed, dark family secrets revealed, fortunes rise and fall, the varieties of love are explored, and new selves are discovered in a rich round of storytelling. And as the Disappointed Man discovers, a new story is about to begin…

Bar 44: Tapas y Copas by Owen & Tom Morgan

Bar 44 Tapas y Copas is the perfect gift for hardcore foodies and home cooks alike. Packed with over 100 out of this world recipes which elevate Spanish cuisine to exciting new heights, it includes dishes for any occasion. Chicken sobrassada and spiced yoghurt, beetroot gazpacho, tuna tartare with apple ajo blanco, lamb empanada, strawberry and cava sorbet and pear and olive oil cake are just some of the dishes you can try at home. There’s even a chapter dedicated to sherry and Spanish wines with some fantastic cocktails mixed in for good measure. What more could you want?

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

'100 Poems to Save the Earth' edited by Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans'

A book for both the climate conscious and poetry fanatics, this landmark anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth brings together poems by the best new and established contemporary poets from Britain, Ireland, America and beyond. They invite us to fine-tune our senses, to listen to the world around us, and pay attention to what we have been missing. The defining crisis of our time is revealed to be fundamentally a crisis of perception. We must act now if we are to save the only planet we have.

Dark Land, Dark Skies by Martin Griffiths

'Dark Land, Dark Skies: The Mabinogion in the Night Sky' by Martin Griffiths.

In Dark Land, Dark Skies, astronomer Martin Griffiths subverts conventional astronomical thought by eschewing the classical naming of constellations and investigating Welsh and Celtic naming. Ancient peoples around the world placed their own myths and legends in the heavens, though these have tended to become lost behind the dominant use of classical cultural stories to name stars. In many cases it is a result of a literary culture displacing an oral one. Griffiths draws on his research into the past use of Welsh heroes from the Mabinogion in the naming of constellations, to create an interesting and provocative guidebook that combines astronomy with a new perspective on Welsh mythology.

Darkness in the City of Light by Tony Curtis

The ‘city of light’ under German occupation: Paris, a place, a people, lives in flux. And among these uncertainties, these compromised loyalties, these existences under constant threat, lives Marcel Petiot, a mass murderer. A doctor, a resistance fighter, a collaborator: who can tell? Stretching backwards and forwards through the twentieth century, Darkness in the City of Light is a remarkable multi-form novel that combines fiction, journals, poetry and images in its investigation of what war can let loose, and how evil can dominate a man. The compelling debut novel by Tony Curtis.

Christmas Bundle: The Occasional Vegan and The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott

'The Occasional Vegan' by Sarah Philpott (background) with 'The Seasonal Vegan' by Sarah Philpott (foreground).

The Occasional Vegan is a collection of simple, affordable and delicious recipes, suitable for newcomers and long-time vegans alike, that will keep you well-fed and healthy. Author Sarah Philpott’s recipes are accompanied by the story of her own journey to becoming a vegan, exploring the ethical and lifestyle arguments for a plant-based diet. Her recipes are homely and easily cooked, suitable for gourmet cooks and the kitchen novice.

In her follow-up, The Seasonal Vegan she presents a kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of fine food writing and beautiful photography. Her guide to eating with the seasons takes a realistic approach to shopping cheaply and sustainably and proves that the vegan lifestyle is anything but expensive.

163 Days by Hannah Hodgson

'163 Days' by Hannah Hodgson.

In her debut collection 163 Days Hannah Hodgson 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. In her long poem ‘163 Days’, her longest period of hospitalisation to date, she probes various truths which clash like a tray of dropped instruments in a silent operating theatre. The mundanity of hospital life is marbled by a changing landscape of mood, hope and loss. A gap yawns between the person she is, and the person in her medical notes. In ‘Aftercare’, Hannah navigates the worlds of both nightclubs and hospice care as she embarks on a new version of her life as a disabled adult. An important collection, in which Hodgson’s true voice takes poetry into difficult places.

The Rivalry of Flowers by Shani Rhys James

'The Rivalry of Flowers' by Shani Rhys James.

The Rivalry of Flowers is a book of new paintings and works by Shani Rhys James, one of Britain’s leading and most distinctive artists. Her latest work has developed a lighter palette to deal with new subjects of flowers and colourful patterned wallpaper backgrounds. These themes of domesticity are not anodyne however, but informed by ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 story about the plight of women in the home. Rhys James’s paintings continue her exploration of the position of women in society, and in particular how women can be imprisoned by consumerism and the domestic environment.

With contributions from William Packer, Francesca Rhydderch and Edward Lucie-Smith.

Christmas Bundle: Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers and The Stromness Dinner by Peter Benson

'The Stromness Dinner' by Peter Benson (background) with 'Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers' by Peter Benson (foreground).

If a light, witty read is what you’re looking for, then you’ve found it here. Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers details exactly how Fargo Hawkins steals a car to travel across Britain with his ex-employer’s wife. Described by Buzz Magazine as the ‘perfect read to provide a bit of escapism’, this novel will bring a bit of joy in lieu of winter gloom this Christmas.  

Preter’s previous novel The Stromness Dinner is the story of two Londoners who follow their dreams. Odd job man Ed and city banker Claire end up in Stromness where they find anything is possible in this compelling novel. Kind, funny, narrated by white van man Ed, The Stromness Dinner is a novel which rattles along with “irresistible pace and panache” – Val Hennessy.

Twelve Poems for Christmas edited by Amy Wack

'Twelve Poems for Christmas' edited by Amy Wack.

Twelve Poems for Christmas is a sparkling selection of Christmas poems, the perfect stocking filler for any poetry addict. These are poems full of feeling that resist cliché, that touch on classic ‘Christmas’ themes, but bring them to life from fresh perspectives. The pamphlet opens with Pippa Little’s lyrical and tender poem, ‘St. Leonore and the Robin’, and features poems both humorous and contemplative. Small enough to send with (or instead of) a card, this is the perfect festive treat for your loved ones.

Fiction Favourites

This Is Not Who We Are by Sophie Buchaillard

'This Is Not Who We Are' by Sophie Buchaillard.

This is Not Who We Are is the gripping debut novel by Sophie Buchaillard which follows the lives of two women, Iris and Victoria. In 1994 they are pen friends. Iris writes to Victoria from her home in Paris. Victoria writes back from a refugee camp in Goma, having fled the genocide in Rwanda in which thousands are being killed. One day Victoria’s letters stop, and Iris is told she has been moved.

Twenty years after their unlikely pen pal correspondence, they are living different lives in different places. But this one horrific event still connects them. As the pressure of long-kept family secrets builds, will they ever find each other?

Sabrinas Teardrop by Leslie Scase

'Sabrina's Teardrop' by Leslie Scase.

Fans of historical crime fiction are sure to be captivated by Leslie Scase’s latest Inspector Chard mystery Sabrina’s Teardrop. Returning to his native Shrewsbury, the previously enigmatic Inspector Chard finds himself arrested for a horrific double murder. Facing execution, he must fight to clear his name. As tensions rise, can Chard find a missing woman and the stolen Sabrina’s Teardrop sapphire to solve the riddle before it is too late?

Don’t forget to also look up book two in the series Fatal Solution.

Two-book Deal: Scar Tissue and An Affair of the Heart by Clare Morgan

'An Affair of the Heart' by Clare Morgan (background) with 'Scar Tissue' by Clare Morgan (foreground).

In a world of uncertainties, how do human beings navigate the increasingly complex interrelations of love, desire, home, community? In her short story collections An Affair of the Heart and Scar Tissue Clare Morgan offers a fresh perspective on the nature of individual existence in all its transient vulnerability. In these lyrical, evocative and searching stories, Clare Morgan unflinchingly explores the darker and more challenging aspects of emotional, sexual and familial relationships, while simultaneously celebrating the joys of being alive in an unfathomable world. 

The Chicken Soup Murder by Maria Donovan

'The Chicken Soup Murder' by Maria Donovan.

Maria Donovan’s debut novel, The Chicken Soup Murder, subverts the crime and murder mystery genres in a meditation on bereavement, friendship and the meaning of family. This emotionally involving coming-of-age narrative is told with resilience and humour by eleven-year-old Michael, a thoughtful boy who tests the boundaries of his own behaviour as he carries a burden of knowledge no one else seems willing to share.

Japan Stories by Jayne Joso

Japan Stories is a spellbinding collection of short fiction set in Japan by Jayne Joso. Each centres on a particular character – a sinister museum curator, a son caring for his dementia-struck father, a young woman who returns to haunt her killer, and a curious homeless man intent on cleaning your home with lemons! This work also includes Joso’s stories, ‘I’m not David Bowie’ and ‘Maru-chan’ an homage to Yayoi Kusama. Together, these compelling narratives become a mosaic of life in contemporary Japan, its people, its society, its thinking, its character. Illustrated by Manga artist Namiko, Japan Stories provides a window into a country we would all love to know more deeply.  

Please by Christopher Meredith

'Please' by Christopher Meredith.

“Punctuation killed my wife,” states octogenarian Vernon in the opening sentence of Please. Full of humanity, sly humour and verbal invention, Christopher Meredith’s fifth novel is his shortest and arguably funniest, most innovative and most outrageous. It’s a tragicomedy touching on themes of the limits of knowledge, on isolation, and male frailty in new and playful ways. The whole gradually and inexorably unlocks the meanings of its extraordinary opening sentence in a complex and dazzling psychological and linguistic entertainment that ends in a surprising, dreamlike and ultimately moving denouement.

Miriam, Daniel and Me by Euron Griffith

'Miriam, Daniel and Me' by Euron Griffith.

When Miriam fell in love with Padraig life seemed simple. But she soon discovered that love is a treacherous business. Everything changed when she met Daniel. She was taken down an unexpected path which would dictate and dominate the rest of her life.

Spanning three generations of a North Wales family in a Welsh-speaking community, Miriam, Daniel and Me is Euron Griffith’s absorbing and compelling story of family discord, political turmoil, poetry, jealousy… and football.

Top Travelogues

The Edge of Cymru: A Journey by Julie Brominicks

'The Edge of Cymr: A Journey' by Julie Brominicks.

The Edge of Cymru is the story of Julie Brominicks’ year-long walk around the edge of Wales. As an educator she knew a lot about the country’s natural resources. But as a long established incomer from England and more recent Welsh learner, she wanted to know more about its history, about Wales today, and her place in it. As her walk unwinds the history of Wales is also unwound, from the twenty-first century back to pre-human times, often viewed through an environmental lens. Brominicksʼ observations of the places and people she meets on her journey make a fascinating alternative travelogue about Wales and the lives its people live. A quest of personal discovery, the narrative of The Edge of Cymru is also a refreshingly different way of looking at place, identity, memory and belonging.

Delirium by Robert Minhinnick

'Delirium' by Robert Minhinnick.

In his new book of short prose pieces, Delirium, award winning author Robert Minhinnick delivers a breathless epic. It opens with a real 1945 diary kept in Burma, and Minhinnick telling stories to his mother in her care home. There are a series of pictures of war-stricken Baghdad, and vignettes about place and travel, dedicated to Jan Morris. On the way we encounter a Middle East island devoted to sustainability, close ups of what clearing a family house reveals, and the writer’s intimately imagined Welsh sand dunes, as well as the Covid pandemic, threats of extinction, and images of post-apocalyptic life.

Real Hay-on-Wye by Kate Noakes

'Real Hay-on-Wye' by Kate Noakes.

This new addition to the Real Series explores the town of Hay-on-Wye, home to the prestigious the Hay Literature Festival, How the Light Gets In festival, and so-called ‘town of books’. Kate Noakes ventures into its hinterland, which is historically so much a part of the town too. The Black Mountains to the south, the river and Clyro to the north, rural Herefordshire to the east and out towards Brecon to the west fall into her territory, a rich and varied area, which appears in so many travel guides and so much literature, and in the DNA of Hay locals as their patch. The beautiful countryside and dramatic mountains surrounding Hay also bear witness to change and Noakes makes her own contribution to the cultural heritage of an area which has inspired artists and in particular writers, for centuries. Real Hay-on-Wye is full of discoveries in a place that is familiar to many, though not as familiar as we might think.

Critically-acclaimed

A City Burning by Angela Graham

'A City Burning' by Angela Graham.

Longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2021

A city burns in a crisis − because the status quo has collapsed and change must come. Every value, relationship and belief is shaken and the future is uncertain.

In the twenty-six stories in A City Burning, set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, children and adults face, in the flames of personal tragedy, moments of potential transformation. Some of these moments occur in mundane circumstances, others amidst tragedy or drama. On the threshold of their futures each must make a choice: how to live in this new ‘now’. 

Much With Body by Polly Atkin

'Much With Body' by Polly Atkin.

Longlisted for the Laurel Prize 2022

In Much With Body by Polly Atkin the beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel, the author’s wild swimming being just one kind of immersion. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.

The Amazingly Astonishing Story by Lucy Gannon

'The Amazingly Astonishing Story' by Lucy Gannon.

Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2021

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story is a frank and surprising look into a child’s tumultuous mind, a classic story of a working-class girl growing up in the 60s. Her Catholic upbringing, a father torn between daughter and new wife, her irreverent imagination and determination to enjoy life, mean this really is an amazing story (including meeting the Beatles).

‘The saddest, happiest, funniest books I’ve read for ages.’ – Dawn French

Inspiring Stories

Aperture: Life Through a Fleet Street Lens by John Downing

'Aperture: Life Through A Fleet Street Lens' by John Downing.

John Downing was the pre-eminent press photographer of his generation. His memoir, Aperture: Life Through a Fleet Street Lens, offers a unique and first-hand insight into life behind the Fleet Street lens during one of the most interesting periods of world history and a golden age of photojournalism. The glamour and excitement of journalism at the time: the hard-nosed editors, the rivalries, the ‘work hard play hard culture’, foreign assignments issued at the drop of a hat, are brought vividly to life, but so too is the toll on journalists and photographers. At a time when the world was less accessible than now, newspapers, and photojournalists in particular, played a vital role in shining light into some of its darker, more inaccessible parts. Completed shortly before his death, with the help of colleague Wendy Holden, Downing filed a story for the final time: his own remarkable life.

Elaine Morgan: Life Behind the Screen by Daryl Leeworthy

'Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen' by Daryl Leeworthy.

Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen is Daryl Leeworthy’s informative biography of award-winning screen writer Elaine Morgan. The book establishes her reputation and significant place in writing from Wales. It outlines her early days living only just above the poverty line in the Rhondda, before reading English Literature at Oxford, and examines her careers as an award-winning television writer and visionary anthropologist. Richly detailed it is essential in understanding the life and work of this important writer.

“A scintillating new biographical study, impressively researched and elegantly written.” – Dai Smith

Best New Poetry

Escape Room by Bryony Littlefair

'Escape Room' by Bryony Littlefair.

Escape Room is the long-awaited debut collection by Bryony Littlefair, following her Mslexia prize-winning pamphlet Giraffe. At the heart of Escape Room is the question of how to find light within the pain of anxiety and loss, the consolatory powers of friendship and creativity and the reimagining of life’s darkness as ‘an emerald, exciting kind of dark, a gaseous dark, dark / with a lot of light inside it.’

Balancing resolute joy, with humour and irony, it is a contemporary Betjemanesque exploration of suburban, middle-class life, with all its apathy and subconscious fear. Wryly observed this collection’s warmth, honesty and precision makes it an irresistible and perspicacious first collection.

Two-book Deal: Peter Finch’s Collected Poems: Volumes 1&2

'Collected Poems: One 1968-1997' by Peter Finch (background) with 'Collected Poems: Two 1997-2021' by Peter Finch (foreground).

Peter Finch’s two-volume Collected Poems chart the course of a remarkable writing career. A restless exploration of the ideas behind his boundary-pushing poems, they are a testament to the experimental in literature, to ways of doing it differently, and to an alternative modernist culture in Wales and Britain. Consequently, invaluably, they also open a window on a poetry scene seemingly lost from view to the twenty-first century. They remind us that there was interesting and vital writing happening outside of what has now calcified into the canon of twentieth century British poetry. And that Finch was at its cutting edge.  

“The publication of his collected poems in two big juicy volumes will delight readers new and old.” – The Western Mail

Lairs by Judy Brown

'Lairs' By Judy Brown.

Lairs brings together something primal and secret – the lair as haven for a wild or feral animal – with the poem framed as a mathematical equation. In these terms, the ‘lair’ is a kind of nest, a beautiful accumulation of dense detail. The poems are introspective, by turns analytical, fearful and mocking in their response to the systems shaping an altered world. The use of language is innovative, while maintaining moments of vulnerability and moving self-awareness. In these exquisite poems, the lair is both the community at large and a dark and intricate interior space where something wild still survives. 

Homelands by Eric Ngalle Charles

'Homelands' By Eric Ngalle Charles.

In his debut collection Homelands, Eric Ngalle Charles draws on his early life raised by the matriarchs of Cameroon, being sent to Moscow by human traffickers, and finding a new home in Wales. Rich in tone, subject and emotion, Charles’ poetry moves between the present and the past, between Africa and Europe, and between despair and hope. It discovers that historical injustices now play out in new forms, and that family tensions are as strong as the love within a family. Despite the difficulties Charles has faced, Homelands contains poems of fondness, warmth and humour and, as he returns to Cameroon to confront old ghosts, forgiveness.

Goliat by Rhiannon Hooson

'Goliat' by Rhiannon Hooson.

Goliat is the second collection by Rhiannon Hooson, a follow-up to her Wales Book of the Year nominated debut, The Other City. An intelligent and beautiful book, Goliat offers absorbing stories of a precarious world on the brink of climate emergency. Employing startling imagery and a deep sense of history, these poems explore the irreplaceable beauty of a wild world, and the terrible damage that humans might do to each other and the earth.

“Hooson’s poetry is a rich and assured gift—complex truths are revealed in language that is precise and luminous.” – Menna Elfyn

As If To Sing by Paul Henry

'As If To Sing' By Paul Henry.

The power of song, to sustain the human spirit, resonates through As If To Sing. A trapped caver crawls back through songs to the sea; Welsh soldiers pack their hearts into a song on the eve of battle, ‘for safe-keeping’; a child crossing a bridge sings ‘a song with no beginning or end’… Rich in the musical lyricism admired by readers and fellow poets, As If To Sing is an essential addition to Paul Henry’s compelling body of work.

As If To Sing explores the human condition through the language of music and does so with a mastery of poetics.’ – Wales Arts Review

Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere by Angela Graham

'Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere' by Angela Graham, with Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson.

Sanctuary is – urgent. The pandemic has made people crave it; political crises are denying it to millions; the earth is no longer our haven. This theme has enormous traction at a time of existential fear − especially among the young − that nowhere is safe. Even our minds and our bodies are not refuges we can rely on. Truth itself is on shaky ground. In Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere, Angela Graham and five other writers from Wales and Northern Ireland, addresses these critical situations from the inside. How we can save the earth, ourselves and others? How valid is the concept of a ‘holy’ place these days? Are any values still sacrosanct? We all deserve peace and security but can these be achieved without exploitation?

With Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson

“A necessary and urgent response to the world’s increasing crises…” – Robert Minhinnick

Same Difference by Ben Wilkinson

'Same Difference' by Ben Wilkinson.

Same Difference is the formally acute second collection by Ben Wilkinson. Carefully crafted, and charged with contemporary language, the poems play with poetic voice and the dramatic monologue, keeping us on our toes and asking just who is doing the talking. Throughout, he ‘steps into the shoes’ of French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-96), reframing his voice for modern readers. Brimming with everyone from cage fighters and boy racers to cancer patients and whales in captivity, Same Difference is gritty, darkly ironic and often moving – a collection for our times.

Books for Nature Lovers

Waterfalls of Stars by Rosanne Alexander

'Waterfalls of Stars' by Roseanne Alexander.

When Rosanne Alexander’s boyfriend Mike was offered the job of warden of Skomer Island, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions. With great sensitivity, and humour, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. Her lyrical evocation of the natural world will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape. Waterfalls of Stars is the perfect gift for any one needing a captivating breath of literary air.

Christmas bundle: Wild Places Wales and Wild Places UK by Iolo Williams

'Wild Places: Wales' Top 40 Nature Sites' by Iolo Williams (background) with 'Wild Places UK: Uk's Top 40 Nature Sites' by Iolo Williams (foreground).

In these two books, television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his top 40 nature sites, first in Wales and then across the UK. He criss-crosses countries, taking in coastal sites from marshes to towering cliffs, to mountains, valleys, bogs, meadows, woods and land reclaimed from industry. Drawing on his considerable knowledge, he guides readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Illustrated in beautiful detail with glorious images of the sites by top nature photographers, naturalists of all kinds will find much to enjoy in these fascinating volumes.

The Owl House by Daniel Butler

'The Owl House' by Daniel Butler.

In The Owl House, Daniel Butler charts his relationship with two barn owls which nested in the barn of his rural mid-Wales home. In this pastoral exploration of his locale, rich in wildlife of all kinds, he roams the mountains and forests, takes trips to the coast, encounters all manner of animals and birds, and grows to understand the relationship between the local people and their surroundings. A rich and vivid portrait of one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of Britain – mid-Wales – broad in its horizons yet full of fascinating detail.

Seren Classics

The Green Bridge edited by John Davies

'The Green Bridge' edited by John Davies.

The short story has long been a popular form with writers and readers in Wales.  The Green Bridge, part of the Seren Classics series, collects work by 25 of the country’s foremost writers of the twentieth century in an entertaining and varied anthology. Horror, satire, humour, war, tales of the aristocracy, of navvies, love, and madness, industry, the countryside, politics and sport: these stories provide insight into the changing values of Wales and the world.

Tide-Race by Brenda Chamberlain

'Tide-Race' by Brenda Chamberlain.

Tide-Race is Brenda Chamberlain’s remarkable account of life on Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli in Welsh), a remote and mysterious island off the coast of North Wales, where she lived from 1947 to 1961, during the last days of its hardy community. The combination of Bardsey, ancient site of Christian pilgrimage, wild and dangerous landscape, and Brenda Chamberlain, Royal Academy trained artist, results in a classic book, vividly illustrated by the author’s line drawings.

Stocking Fillers

Other Women’s Kitchens by Alison Binney

'Other Women's Kitchens' by Alison Binney

Winner of the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2020

Alison Binney’s debut pamphlet of poems Other Women’s Kitchens introduces us to a gifted new voice who writes with flair and feeling about coming out and coming of age as a gay woman in 21st century Britain. The collection explores the challenges of discovering and owning a lesbian identity in the 1980s and 1990s and the joy of finding both love and increased confidence in that identity as an adult. Beautifully entertaining, pointedly political and often very funny, Other Women’s Kitchens is essential reading.

Angola, America by Sammy Weaver

'Angola, America' by Sammy Weaver.

Winner of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2021

Angola, America takes its name from a prison in Louisiana in the southern United Sates. In these strikingly original, thoroughly contemporary, and deeply moving poems, we are immersed in the world the inmates must endure. From the first poem, when we witness a home-made tattoo and understand that this scarring and incision is a “map in the connective tissue of pain and loss”, we are drawn into this world in a way that is carefully observed and beautifully empathetic.

Flamingo by Kathryn Bevis

'Flamingo' By Kathryn Bevis.

Kathryn Bevis’s critically-acclaimed debut pamphlet Flamingo introduces us to a troupe of wild, unique, and captivating poems. Life and our own embodiment are brought sharply into focus as we encounter a variety of subjects including work, survival, love, and mortality. Formally inventive, these hopeful and sometimes surreal poems are not afraid to confront complex or difficult emotions. Cancer is posed as a ring-tailed lemur, capering through the sufferer’s body, and the title poem imagines death as a flamboyant transformation where the speaker shapeshifts into the afterlife. Each poem is a discovery and a joy.

“A stunning and original pamphlet… inspiring, impressive and wonderful.” – The London Grip

bodies, and other haunted houses by S.L. Grange

'bodies, and other haunted houses' by S.L. Grange.

Winner of the inaugural Poetry Wales Pamphlet Competition 2021

Speaking from and for LGBTQIA+ communities, SL Grange gives a voice to lost transcestors, celebrates acts of resistance, sings a gender-fluid love song, and hosts a tender-angry conversation with the ghosts of the personal and political histories that inhabit us. In true haunted house tradition, the non-human and the supernatural are also given rooms of their own; personal demons are summoned, we are entangled with our wilder sides. Witchcraft, seance and prophecy are invoked and brought up against sharp slices of reality. Described by judges as ‘strong and self-assured’, ‘sheer gorgeous’, and ‘a dark and brooding collection that combines the visceral nature of the body with the ephemeral and supernatural’, bodies, and other haunted houses is a beautifully crafted exploration of identity which queers time as well as self.

Subscriptions

Seren Gift Subscription

The one year Seren Gift Subscription is the perfect present for any book lover. The recipient will receive three brand-new Seren books across the year plus a range of other subscriber perks. Buy today and we’ll post them a gift card explaining who the gift is from to open on Christmas Day in advance of the first book arriving in January 2023. Every new subscriber will receive a Seren tote-bag, notebook and pen with their first delivery.

Poetry Wales Subscription

Founded in 1965, Poetry Wales is Wales’ foremost poetry magazine. Edited by Zoë Brigley, the magazine publishes internationally respected contemporary poetry, features and reviews in its triannual print and digital magazine. Its mission is to sustain and preserve the artistic works both inspiring our literary present and shaping our literary future. The perfect gift for any poetry lover.

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Friday Poem – ‘Still’ by Christopher Meredith

This week’s Friday Poem is the title poem ‘Still’ from Christopher Meredith’s collection of the same name. Christopher was recently interviewed by Nawr magazine about his poetry and fiction. You can read the issue online via their website.

This cover shows a painting of a winter landscape looked on from far away, the tiny trees visible in the fields. The black branches of a tree are visible in the foreground with a single black crow amongst the branches. The text reads: Still Christopher Meredith.

Christopher Meredith’s new poetry collection Still, uses the title word as a fulcrum to balance various paradoxical concerns: stillness and motion, memory and forgetting, sanity and madness, survival and extinction. Lively and thought-provoking, this is a beautifully crafted, humane and intelligent collection.

“Lyrical, always surprising… His perfect ear tunes in so precisely” – Paul Henry

Still
At the banister above you an old man stands
in long johns like you’ll never see again
except in films, backlit by an open door
smiling and lifting a slow hand
and you are forever in slow
motion sailing down the narrow stairs.
Your eyes are rolling up to watch
his head inclining gently as you go.
That’s all. Rerun it. Look again. He lifts
a hand that’s bossed and broad. He smiles
and pinpoints of white stubble light
the folding cheek. The moustache shifts.
No no, they say. You never saw him.
He couldn’t stand, and you were far too young.
But you did. He could. And were you cradled
down the darkening drift, a babe in arms?
Again. That backlight is the sun. Same hand slowly
raised, same slow-inclining head, same kind smile,
his shape at the handrail this time hunched like
a passenger who’s slipping from the quay
too courteous yet to turn back to the glare
of the final room, though he hungers to, and will.
Memory is the still of slow forgetting,
the black and aching decades boiled to air,
cooled to this crawling droplet in the pipe
moving still and still in this suspension
rolling on its empty convolutions
to catch and lose a world in hard white light.

Still is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Still was published simultaneously with Christopher’s latest novel Please. You can buy them as a set on our website for £15.00.

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 – ‘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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Books to celebrate Earth Day 2022

We’re celebrating Earth Day 2022 with a list of books that address the natural world, the climate emergency and nature in all its glory.

100 Poems to Save the Earth – Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans

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

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, this landmark anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have. 

Wild Places UK:UK’s Top 40 Nature Sites – Iolo Williams

Iolo Williams Wild Places UK UK's Top 40 Nature Sites

In Wild Places UK television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his favourite forty wildlife sites from the many nature reserves around the country. As this informative and lavishly illustrated book demonstrates, all forty places are packed with the widest variety of trees, plants, birds, animals and insects. Williams draws on his enormous knowledge to guide readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Wild Places will show them rarities like the osprey, where to find almost six hundred different species of moths, or an incredible 51 species of caddis fly. Readers will discover where to find birds, both rare and in huge numbers, where hares box and otters swim, where to spot dolphins and salmon, and where to see whales and sharks.

We Have To Leave the Earth – Carolyn Jess-Cooke

We Have to Leave the Earth Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Fierce and very beautiful - Jen Hadfield

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s new poetry collection is both keenly political and deeply personal. The opening poem ‘now’ features a seemingly peaceful domestic scene of a family lounging at home as the starting point for meditation on history, time, mortality and the fate of the planet: I think of what tomorrow asks and what is yet/ to be done and undone, how many nows make up a life/ and what is living. There are hints of a struggle with depression stemming from a difficult childhood, inspiring Jess-Cooke to express her experiences with her child and their autism diagnosis.

Blood Rain – André Mangeot

Blood Rain Andre Mangeot A thought-provoking book for turbulent times - Matthew Caley

Resonant, complex, rich in heft and texture, these are mature poems that grapple with serious themes. André Mangeot’s Blood Rain opens with a deeply personal love poem (“Remember, too, our secret pool?”) that also introduces the natural world and it’s endangerment – one of several key themes in a book that addresses some of the most troubling man-made issues now facing us all.  The second poem, ‘Bellwether’, reflects this: a subtle socio-political piece, a warning in a time of populism and radicalisation. This breadth of awareness and range is part of the collection’s appeal, giving the poems an urgent topicality and depth.

Much With Body – Polly Atkin

Much With Body Polly Atkin This is series play indeed – Vahni Capildeo Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Much With Body is the startlingly original second collection by poet Polly Atkin. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction: unusual descriptions of frogs, birds, a great stag that ‘you will not see’. Much of the landscape is lakescape, giving the book a watery feel, the author’s wild swimming being just one kind of immersion. There is also a distinct link with the past in a central section of found poems taken from transcripts of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, from a period late in her life when she was often ill. In common with the works of the Wordsworths, these poems share a quality of the metaphysical sublime. Their reverence for the natural world is an uneasy awe, contingent upon knowledge of our fragility and mortality.

Waterfalls Of Stars – Roseanne Alexander

Rosanne Alexander Waterfalls of Stars My ten years on the island of Skomer

When Rosanne Alexander’s boyfriend Mike was offered the job of warden of Skomer, a small uninhabited island off the south west tip of Wales, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions for the trip to the island. This was the first of many challenges Rosanne and Mike faced during their ten years on the nature reserve, from coping with periods of isolation when they were the island’s only inhabitants, to dwindling food supplies during the winter when rough weather made provisioning from the mainland impossible. Thrown on their own resources they had also to deal with catastrophes like the devastation of the island’s seal colony following an oil spill.

The Shaking City – Cath Drake

The Shaking City Cath Drake A guide to staying clear-eyed, combative and caring in unsettled times. – Philip Gross

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 is able to work a wide set of diverse spells upon the reader through her adept use of tone, technique, plot and form.

Nia – Robert Minhinnick

Nia A Novel Robert Minhinnick

Nia Vine is about to fulfil her dream of exploring an unmapped cave system. With her will go two friends who were brought up in the same seaside town.  These companions are international travellers, but Nia, who has recently become a mother, feels her experience insignificant compared with that of her friends. While the three explore, Nia finds herself obsessed by a series of dreams that finally lead to a shocking revelation. Page-turningly evocative, immersive and compelling, Robert Minhinnick has written a novel in which realism and poetry collide and mingle.

Dark Land, Dark Skies – Martin Griffiths

Dark Land, Dark Skies The Mabinogion in the Night Sky Martin Griffiths

In Dark Land, Dark Skies, astronomer Martin Griffiths subverts conventional astronomical thought by eschewing the classical naming of constellations and investigating Welsh and Celtic naming. Ancient peoples around the world placed their own myths and legends in the heavens, though these have tended to become lost behind the dominant use of classical cultural stories to name stars. In many cases it is a result of a literary culture displacing an oral culture.

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Friday Poem – ‘Somniloquy’ by Paul Henry

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Somniloquy’ by Paul Henry from his new collection As If To Sing.

This cover shows an abstract painting by the artist Antony Goble. A woman with blue skin dominates the image in a vibrant orange dress. She is balancing an urn on her head and holds a red crow in her hand. The text reads: As If To Sing, Paul Henry. "One of the best lyric poets currently writing" - Hugo Williams

The power of song, to sustain the human spirit, resonates through As if to Sing. A trapped caver crawls back through songs to the sea; Welsh soldiers pack their hearts into a song on the eve of battle, ‘for safe-keeping’; a child crossing a bridge sings ‘a song with no beginning or end’… Rich in the musical lyricism admired by readers and fellow poets, As if to Sing is an essential addition to this poet’s compelling body of work.

“A poet at the top of his game.” – Radio Wales Review Show

Somniloquy
Speak into my good ear.
The house is bubble-wrapped
with rain. It’s late.
To better hear your voice
through this worn out device
I lean in closer to the page.
To better hear the sleep talk
tangled in its sheets
I lean in closer to your lips.
Speak into my good ear.
The crackle of dark matter
on its way to this room
clears at last, to better hear
your dream ask, Is it you?
Where have you been?

Listen to Gary Raymond, Paul Chambers and Dr Emily Garside reviewing As If To Sing on the Radio Wales Review Show.

Paul is launching As If To Sing at Book-ish in Crickhowell on Thursday 28th April. Visit their website book-ish.co.uk to buy tickets.

As If To Sing is available on the Seren website £9.99

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