Friday Poem – ‘Loie Fuller’s Dancing School’ by Nerys Williams

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Loie Fuller’s Dancing School’ by Nerys Williams from her collection Sound Archive. Nerys will be performing poems from her collection Cabaret at the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival as part of the Cardiff Poetry Experiment.

Nerys Williams Sound ArchiveSound Archive by Nerys Williams uses formal strategies to conjure 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. Williams confronts our preconceptions about what it might mean to be a woman writing against the background of two formidable traditions: that of Welsh-speaking Wales and of English literature. A thoughtful, subtle and fascinating collection.

Sound Archive is available from the Seren website: £8.99 (or £4.49 whilst our half-price sale is on, ends Sunday 19 Jan)

The Cardiff Poetry Experiment: Irish Women Poets event, hosted by Ailbhe Darcy, takes place at 6pm on Saturday 15 February as part of the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival. Nerys Williams will read alongside Cherry Smyth and jazz singer Lauren Kinsella. Buy your tickets on the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival website.

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‘No Far Shore’: An Interview with Anne-Marie Fyfe

No Far Shore  by Anne-Marie Fyfe is no ordinary exploration of coastlines. She combines travel writing, history, memoir and poetry in an intriguing meditation on the sea, the land, and the maps, lighthouses, islands, north, journeys and other things which mark them. In the process, she also looks at the work of a number of writers for whom the coast has been influential including Elizabeth Bishop, Herman Melville and Virginia Wolf.

In this interview she tells us more about why she moved away from poetry in this exploration and how the book developed during her journey.

You write that the collection takes ‘no settled form’, and it is written in a mixture of poetry, prose and music. How do you think this enriched the story you were telling?

It wasn’t so much a means of enriching the story, as recognising that unsettledness of form – like the unpredictability of coastal seas – was a way of exploring the story in all its depths. Having published  five collections of often strange & slightly surreal poetry, I’d let much remain beneath the surface. It isn’t just that poetry allows one to avoid explaining – it had also allowed me to avoid exploring. Since I’ve been teaching poetry & creative non-fiction in the US, I’ve been struck by how much hybridity of form, mixing traditions, crossing boundaries, offers certain writers not just a new aesthetic, but precise metaphors for subject matter. And it seemed that, for me, setting out into new forms paralleled setting out into the unknown waters of a deeper narrative.

What commonalities would you say that the writer and sea fearer share? Why do you think literature has such an enduring romantic association with the sea?

I’m not sure it’s specific to writers. So many creatives, whatever their artform, music, film-making, painting, etc, feel the need to grapple with the sea. We have to face its threats & dangers if our options aren’t to narrow down into one safe piece of dry land; & its vastness, its distant horizons have always been somehow magnetic. My puzzle wasn’t just why so many writers are drawn to the sea, or why I’m particularly drawn to those writers, but why so many sea-farers & those who spent childhoods by the sea, went on to become writers.

In the collection, you discuss the idea of ‘journeying map-less’, arriving somewhere without expectation. How much direction would you say you have when you begin writing?

I can answer that with Bob Dylan’s line about No Direction Home, or TS Eliot’s idea that all our exploring will lead us back to where we started and that we’ll know the place for the first time. I guess the book was always going to come full circle, back to Cushendall (where I grew up) after the actual journey (Felixstowe, Orkney, Barra, Hook, Swansea, Martha’s Vineyard, North Haven, Maine, Nova Scotia & on to Cape Breton), after the literary journey, exploring coastal writers’ lives. And, of course, after the emotional journey into my own & my own people’s sea-girt pasts. But I didn’t set out knowing what I would find in terms of ‘understanding’ other writers’ passions, or knowing how my family’s story would fall into place.

No Far Shore is filled with meditations on horizons and edges, which seem symbolic of knowledge and certainty. How do you explain both the thrill and fear that seem embedded in self-discovery?

It’s knowledge & un-certainty really: we know when we’re leaving behind the familiar & trying to map the unknown. The two defining edges are the near edge, shoreline/tideline/coastline, between known & unknown, & the illusory far edge. The horizon appears geometrically straight but actually curves horizontally, as well as falling away from us into the distance & off the edge of the known world. So there is No Far Shore in one sense.  And when I lead workshops entitled Edge of the Depths as I’ve done all along the coastlines I’ve travelled, I’m thinking of both near & far ‘edges’.

As for ‘self-discovery’, in a sense that Joseph Conrad would recognise as clearly as TS Eliot, all voyages are self-discovery &, as with any other journey, excitement & dread are involved.

In some senses it’s been the opposite of write about what you know. It’s rather write because you don’t know! The act of bringing together memory, myth, fact, history, poetic fragments, snatched thoughts, conversations, the act of writing it, is less about retelling & more about exploring.

No Far Shore is peppered with references to mythology. In what ways do you think the sea/or a sea-faring journey reflects aspects of human identity? What can we learn about ourselves from looking to the land and seascapes around us?

In a way all our sources, literary, cultural, historical, local, & family, are what shapes us growing up. So Treasure Island & Greek myth &, say, news reports of a local shipwreck in the years before I was born, stories from local fishermen, conversations on a family car journey, all have equal status: what they all do evidence, though, is the looming presence, since the earliest times, of the sea in our geographic & psychological mindscapes. What we learn from those stories, & from simply gazing at oceans & horizons, is more complex than simply longing, aspiration or awe. Which is what the journey & the book taught me, & is the book’s hesitant conclusion.

You cite Elizabeth Bishop’s value of ‘aloneness’ and write of your own desire to discover that ‘other self, deep down’. How do you think the figurative journey through poetry and the physical journey across the sea, differ in unearthing the ‘other self’? How would you define the ‘other self’?

I’d long cherished Bishop’s ‘aloneness’ remarks as touching on something both positive & negative in my own feelings about coasts, isolation & home. Finding or not finding a ‘far shore’, finding the ‘other self’, is simply the long journey towards understanding oneself: an understanding that I’m sure, for some, could be found simply by reading, writing, & contemplating. But for me that understanding required the physical journey, going back to coasts, headlands & harbours, gazing at islands & lighthouses & horizons that Bishop, Woolf, MacNeice, Melville, Tove Jansson & so many more had gazed upon: the difference between ‘research’ at one’s writing-desk & an actual ‘quest’, an ‘odyssey’ perhaps.

You talk about the ‘lure’ and ‘lore of islands’, that ‘Island is illusion’. How influential is the concept of intangibility over your poetry and prose?

On islands/isolation, of course, I’m playing with words & concepts, & while the idea of the desert island in children’s literature always fascinated me, islands can be isolated from the world & yet be some of the most closely-knit, supportive places to live. Like Barra in the Outer Hebrides where my McNeil family originated. Like North Haven in Maine, where I found one of Elizabeth Bishop’s holiday homes: it’s an island outsiders love for its remoteness, its escape from the busy world (unlike, say, fashionable Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket) and that year-rounders, conversely, love for its close community & family ties.

I’ve lived happily with intangibility & a certain evasiveness in poetry that’s never seemed difficult, just a little strange, perhaps, oblique or mysterious. But this new strategy of combining, around each coastal theme, poetry fragments, observations, reflection, memories, facts & – as you’ve mentioned – myth, creates much more tangibility. It’s an approach that allows the reader many different ways of joining me on the journey.

What was your favourite place to visit during the travels that inspired this collection?

Difficult to weigh up, favourite-wise, the tranquility of blue harbours at Loch Eireboll, Fresgoe in Caithness, Fethard in County Wexford, or Lubec on the US/Canada border, against the magic of a moon-silvered midnight in the Western Isles. But the most important times for me were the nights spent in Elizabeth Bishop’s childhood home in Nova Scotia, which were pivotal in my thinking not just about her life, but about my mother’s, and my own.

Although the text predominately explores themes of isolation and solitude, it also demonstrates remarkable ties of connection between literature, people, home and place. Would you say we can only understand our ‘aloneness’ by understanding the ways in which we are connected to others?

The ’story’, the exploration, unfolds to show that a desire for solitude can arise from the need, not to imagine an elsewhere, or a future, but for sufficient remoteness from the world to allow us to recapture, momentarily, a vanished past, to spend time in the imagination with people who mattered to us and whose memory is often lost in the noise & busyness of the world. Oddly that desire to be alone with one’s reflections isn’t inconsistent with the desire, as a writer, to share one’s solitary, personal reflections with the wider world in poetry, novels, or books like this.

You end the collection with a coastal soundscape, which among many things, consists of Morse code and music. What inspired you to end the collection this way? How do the visual and audible aids capture what you were trying to convey in a way that poetry and prose alone could not?

Having set out with a sense that many different literary & oral forms of communication have a place in understanding what makes us who we are, I was also aware that – although Yeats says words alone are certain good – there were other forms of communication jostling for attention throughout the essays/chapters: sea sounds, wireless experiments, songs my mother sang, radio waves, lighthouse signals, Mayday messages, a ringing telephone, even car headlights on a coast road… all part of a visual & aural picture that would bring together the various strands, the interwoven stories, the literal & metaphorical journeys.

No Far Shore: Charting Unknown Waters is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Seren Gift Guide: Give the Perfect Gift this Christmas

We all have them. That one person in the family who is impossible to buy presents for. They’re very particular so food or alcohol is out of the question and you bought them novelty socks last year so what are you going to do? Buy them a book of course!

Here at Seren we’ve got books to suit everyone: fiction addicts, nature lovers, poetry fanatics, art & photography connoisseurs, history buffs, current affairs enthusiasts, fans of biography & memoir – the list goes on. Here are a selection of our top suggestions for those difficult to buy for family members to help you give the perfect gift this Christmas.

 

Books for Fiction Addicts

Significance by Jo Mazelis £9.99 

significanceLucy Swann is trying on a new life. She’s cut and dyed her hair and bought new clothes, but only gets as far as a small town in northern France when her flight is violently cut short. When Inspector Vivier and his assistant Sabine Pelat begin their investigation the chance encounters of her last days take on a new significance. Lucy’s death, like a stone thrown into a pool, sends out far-reaching ripples, altering the lives of people who never knew her as well as those of her loved ones back home.

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray: £8.99 

Sugar Hall Tiffany MurrayEaster 1955 and Britain waits for a hanging. Dieter Sugar finds a strange boy in the red gardens at crumbling Sugar Hall – a boy unlike any he’s ever seen. As Dieter’s mother, Lilia, scrapes the mould and moths from the walls of the great house, she knows there are pasts that cannot be so easily removed. Sugar Hall has a history, buried, but not forgotten. Based on the stories of the slave boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray.

Brief Lives by Christopher Meredith £9.99 

Brief Lives Christopher MeredithFrom the nightmarish first story set in the South China Sea in 1946 to the final piece, set nowhere at the end of time, Brief Lives demonstrates in a short compass a huge range in technique and milieu and a unity of theme and sensibility. It opens naturalistically but is distinctly non-realist by the close. We meet an ex-collier in 1950 anguishing over whether to return to the pit, a young mother in the early 1960s quietly shepherding those around her through a bleak Christmas day, an industrial chemist in this century plunged into vortices of memories that cause him to question his grasp of the world, and more.

New Stories From The Mabinogion – The Complete Box Set (Unsigned): £80 

In New Stories from the Mabinogion ten great authors take the Celtic myth cycle as a starting point to give us masterly re-workings with a modern twist in a series both various and wonderful. In these retellings of medieval stories from Celtic mythology and Arthurian Britain, we reach the orbit of Mars, the Tower of London and the edges of India, travel in time to WW2 and forward to the near future, see Iraq in drug-addled dreams, and view Wales aslant, from its countryside to its council estates. Each author makes the story entirely their own, creating fresh, contemporary novellas while keeping the old tales at the heart of the new.

 

Books for Home Birds

The Seren Real Series: £9.99

First started by Peter Finch with Real Cardiff and now containing over 20 volumes, the Seren Real Series is a collection of psychogeographic guides that take a closer look at beloved towns and cities from all over the UK. Always insightful and full of interesting observations, made personal by each author’s connection to the place, these books discover the essence of what makes our towns and cities tick.

 

The Living Wells of Wales by Phil Cope: £20.00 

Author and photographer Phil Cope takes us on a journey through the sacred wells of Wales, from the Anglesey to the Gwent. On his way he discovers wells in city centres and, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere – on mountainsides, in deserted valleys, on the coast, in sea caves. They include healing wells, cursing wells, and wells named for saints, Satan, witches, angels, fairies, friars, nuns, hermits, murderers and hangmen. Packed with colour photographs, including some of long-forgotten wells now rediscovered, The Living Wells of Wales is the new definitive volume on a subject gaining a new popularity.

Walking Cardiff by Peter Finch and John Briggs: £14.99 

Join Peter Finch and John Briggs on twenty walks around Cardiff, the bustling capital of Wales. Together they visit the new and the ancient, the difficult, the undiscovered, the lesser-known, the artistic, the entertaining, the quirky and the unexpected. They criss-cross the city, informing, discovering, exploring, and enduring, reviving old routes as they go.Their journeys encompass the city’s history, and record daily life on its streets, in its parks and its famous and not so famous, buildings.

 

Books for History Buffs

Conflict, War and Revolution: My Life by Alessandra Kozlowska: £12.99 

Discovered by the author’s grandson, and written originally in Italian, Conflict, War and Revolution: My Life is the memoir of Baroness Alessandra Koslowska (1892-1975) and is a vivid depiction of her life from childhood to the end of the Second World War. In essence it is the story of her struggle to keep her family together through the huge and sometimes deadly social and political changes of early twentieth century Europe including the survival of two revolutions in Russia and the subsequent civil war, her travels in central Europe during World War One, her life in Italy during the inter-war years, and her internment there, which was almost terminated by German forces.

Forbidden Lives by Norena Shopland: £12.99 

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesForbidden Lives is a fascinating collection of portraits and discussions that aims to populate LGBT gaps in the history of Wales, a much neglected part of Welsh heritage. In it Norena Shopland reviews the reasons for this neglect while outlining the activity behind the recent growth of the LGBT profile here. She also surveys LGBT people and their activity as far back as Giraldus Cambrensis’ Journey Through Wales in the twelfth century where he reports on ‘bearded women’ and other hermaphrodites. Other subjects include Edward II and Hugh DeSpenser, seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

Caradoc Evans: The Devil in Eden by John Harris: £19.99 

Caradoc Evans Devil in Eden John HarrisIn Caradoc Evans: The Devil in Eden John Harris has written the definitive biography of Welsh author Caradoc Evans. He investigates what lay behind his writing, and its impact on Wales and beyond. Evans is revealed as a polemicist on issues like the rights of workers, the conduct of the Great War, and the status of women. A leading London journalist, Evans had a popular weekly column in which he responded to readers’ views in trenchant fashion. As Harris argues, challenging convention was his life’s work. Extensively researched and brilliantly written, it is a revelatory and necessary insight into the man, his country and his times.

 

Books for Nature Lovers

Wild Places UK: UK’s Top 40 Nature Sites by Iolo Williams: £19.99 

In 2016 television naturalist Iolo Williams brought us the definitive guide to the top nature sites in Wales. Now he returns with a guide to his top 40 sites in the UK. From Hermaness on Shetland to the London Wetland Centre, from Dungeness in Kent to Loch Neagh, Williams criss-crosses the country. Lavishly illustrated, author and book aim to introduce a new audience to the delights of the UK, be they armchair naturalists or, more importantly, visitors to the forty sites Williams has selected.

Waterfalls of Stars by Rosanne Alexander: £12.99 

Waterfalls of Stars Rosanne AlexanderWhen 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 for the trip to the island. With great sensitivity, and humour, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. With her lyrical evocation of the natural world and its enthusiastic and resourceful approach to the problems of island life, Waterfalls of Stars will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape.

Once by Andrew McNeillie: £9.99 

Once is the journey from boyhood to the threshold of manhood of poet Andrew McNeillie. From an aeroplane crossing north Wales the middle-aged writer looks down on the countryside of his childhood and recalls an almost fabulous world now lost to him. Ordinary daily life and education in Llandudno shortly after the war are set against an extraordinary life lived close to nature in some of the wilder parts of Snowdonia. Continually crossing the border between town and country, a fly-fisherman by the age of ten, McNeillie relives his life in nature during a period of increasing urbanisation.

 

Books for Poetry Fanatics

Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones: £9.99 

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself.  Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.
Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Gen by Jonathan Edwards: £9.99 

Jonathan Edwards GenGen is a book of lions and rock stars, street parties and servants, postmen and voices. In the opening sequence’s exploration of youth and young manhood, the author sets his own Valleys upbringing against the ’50s youth of his parents and the experience of a range of pop culture icons, including Kurt Cobain and Harry Houdini. Other poems place a Valleys village and the characters who live in it alongside explorations of Welsh history and prehistory, and the collection concludes with a selection of sometimes witty, sometimes heartfelt love poems.

Regional Poetry Pamphlets: £5.00

Our new series of poetry pamphlets celebrates the beauty, history and lively everyday goings-on in four areas of Wales: Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia, the Borders, and the capital city of Cardiff. Each pamphlet comes with an envelope and a postcard – the perfect stocking filler for your loved ones this Christmas.

 

 

Twelve Poems for Christmas: £5 

This sparkling selection of Christmas poems is 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.

 

Books for Cooks

The Occasional Vegan by Sarah Philpott: £12.99 

The Occasional Vegan Sarah PhilpottThe Occasional Vegan is a collection of 70 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.  Food lover Philpott shows that embracing veganism certainly doesn’t need to break the bank. Her recipes are homely and easily cooked, suitable for old and young, gourmet cooks and the kitchen novice.

 

Books for Music Lovers

Just Help Yourself by Vernon Hopkins: £9.99 

Just Help Yourself Vernon Hopkins1960. Britain stood at the cusp of new times. In Pontypridd, sixteen-year-old Vernon Hopkins had just found a new singer for his band: a local boy who would come to be known as Tom Jones. Just Help Yourself tells the full story of The Senators – soon to become The Squires – and their lead singer Tom Jones. Vernon Hopkins’ authentic narrative is a revealing look at the highs and lows of the music business, and of London in the allegedly Swinging Sixties. Full of gritty detail about life in Pontypridd, and with great insight into the music business, it is a cautionary tale of ambition and success. Illustrated with previously unseen photographs from the author’s archive.

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back by Peter Finch: £9.99 

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and BackPeter Finch follows the trail of twentieth century popular music from a 1950s valve radio playing in a suburban Cardiff terrace to the reality of the music among the bars of Ireland, the skyscrapers of New York, the plains of Tennessee, the flatlands of Mississippi and the mountains of North Carolina. The Roots of Rock mixes musical autobiography with an exploration of the physical places from which this music comes. It is a demonstration of the power of music to create a world for the listener that is simultaneously of and beyond the place in which it is heard. It also considers how music has changed during this time, from the culture-shaping (revolutionising) 50s and 60s to the present day.

 

Books for Horizon Gazers

No Far Shore: Charting Unknown Waters by Anne-Marie Fyfe: £9.99 

No Far Shore is no ordinary exploration of coastlines. Anne-Marie Fyfe combines travel writing, history, memoir and poetry in an intriguing meditation on the sea, that explores the unsettledness of living on the boundary between two elements. She explores countless coastlines, her own family history and the works of a number of writers for whom the coast has been influential along the way.

 

Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye: £12.99 

In 2007, in a chance conversation with her mother, a kibbutznik, Jasmine Donahaye stumbled upon the collusion of her family in the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. She set out to learn the story of what happened, and discovered an earlier and rarely discussed piece of history during the British Mandate in Palestine. Losing Israel is a moving and honest account which spans travel writing, nature writing and memoir. Through the author’s personal situation it explores the powerful and competing attachments that people feel about their country and its history, by attempting to understand and reconcile her conflicted attachments, rooted in her family story – and in a love of Israel’s birds.

The Road to Zagora by Richard Collins: £9.99 

When Richard Collins was diagnosed with a progressive incurable disease in 2006 he decided to see as much of the world as he could while his condition allowed. The result is The Road to Zagora, a singular travel book which takes in India, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Equador and Wales. With ‘Mr Parkinson’, as Collins refers to his condition, by their side, he and his partner Flic decide to continue to travel ‘close to the land’ post diagnosis, leaving the tourist trails and visiting places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The story of their travels is collected here in a memorable journey around the world, and the self.

 

Books for Fans of Biography and Memoir

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet: £12.99 

When Nula’s husband James, an Irish documentary filmmaker, becomes forgetful they put it down to the stress of his work. But his behaviour becomes more erratic, and he is eventually diagnosed as suffering from Pick’s Disease, an early onset and aggressive form of dementia. The Longest Farewell is the true story of Nula’s fight with her husband’s disease, and how this terrible time held a happy ending.

 

Tide-Race by Brenda Chamberlain: £9.99 

Tide-Race is a remarkable account of life on Bardsey (known as Ynys Enlli to Welsh speakers), a remote and mysterious island off the coast of North Wales. Brenda Chamberlain lived on the island 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.

Jim Neat: The Case of a Remarkable Man Down on his Luck by Mary J. Oliver: £9.99 

Jim Neat is a remarkable evocation of the seemingly fractured life of Mary J. Oliver’s father. Tinged with the tragedy of his partner’s death and an orphaned daughter, it ranges across the history of 20th century England and Canada. Using the few documents of Jim’s life and a combination of poetry and prose, Oliver adopts a legal structure, making ‘the case’ for the worth of his life. The result is a fascinating and engaging book unlike any other memoir.

 

Books for Art Connoisseurs

Welsh Quilts by Jen Jones: £12.99 

Welsh Quilts Jen JonesWelsh Quilts is an authoritative guide to the history and art of the quilt in Wales. It is the result of expert author Jen Jones’ researches into the subject and her desire to revive what had been a gloriously high-quality craft. Illustrated with beautiful images of the bold designs and intricate stitching of the quilts in her own collection, Welsh Quilts is the essential book on the subject, whether you are a quilter yourself, or simply interested in quilting heritage.

Jonah Jones: An Artist’s Life by Peter Jones: £14.99 

Sculptor, painter, letter cutter, stained glass artist, novelist, academic and administrator; Jonah Jones (1919-2004) was a twentieth century renaissance man. His son Peter looks back on his life, from growing up in a mining family in Newcastle, through his experiences in a non-combatant role in the Medical Corps during the Second World War, to the people and places that fired his passion to become an artist. Jonah Jones: An Artist’s Life is a considered look at the life of one of Wales’ most successful artists.

Try the Wilderness First : Eric Gill and David Jones at Capel-y-Ffin by Jonathan Miles: £12.99 

Try the Wilderness First is the only study devoted to controversial artist Eric Gill’s artistic and religious community in the Black Mountains of Wales during the 1920s, told through the character and work of Gill himself and David Jones, two of Britain’s most significant twentieth century artists. In it, Jonathan Miles explores the influences of place, culture and religion on artistic practice and investigates the effect of the Black Mountains and of Gill’s community on the work of these two important British artists, both at the time and in the future.

Books for Photographers

Living in Wales by David Hurn: £25.00 

Living in Wales is an album of one hundred and one duotone portraits of people who, in the words of David Hurn ‘have enriched my life and that of Wales.’ It is a roster of the famous and distinguished in the fields of science, business, the arts, sport, the law, health, media, politics and religion. Beautifully composed, and shot with David’s characteristic flair for detail, the photographs linger on the physicality of the person, a telling prop pushing the image towards the possibility of narrative. Here is a photographer on inspirational form.

Taken in Time by John Briggs: £14.95 

Photographer John Briggs continues his project to document change in the Cardiff docklands, revisiting the sites and people memorably recorded in Before the Deluge. In the last thirty years landmark buildings have been demolished, docks filled in, the barrage built, maritime businesses closed, and streets disappeared. In their place, a huge redevelopment scheme, gentrification, and tourism. With characteristic honesty and an eye for compelling detail, John Briggs brings these changes to a wider audience in this not to be missed book.

 

Still not found what you’re looking for? Browse our website for more inspiration.

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Maria Donovan; Long-lists, first lines and ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’

41POingnfmL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_We’re incredibly pleased to hear that Maria Donovan has been long-listed for the Hall & Woodhouse DLF Local Writing Prize for her book The Chicken Soup Murder. It’s a huge achievement considering this year the DLF received over 70 entries, and we’re all crossing our fingers for the next round!

You can purchase a copy of Donovan’s thrilling and genre-transcendent debut novel here: The Chicken Soup Murder

Donovan has been busy lately, and has recently been interviewed by novelist Shauna Gilligan for her Writer’s Chat Series. To read the two discussing breaking down genres, developing complex and sympathetic characters and to hear about Donovan’s upcoming plans, follow the link here: Donovan’s Interview

 

January Sale: 50% off our books this week

January Sale Half Price books

Kick off 2019 with some literary loveliness and take advantage of our January sale – all our published books are half price for one week only.

January sale half price books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sale ends midnight, Sunday 20 January. So which books can you steal away for half the price? Well – practically all of them! The sale includes all our published poetry, fiction and non-fiction books (only excluding forthcoming titles). With so much on offer, we thought you might enjoy some highlights…

 

Best for…
Late night reading:
Paul Deaton A Watchful Astronomy£9.99  £4.99
Paul Deaton’s PBS Recommended debut, A Watchful Astronomy, is gloriously dark and atmospheric. The poet’s father stalks the poems like a ‘wounded bear’ as weathers and seasons are conjured onto the page: icy blasts of weather, frosts, and inky skies full of stars.
‘Each poem in this collection is like a little torchlight’
– Jen Cambell

 

Best for…
Transporting you to another time:
Simple Scale David Llewellyn£9.99  £4.99
David Llewellyn’s gripping new novel, A Simple Scale, moves in narratives of love, death, deceit, Classical music and government oppression. Prepare to be transported to Soviet Russia, McCarthyite Hollywood and post-9/11 New York as a determined young PA tries to piece together the fragments of history.

 

Best for…
Cheering up a dull day:
Jonathan Edwards Gen
£9.99  £4.99
Gen 
is the wonderful follow-up to Jonathan Edwards’ Costa Award-winning debut, My Family and Other Superheroes. It’s a book of wonder, nostalgia and music where poems are as likely to be voiced by a family member as by a lion, or a flag on the wall of Richard Burton’s dressing room. Gen is a celebration of everything that matters to Edwards – Wales, family, animals, history.

 

Best for…
Intellectual reading:
Caradoc Evans Devil in Eden John Harris£19.99  £9.99
Challenging convention was Caradoc Evans’ life’s work. A controversial figure in Welsh literature, Evans’ books were publicly burned in the streets of Cardiff, yet praised across the border. But what lay behind his writing? John Harris’ biography is the first of its kind and a marvel – extensively researched and brilliantly written.

 

Best for…
Glimpsing into history:
Dear Mona Jonah Jones
£19.99  £9.99
Dear Mona collects together the private letters of Jonah Jones, sent during and after World War Two to his mentor and friend, Mona Lovell. Their tumultuous relationship informed the evolution of Jonah’s character. We see this in his intimate and emotional letters as he describes work as a conscientious objector, his time on the Home Front as a non-arms bearing medic, and his artistic progression.

 

Best for…
Armchair travelling:
Richard Gwyn Stowaway£9.99  £4.99
In Stowaway, Richard Gwyn navigates the rich history and landscapes of the Mediterranean. The central character, an anti-Ulysses figure, seems to transcend time, and acts as the witness to major events: from the fall of Byzantium to the Syrian civil war. This is a richly imagined and thrillingly inventive new collection.

 

Best for…
Daytime entertainment:
Just Help Yourself Vernon HopkinsIt was 1960 when teenaged Vernon Hopkins recruited a new kid to his band. They didn’t know it yet, but this boy from Pontypridd would grow up to become Tom Jones. Just Help Yourself is the gritty, honest story of the band’s journey towards superstardom – from tiny gigs in South Wales to record deals in London – and then the inevitable bust up. It’s a wild ride that you might find hard to put down.

 

 

We hope you find a bookshelf full of hidden gems before the sale ends. Have a browse and see what catches your eye before the offer ends (midnight, Sunday 20 January).

 

 

Veganuary: Tips & vegan recipes from Sarah Philpott

Veganuary Sarah Philpott vegan

Forget the January blues – in recent years this cold and gloomy month has instead brought cooking inspiration and healthy eating ideas as ‘Veganuary’ has taken off.

What is Veganuary? Whether you’re new to the vegan diet or you’ve dabbled before, the idea is to cut out meat and dairy throughout January – and if you find you like it, then continue for as long as you’d like! To help kickstart your vegan journey, vegan cook Sarah Philpott, author of The Occasional Vegan, has some tips, tricks and recipes:

Sarah Philpott The Occasional VeganGetting started
Eating and cooking as a vegan might seem like a minefield but it’s simple once you know
how. Despite what your mother says, you’d be surprised by how little protein you actually
need and it can be found in a number of vegetables, beans and pulses. The same goes for iron, calcium and healthy fats.

Where to shop & what to buy – Can eating vegan be budget-friendly?
You might think that veganism is only for well-off lefties but it’s not a middle-class fad; it’s actually really accessible for those of us on a tight budget. Seasonal fruit and vegetables are cheap and plentiful, and beans, pulses, rice and other grains cost pennies. Meals like chilli, dhal and curry are tasty tummy fillers which, armed with a well-stocked cupboard, will cost you next nothing to make. You can buy big bags and tins of pulses for next to nothing from supermarkets and international stores, and pound or bargain shops often sell quinoa, nuts, seeds and dried fruit at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere. Most supermarkets sell everything from plant milk to vegan cheese, as well as a variety of ready meals, and if you fancy a treat, there are plenty available, including vegan Magnums and Ben and Jerry’s. Most restaurants now offer a vegan menu and you can even enjoy a vegan sausage roll at Greggs.

Get started – try these vegan recipes!

 

The healthy meal:
Beat the Blues Salad
This vibrant and filling salad pairs smoky tofu with beetroot, orange and salty black olives.

Video credit: Manon Houston

Read the full recipe

 

The mid-week treat:
‘KFC’ – Kentucky Fried Cauliflower
This spiced, fried cauliflower tastes amazing and is surprisingly easy to make.

Video credit: Manon Houston

Read the full recipe

 

The decadent dessert:
Vegan Chocolate Mousse
This gorgeously light and creamy mousse has just four ingredients and comes together as if by magic.

Video credit: Manon Houston

Read the full recipe

 

We hope you feel inspired and ready to begin your voyage into veganism. Hungry for more great recipes? Get your copy of The Occasional Vegan from our website: £12.99

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy direct from us.

 

Summer Sale: a whole week of half price books

Seren Summer Sale Half Price books

The sun is shining, school’s out for the summer, and – what’s this? All our books are half price!

Half price summer sale
Fiction, non-fiction and poetry – and this is just a tiny portion of it…

Whether you’re looking for some poetry to dip into, or an immersive holiday read – we’ve got you covered. We’ve even picked out a few highlights below…

Best for…
Holiday reading:
Maria Donovan The Chicken Soup Murder£9.99 £4.99
A dear elderly neighbour has died under suspicious circumstances and the only one searching for justice is eleven-year-old Michael. No-one believes his cries of ‘murder’, so how will he prove his version of events? This is a truly touching coming-of-age story with an addictive mystery at its heart.

 


Best for…
Dipping into in moments of peace:
£9.99 £4.99
Elizabeth Parker’s debut book of poems is delicate, precise, and utterly captivating. From flowing rivers to the Forest of Dean, let yourself be lured into landscapes both captivating and strangely unfamiliar.

 

 

Best for…
Armchair reading:
£12.99 £6.49
For at least the last 1,500 years, Capel-y-Ffin has been a spiritual retreat: a beautiful, lonely, timeless place where people have gathered to escape from the outside world. And so it was for artists Eric Gill and David Jones: with fascinating insight, Jonathan Miles explores their years spent in this Welsh wilderness, and its promise of religious and artistic evolution.


Best for…
Livening up a long journey:
Christopher Meredith Brief Lives£9.99 £4.99
Whether reading on a stuffy train, whilst waiting at the airport or, perhaps, somewhere more peaceful, these six masterful short stories will transport you: to the South China Sea in 1946 to a nameless place at the end of time, and many others in-between. Christopher Meredith is a writer at the height of his powers – these beautifully crafted stories are all the proof you need.


Best for…
Broadening the mind:
Barney Norris The Wellspring£12.99 £6.49
Acclaimed novelist and playwright Barney Norris ponders cultural identity and the nature of creativity in these conversations with his father, David Owen Norris – ‘quite possibly the most interesting pianist in the world’ (Toronto Globe and Mail). This is a deeply personal, entertaining and at times provocative study of how people and societies find their voice.

 

Best for…
Keeping you up past bedtime:
Ross Cogan Bragr£9.99 £4.99
Norse gods tumble out of Ross Cogan’s new collection, intermingling with the environmental concerns so pressing in the modern day, and eulogies for vanishing wildlife. The pitch-perfect re-tellings of creation myths and bloodthirsty battles will hold you spellbound until the last page.

 

 

Our Summer Sale lasts for one week only – so treat yourself and have a browse before midnight on Sunday, 29 July! Who knows what gems you’ll find…

50% discount subject to availability. Excludes forthcoming titles.

 

Read Women: International Women’s Day 2018

Read Women International Women's Day

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day – a day of recognition for women’s achievements, and also a time to acknowledge and challenge the gender inequality still present in society.

We are also just days away from Mother’s Day, and whilst fluffy books about romance and cooking usually dominate consumers’ gift choices, we say: why not give mum, and yourself, something important instead?

Until Monday, these two significant anthologies are 50% off – and we will also upgrade postage to First Class at no extra charge (why wait longer to enjoy these books than you absolutely have to?)

Read Women International Women's Day

Writing Motherhooded. Carolyn Jess-Cooke
RRP £12.99 £6.49
The perfect literary gift, Writing Motherhood explores the relationship between creativity and motherhood, and queries the persistent societal obsession over whether women ‘can do both’. With contributions from writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, Sharon Olds and Hollie McNish.

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

Women’s Work, ed. Amy Wack & Eva Salzman
RRP £14.99 £7.49
Some may ask: is the literary establishment still as dominated by men as it once was? Who gets to decide the canon? Eva Salzman opens Women’s Work with a lively polemic, making the case for the women-only anthology with characteristic wit and flair. With over 250 contributors, this generous selection of poetry by women features poets from the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand.

 

Celebrating Seren’s women writers

The list of women writers Seren has published is a long one – and we would like to take a moment to send out our love and thanks to every talented one who has graced our list – and those we look forward to publishing in future.

International Women's Day 2018

January Sale 2018: Half Price Highlights

The New Year festivities may have been and gone, but here at Seren we’re still celebrating – all our books are half price until midnight Thursday, 11 January.

You might wonder, “with so much choice, how will I ever decide what to read next?” And to that we say: take a look at our recommendations below. Or ignore them! It’s really up to you…

Best for… curling up with on cold winter nights:

Maria Donovan The Chicken Soup MurderThe Chicken Soup Murder by Maria Donovan
£9.99 £4.99
Clear your diaries before you pick up this addictive, engrossing book – you won’t want to put it down until the mystery has been well and truly unraveled. The narrative follows sharp and imaginative young Michael, who believes his sweet elderly neighbour has been murdered whilst making him chicken soup. Nobody seems to care, so Michael decides to take on the burden of doing the right thing himself: seeking answers, and justice.

 

Best for… wintery adventures:

Wild Places by Iolo WilliamsWild Places, Iolo Williams
£19.99 £9.99
It’s not only in summer that you can explore Wales’ stunning landscapes – the colder months are filled with beauty too. From the frosty fenland at Magor Marsh to birdwatching at beautiful Dolydd Hafren, Iolo Williams’ stunningly illustrated book will guide you to the best and most nature interesting places Wales has to offer.

 

Best for… devouring along with your comfort food:

Masque by Bethany W PopeMasque by Bethany W. Pope
£9.99 £4.99
This rich and gothic re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera skillfully fleshes out the dark desires and deadly ambitions of the three central characters: the intensely ambitious Christine finds herself caught between the twin evils of the Phantom’s murderous pursuit of artistic perfection and Raoul’s ‘romantic’ vision of her as a bourgeois wife. Love, lust, adventure, romance, and the monstrous nature of unfulfilled creativity await you here.

 

Best for… moments of reflection:

Paul Deaton A Watchful AstronomyA Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton
£9.99 £4.99
Sombre and exquisite, Paul Deaton’s PBS-recommended debut collection is a thing to be treasured. These quietly intense, formal poems are haunted by the ghost of the author’s father, a figure embodied in glowering mountain ranges, icy blasts of weather, and bits of bleak, monosyllabic dialogue. Nature is also a prime factor and facilitator: both rural and urban scenes are beautifully observed and presented. There is a gift for the visceral here, for tastes and sounds. A rigorous intelligence meets an adept sensitivity.

 

Best for… satisfying your wanderlust:

The Road to Zagora by Richard Collins
£9.99 £4.99
The gloriously eccentric author stumbles across fresh snow leopard tracks in the Himalayas, is robbed in Peru, and watches a volcanic eruption in Ecuador – all in his quest to visit as many strange and beautiful places as he can after he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. You will find great humour and honesty here in equal measure, as Collins’ rich descriptions bring the many little wonders of the world to life.

 

Best for… broadening the mind:

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesForbidden Lives by Norena Shopland
£12.99 £6.49
Wales has a rich and fascinating LGBT history that has for the most part remained, rather frustratingly, untold. This glorious new book shines much-needed light on key Welsh LGBT figures, from the twelfth century to the present day. Among them are seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

 

Best for… brief escapes from reality:

Writing on Water Maggie HarrisWriting on Water by Maggie Harris
£8.99 £4.49
Worlds of heartbreak and tenderness, separation and fierce familial bonds are played out in Maggie Harris’ mesmerising stories, which refuse to loosen their grip on the reader even long after they are finished. These tales transport you into the Caribbean scenes and memories with which they are infused, into dreams and lives, where there is struggle, hardship, and endurance.

 

Best for… staying under the covers with:

This Is Not A Rescue Emily BlewittThis Is Not A Rescue by Emily Blewitt
£9.99 £4.99
Uplifting and witty, these poems tackle love and cats, Welshness and The Walking Dead. Sharp, satirical poems confront issues such as office lechery, misogyny, domestic violence and depression, whilst consistently subverting expectations. The poet is a whirlwind, whose passions and influences swirl around, chaotic and irresistible.

 

We hope you enjoy browsing our January sale. The half price offer ends at midnight on Thursday 11 January, so don’t delay – see what you can find before the time runs out.

January Sale half price books

 

 

Free poetry alert – enjoy samples from all our 2017 collections

Free poetry Seren sampler 2017

Who doesn’t love a freebie? We’ve put together something a little special for  all you poetry lovers – the Seren Poetry Sampler 2017. This free PDF is now available to download, and contains a free poem from each of our 2017 collections.

It also contains an exclusive 30% discount code – so when you inevitably fall in love with all ten books, you won’t break the bank.

Free poetry pamphlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a number of poems from striking debut collections: ‘Lake Fever’ from Polly Atkin’s Basic Nest Architecture, ‘The Coffin Hut’ from Paul Deaton’s PBS-Recommended debut A Watchful Astronomy, and ‘The Walking Wed’, Emily Blewitt’s Walking Dead-inspired poem from This Is Not A Rescue.

Experienced poets Siobhán Campbell, Martyn Crucefix, and Graham Mort feature too, with poems from fresh new collections: ‘Why Islanders Don’t Kiss Hello’ (Heat Signature), ‘R-O-M-J-X’ (The Lovely Disciplines), ‘Froglet’ (Black Shiver Moss), alongside ‘Closing Down’ from Robert Walton’s long-awaited second collection, Sax Burglar Blues.

There are also poems from two new pamphlets: ‘The Birds’ from Brood by Wales Book of the Year winner Rhian Edwards, and ‘Howlet’ by promising young poet Yvonne Reddick, from Translating Mountains, winner of the 2016 Mslexia Poetry Prize.

A final treat is ‘Hare’, a poem by Carolyn Jess-Cooke from the Writing Motherhood anthology, which brings together poetry, essays and interviews on the subjects of motherhood and creativity.

 

Download the Seren Poetry Sampler 2017 for free from our website.