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.

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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

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

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?

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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 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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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.

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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

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 to buy tickets.

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Friday Poem – ‘When it Rains, I Think of You’ by Eric Ngalle Charles

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘When it Rains, I Think of You’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his new collection Homelands.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy wearing a blue robe tied around his waist and an oversized black hat standing in front of a building. The text reads: Homelands, Eric Ngalle Charles.

In 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. 

When it Rains, I Think of You
and if you will return
alive or dead from that awful place,
the Al-Jawiywah prison,
meeting point for migrants and traffickers.
I think of you there,
where today, a quarrel brews:
to entertain themselves
the guards throw one toothbrush and paste
and watch inmates fight for it.
A mad woman paces up,
then down, an old man sits and stares.
Farzana is pregnant, skeletal,
she wants to leave this
makeshift jail where migrants
starve and soldiers
make merry over rum with traffickers.
When it rains I think of you,
and if you will return.

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On the 27th May Eric will be reading from Homelands as part of the Hay Festival Schools Programme. Tickets for the Hay Festival main programme go on sale today at 12pm.

Friday Poem – ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile.

This cover shows a closeup painting of someone cutting reeds. The text reads: Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer

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.

Four Poets in a Bookshop

In the land of two rivers and hanging gardens,
four poets meet in a bookshop. No one can know.
Portrait of Saddam watches; they hide under the cloak
of Arabic lexicon. They share with one breath
meanings that turn the Master’s key
to worlds where Adam was taught the names.

Trees, reborn as pages, witness the names
of four and those gathered to reach the Gardens,
as they escape their locked chests without key.
They are four men who know.
Reading between lines of apocalypse, each strained breath
foretells of beasts with their daggers and cloak

scarring minds and hearts of men by Baathist cloak.
Present are bygone days of Karbala’s names
which poets dare to mention under their breath.
Alive and well with the Lord of the Gardens.
Willing to exchange this world for the next, four know
that informants sell to the cruellest bidder for neighbours’ key.

Saddam’s spies claw to learn of persons key
and clothe their families in mourning cloak.
Three-quarters give eyes, tongues and nails. They know
they must not, to treachery, yield any names.
Silent skin, dipped in acid, bastes in hanging gardens
bearing to keep hidden secrets beyond dissolved breath.

No haste nor waste for ordained beat and breath
nor desire for the iron key
to dust’s throne; they dream of other gardens.
Longing only to reunite with the People of the Cloak
and the Most Compassionate through His Names.
Those clinging to ebbing sands of time do not yet know

The bookshop bears witness to what few mortals know.
Its shelves and books inhale each whispered breath
and all that poetry and scripture, names.
Kerosene warms the last poet. He clutches the bookshop’s key,
drinks black tea sugar cannot sweeten and wears a black cloak.
Alone; his companions have already reached the Garden.

Many years after a shroud is his cloak and cancer takes his breath,
the names of seekers are still hidden. Their key is kept buried in the earth
upon which gardens grow, and reed beds and shrines know how to Read.

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

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