Friday Poem – ‘1986’ by Eric Ngalle Charles

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘1986’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his debut collection Homelands. You can hear Eric chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy standing in front of a wooden wall. He is wearing a large black hat, blue robe around his waist and is holding a bunch of reeds.

In Homelands, his debut collection, 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. 

1986
Red Moon over lake Nyos,
doomsday whispers armed with drums,
survivors like ghosts of the apocalypse,
singing choruses of the end times.
Why have the gods forsaken us?
Red Moon over the poisonous lake,
salutations of umbra and penumbra.
Survivors like Old Testament eremite
from yonder, foretelling tales, turning
ghosts, consumed by gaseous light.
Red Moon, dogs in heat, barking.
One lone, dazed survivor. See her:
standing/stuttering/falling/holding
onto nearby railings. Did she invite
disaster by boiling beans overnight?
Red Moon over lake Nyos.
Noises, clamoring. They went to bed
and never woke up. The few, resurrected,
singing choruses of the end times.
Why have the gods forsaken us?

*Lake Nyos disaster, Bamenda, Cameroon, 1986: a limnic eruption on the 24th of August 1986 killed 1,746 people. 

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 8 with Eric Ngalle Charles is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

Homelands is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘What the Burglar Took’ by Rosalind Hudis

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘What the Burglar Took’ by Rosalind Hudis from her collection Restorations. You can hear Rosalind chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows an abstract print of some mountains tinged with hints of blue, red and purple. The text reads: Restorations, Rosalind Hudis.

Restorations is a journey into what it means to preserve – a monument, a moment, a life-story, a poppy. It’s about the hunger to possess and the need to let go. Welding themes from art and history with the contemporary, there are poems about pigments and dictators, glue and glass houses, collections, crinolines, and barometers, and the vagaries of memory itself. Entwined, is a more personal story that tracks the loss of a parent to dementia. Also running through, is a theme of women eroding the straitjacket of gendered roles. Linking all is a play with colour, particularly blue, in all its stages from vital to decayed.

What the Burglar Took
That night it was nothing.
Cinematic, he’d slid
under the kitchen window,
swerved an old veined saucer,
rocked the vintage cactus,
slippered his way across tiles
on a moulting rug
that still smelt of your last dog
and made you wheeze.
After that threshold no sign,
yet you felt him in every omission
the carriage clock that paced him
but never chimed, silverfish
partying by moonlight who’d fled
into covens of dust, slivers
of streetlamp that laid a grid
from back to front room
where shadows failed to creak.
His exit, another window,
half open in the study.
The room was rigid with night,
The Great Bear
encrypted in the cushions.
You touched frost on the inside,
took to spying on your house,
heard whispers in the heating kettle
Morse in the water-pipes.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 7 with Rosalind Hudis is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

Restorations is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘A Late Aubade’ by Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘A Late Aubade’ by Ben Wilkinson from his collection Same Difference. You can hear Ben chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows an abstract painting made up of dark blues and greys. There is a face-like smudge in the centre and splashes of red, yellow and green on the left hand side. The text reads: Same Difference, 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.

A Late Aubade
after Verlaine
How long since we last lolled here all morning,
the house quiet and still, snow falling
beyond our bedroom’s window and warmth?
Now we’ve time to uncover each other
after what seems like months apart –
losing ourselves in that same tender art
to open one thought onto another –
even this grim half-light has a charm of sorts.
Times like these grant us leave from the world –
those claims it makes of everyone –
and the constant doing that comes to nothing;
the snow still falls and the streets are frozen.
Instead, let this moment be perfectly held:
return us to something we hadn’t thought missing.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 6 with Ben Wilkinson is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

Same Difference is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Peeling the Skin’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Peeling the Skin’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke from her collection We Have to Leave the Earth. You can hear Carolyn chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a photograph of a tangled ball of blue fishing line in relief against a pale pink and blue background. The text reads: We Have to Leave the Earth. Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s third collection We Have to Leave the Earth deftly interweaves the personal and the political. Climate change is confronted in a sequence about the Arctic; poems that are vividly descriptive of an extreme landscape, sensitive to the effects of global warming. A second sequence, The House of Rest, is a history in 9 poems of Josephine Butler, (1828-1906) a pioneering feminist activist. There are also tender poems about family, mental health, motherhood and the earth.

Peeling the Skin
They’d try to find the hem first,
the beginning of that lace-fine calyx that
sometimes ran deliciously
from shoulder to waist in a continuum
of cells shucked by too long
in the burning glare. No one thought to rub
in sun cream, it seems, for each summer
my lunar Irish epidermis crisped
from salmon to magenta before flaking
off great silvery coats and blankets,
milky curtains, pearl bodices.
The confetti of my childhood lies in corners
of Connemara, the sands of
Donegal, bearing traces of fingers
that picked me to riddance. I’d hear
the sellotape-tear
of strips they’d peel from my back
and I felt like something being primed for the spit,
or dressed for the rite. Sometimes
they’d shear
what wasn’t ready for shearing, and blood would globe
at the new rind that knitted under the husk.
I think it was this small breach, this
being pared in pain
for others’ pleasure, that taught me where DNA ended and
I
begin, and begin, and begin.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 5 with Carolyn Jess-Cooke is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

We Have to Leave the Earth is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘All the Terrors’ by Rhian Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘All the Terrors’ by Rhian Edwards from her collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter. You can hear Rhian chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a black and white photograph of Gareth L Edwards outside his estate agents with three other men dress in 70s style suits. The text reads: The Estate Agent's Daughter. Rhian Edwards.

The Estate Agent’s Daughter by Rhian Edwards is both powerfully personal, local to the author’s Bridgend birthplace, and performative, born to be read aloud. In the title poem, the protagonist is reimagined as a surrealist house, foreshadowing both the heartbreak (a shattered first marriage) and joy (the birth of a daughter), that feature in the work that follows. Employing sly irony, close observation and sharp wit, the poet confronts a myriad of themes, from family and the body to the word of disillusioned dating. Throughout she combines her visceral skill for description with a feminist forthright courage to speak of difficult things.

All the Terrors
are gathered in this portmanteau,
this Hammmer House, this Ealing-made.
The razor cut of Cushing’s cheeks,
hollowed eyes, RP that belongs to the Raj.
How I long for Christopher Lee, his oil-slicked
widow’s peak, badger grey, immaculate cravat.
I would give the earth, mortality,
to be the trussed brunette in Regency.
Could my generous décolletage invite the screeches
of a fishing-lined bat to my Juliet balcony?
Or could the punctured cloud of my négligée
summon an unseasonable wind to my French doors?
Behold the jagged cloak, crimson lining, arms raised.
Regard as I back away in mugging fear,
mesmerised by the bloodshot white of his eyes,
all a swoon to the preachery of his pearly fangs.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 4 with Rhian Edwards is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

The Estate Agent’s Daughter is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Old Spyder’ by Christopher Meredith

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Old Spyder’ by Christopher Meredith from his collection Still. You can hear Christopher chatting about Still and his novel Please on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a painting of a snowy landscape beneath a wintery sky. The fields are small and far away, dotted with bushes. A single black crow sits on the bare branches of a tree in the foreground. The text reads: Still Christopher Meredith.

Still uses the title as a fulcrum to balance paradoxical concerns: stillness and motion, memory and forgetting, sanity and madness, survival and extinction. The old man in the title poem is seen standing, backlit by an open door. Fixing this in the mind is both memorial and a means of partial forgetting, of releasing him into history. The closing set of poems ‘Still Air’ focuses on a small landscape in the Usk Valley, observing the multiple, complex, endlessly moving parts of nature in the stars, geology, the seasons, the days. Lively and thought provoking, this is a beautifully crafted, insightful and intelligent collection.

Old Spyder
Under jewelled Aldebaran
old Spyder sat, his head hunched down.
All matter he thought’s just a flower fight
and all that we think heavy light
and all that’s truly light seems dark
and all that’s truly play seems work.
Oh we could shine such a jewelled light
but for the memory’s grip on hurt
and the interference of the heart.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 3 with Christopher Meredith is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

Both Still and Please are available as a bundle on the Seren website for £15.00

Friday Poem – ‘Heirloom’ by Ilse Pedler

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Heirloom’ by Ilse Pedler from her collection Auscultation. You can hear Ilse chatting poetry and her job as a vet in episode 2 of The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows an image of an orange butterfly resting on the cord of a stethoscope. The text reads: Auscultation. Ilse Pedler.

Auscultation, which means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. If listening is a central theme of this collection, it is also about being heard. There are poems about vets waiting rooms and surgical instruments, about crisis calls, about overhearing farmers and pet owners and colleagues. There are also poems about surviving a stern childhood and a heartbreaking sequence about being a stepmother. This is a compelling set of poems from a striking new voice.

Heirloom
Inside my mother’s sewing box, little plaits
of embroidery silks lie in ordered rainbows.
Most evenings she licks the end
of a strand into a point and threads it through
my eye with fierce concentration, fixing
me in little stitches to the stretched canvas.
My scalp smarts as she tugs
the tangles out of my hair and anchors
it in neat bunches. My neck itches
with the stiff collar of the dress she chain
stitches for me and my toes are pinched
by the tight black shoes buttoned with French knots.
In running stitch, she outlines a straight-backed
chair for me to sit on and a book for my hands.
Finally, with little split stitches she carefully stabs
out a smile on my face.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 2 with Ilse Pedler is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts.

Auscultation is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Borders Gothic’ by Polly Atkin

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Borders Gothic’ by Polly Atkin from her collection Much With Body. You can hear Polly chatting about her poetry in episode 1 of The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a painting of a woman floating on her back in a blue green lake. The text reads: Much With Body. Polly Atkin.

Much With Body is a startlingly original second collection. 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. Atkin also draws on 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.

Borders Gothic
You will meet it as a corner you cannot turn,
a gate flung open, a muffled struggle
offroad, in the woody murk where the old track
hums under mulch and brambles. You will be
a traveller in the midst, alone. It will throw itself
into your bag as a weight so heavy
you cannot go on. It will block your path
in the body of a bone white calf, or lady,
eyes like swollen moons, its voice
the splash of stones thrown in deep water.
It will howl. It will sit at your feet and sink
through the bog of the tarmac with a glug like a rock
or a woman being dropped in a mire. It will cry
three times from the shore. It will carry its coffin
or its head or its child in its hands. It will follow you
home. It will make you promises. You
will try to rid your house of it – the radiant
boy of it, heirloom drab of it – you will take it
still screaming, to sea, and drown it, you will bury it
day after day and find it always
back where it started, its lamp casting light
through every window, its small skull shrieking
I know I know I know

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 1 with Polly Atkin is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts.

Much With Body is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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

Friday Poem – ‘The Leech House’ by Rhiannon Hooson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Leech House’ by Rhiannon Hooson from her forthcoming collection Goliat.

This cover shows a ghost-like figure wrapped in a sheet standing in a field at dusk. The text reads: Goliat 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.

The Leech House
She says he is older than me. I think it is a lie,
but in his tank (round, like a chalice), he moves
like an eel; he moves like a dream. Come winter
someone must stoke the fire in the leech house,
bring fresh moss, sweep out the channel in the floor
where the river sends its emissary, while behind their glass
the leeches dance. My lady has me mark on little labels
when each leech has last been fed: a leech
can live a year without blood, but each dark moon
when the fever comes for her, he lies across her calf,
or sometimes the smooth warm skin at the crook
of her elbow. I scrub his tank clean while he is out of it.
She says a leech is her true companion: the only thing
that knows blood as well as a woman. Is it strange
she has a favourite? Fresh earth for him, and cold clean
water, and green pond moss. I do not like to look
when he is feeding, but she smiles, and it is relief
in her face, not fondness, as if as he drank he took from her
the knowledge of a thing so painful she could not bear
to know it.

Goliat is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us at 7:30pm at Chapter in Cardiff on National Poetry Day Thursday 6th October to see Rhiannon launch Goliat at Seren First Thursday alongside Hilary Llewellyn-Williams. If you can’t join us in person, we’re also streaming via Facebook live. Find the details on our website.

Seren First Thursday October. Hilary Llewellyn-Williams and Rhiannon Hooson. In person and streamed online. Thursday 6 October 7:30pm BST. Tickets £3 on the door or watch live on Facebook for free.

Friday Poem – ‘Fish. Oh. Fish’ by Judy Brown

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Fish. Oh. Fish’ by Judy Brown from her forthcoming collection Lairs.

This cover shows a collage of a woman sitting in a field at twilight starting at a giant black orb, in the distance, filled with stars. Red mountains stretch out behind it. The text reads Lairs 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 mocking, fearful and analytical. Judy Brown’s 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.

Fish. Oh. Fish
‘Even snakes lie together’ – D.H. Lawrence (‘Fish’)
Your egg eye is open and you look worried.
You’re the scaly junior lawyer at midnight
f
alling short on her target of a year’s billable hours.
Corporate fish, you’re bright as pain, sliced up.
You share the water with a spill of inky stripes.
Y
our kind blaze colours fine as banknotes.
Oh, fish, you have whisked up a clever curve
defining the future as it draws itself into a fist.
Then the e
vening comes on, pistachio and blue.
You breathe and flex between bars of dark.
A clerk could still walk into the hot, open night
lea
ving a jacket on the back of her office chair.
A lit anglepoise floats above the papery desk.
There’s a deep anglerfish clocking the hours.
No one m
ust turn off your light while you are gone
or there’ll be nothing to swim back to
but a scrunchie of kelp, uncounted on dry sand.
Little fish,
everything that matters happens here.

Lairs is available to pre-order on the Seren website: £9.99

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