‘A Formula for Night is a significant journey for both the poet and the reader. Take it.’ – DURA
Tamar Yoseloff is the author of four collections, including Sweetheart, a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation and the winner of the Jerwood / Aldeburgh Festival Prize. A Formula for Nightincludes selections from all her previously published books, plus pieces from collaborations with artists and new work.
The weather has suddenly taken a cold turn in our corner of the world, so to remember this year’s hot months our Friday Poem this week is ‘Summer’ by Catherine Fisher, from her collection The Unexplored Ocean.
‘She writes imaginatively, bringing dead things to life, boldly placing them in the present world.’
This beautiful collection mixes vivid poems about the Welsh landscape —such as ‘The Four Seasons’ which this poem is part of— with historical monologues like ‘Incident at Conwy’, and scenes from myth like ‘Merlin on Ynys Enlli’.
Tonight Claire Williamson will be reading alongside fellow Seren poets Elizabeth Parker and Ross Cogan, and three Parthian poets, for Cardiff Book Festival’s Friday Night Poetry Party. In anticipation, our Friday Poem is ‘Extremities’ from Claire’s recently published collection, Visiting the Minotaur.
‘Claire Williamson’s poems are beguiling hybrids – self-assured yet emotionally raw, mysterious yet not precious, meditations of wonder and exorcisms of grief.’
– Michel Faber
In Visiting the Minotaur, Williamson’s inventive and intensely felt collection, the poet must enter a labyrinth of her own complicated family history, a history beset with secrets and lies, in order to come to terms with her own identity. She borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, of city life, in order to fashion her artful meditations on experience and mortality.
We are thrilled that the Society of Authors has just awarded Katrina Naomi an Author’s Foundation grant to help complete work for her second Seren collection, due in 2020. In celebration, our Friday Poem this week is taken from Katrina’s previous book, The Way the Crocodile Taught Me, which we published in 2016.
‘Letter to my Mother’ is ripe with anger, sorrow and the burden of time. It is not just the weight of years though, but the physical mass of the speaker’s stepfather that dominates, despite his long-ago death: ‘All these years, his 17 stones/ pressing down on you’.
The poems in The Way the Crocodile Taught Me often confront difficult figures and past trauma with a tragi-comic slant, resulting in intense and intimate portraits that are at once heartbreaking and hilarious. We often find, as in ‘Letters to my Mother’, that interspersed with the awful, there are moments of contemplation, redemption, realisation.
This week our Friday Poem is ‘Red Road Flats’, from Caroline Smith’s poignant and hard-hitting collection, The Immigration Handbook, in which the poems are carefully crafted tributes to the gut-wrenching stories Smith hears every day in her work as an Immigration Caseworker.
This poem is based on a true story of a family who committed suicide following the refusal of their asylum claim. Before being ‘dispersed’ to Glasgow by the Home Office, they lived in Wembley and the father regularly came to our immigration surgery for help. I can see him pacing by the window in a worn, grey suit with a big brief case held against his chest, constantly checking the window for someone following him. He once pointed to a white delivery van outside the building: certain there was a satellite tracking dish inside. He brought with him an envelope of white powder he claimed he’d been sent. We had it tested through the House of Commons security – it was harmless.
After their deaths, I read back through the letters and glimpsed the terror of the world he had created and believed he was trapped in; where he could no longer trust appearance as reality, where the known world is not what it appears to be. A world where truth was constructed to harm him. Welcome to the Home Office. Caroline Smith
‘A Boat Called Annalise is a triumphant collection of poetry, marking a new embarkation for Hjelmgaard as a poet. It’s a collection which can be read time and time again, and will especially be appreciated by readers looking for new beginnings, those experiencing life’s traumas and working through the healing process called grief.’ – Wales Arts Review Lynne Hjelmgaard’s most recent collection, A Boat Called Annalise vividly recalls a sailboat journey, as well as a journey through marriage, and ultimately grief. ‘Roots’ is one of the movingly elegiac poems in the final section, in which the poet reflects on mortality and happiness. Her work is full of sentiment without being sentimental.
The National Eisteddfod is coming to Cardiff, and with just a few hours to go, we couldn’t think of a better Friday Poem to feature than Dannie Abse’s ‘Return to Cardiff’.
Wales, and Cardiff in particular, haunted the imagination of the great Dannie Abse. In Welsh Retrospective he writes movingly about the Cardiff of his childhood, home of his beloved Bluebirds football team, and also about the small village of Ogmore-by-Sea, location of early holidays and for many years his home in Wales. Selected from the whole of Dannie Abse’s writing career, the book includes such well known and well-loved poems as ’In the Theatre’ and our featured poem today, ’Return to Cardiff’, alongside many previously uncollected poems. Welsh Retrospective gives fascinating insights into Dannie Abse’s Wales and his versatility as a poet.
Listen to Dannie Abse performing this remarkable poem at Seren’s First Thursday event, December 2009:
Our Friday Poem this week is ‘I Am In Love With Myself People Say’, from Marianne Burton’s new collection, Kierkegaard’s Cupboard.
Did you know: all our books (including Marianne’s) are half price this week? Take a peek at our website before the offer ends.
The life of Søren Kierkegard has inspired this new book of poems, in which Burton delves in to the extensive writings both by and about the influential Danish philosopher. Kierkegaard’s Cupboardis split into six sections, each section inspired by an aspect or event in Søren Kierkegaard’s life.
‘I Am In Love With Myself People Say’ takes inspiration from The Seducer’s Diary – a fictional parallel to Kierkegaard’s failed relationship with his beloved Regine. Intending to make their broken engagement easier for Regine to bear, Kierkegaard portrays himself as the unworthy seducer to her fictional counterpart, Cordelia. In Burton’s poem we feel the full force of Johannes’ self-serving love: the sonnet form serving in defence of the speaker, rather than praise for its object.
Last night, in front of a packed audience, we were thrilled to witness Zoë Skoulding accepting a Cholmondeley Award for an outstanding body of poetic work. In celebration, our Friday Poem today is ‘History’, a poem from Zoë’s latest collection, The Museum of Disappearing Sounds.
The disappearing sounds of Skoulding’s collection may be either in the rich sonic environments that the poems observe, or in the resonance of words themselves, which exist in traces of speech and breath. These poems can provoke states of eerie unease, or of passion evoked with shimmering densities of verbal texture. Exploratory and alive to the senses,The Museum of Disappearing Sounds creates new perspectives on language and the world in which it exists.
Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Swan’, from Ross Cogan’s new collection, Bragr.
Whether it’s myth intended to explain the constellations, the secret of eternal life, or the bloodthirsty tale of the mead of poetry, Ross Cogan’s collection Bragr (meaning ‘poetry’ in Old Norse) is a reimagining of Norse mythology for our times. The collection also focuses on environmental concerns: the earth’s incredible beauty seems all the more fragile in the face of habitat loss and global warming.
In ‘Swan’ the poet recalls an archaeological excavation of a neolithic settlement in Denmark that unearthed a remarkable grave. The excavation was detailed in Simon Mithen’s book, After the Ice.