Friday Poem – ‘Off the Hook’ by Carol Rumens

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Off the Hook’ by Carol Rumens from her collection De Chirico’s Threads, chosen by our new poetry editors Rhian Edwards and Zoë Brigley.

This cover shows a colourful painting  of two abstract figures by Georges De Chirico

De Chirico’s Threads by Carol Rumens features an unusual centre-piece, a verse-play, fizzing with ideas and surrealist imagery, based on the life and work of the Italian painter Georges De Chirico, as well as distinctive and beautifully crafted individual poems by one of the UK’s best poets.

Off the Hook
For Isabella
In those complicated days, only the rich
Had ‘phones. The rest of us queued
To get into a tall red box: its windows were sticky
And it smelt of damp concrete and cigarette-smoke.
The telephone didn’t look friendly,
Shiny-black on its ledge, a bakelite toad.
You’d pick the hand-set up, and hate the purr,
That rumble of hunger unappeasable.
You counted out heavy pennies, pushed Button A.
Fingered the wheel around and let it re-roll
- Three letters, four numbers. You wanted to run
When the paired rings resounded. How hopeless you were!
You stabbed Button B, and thought you might die.
The money clanked through loudly:
Your voice came out super-polite, as it did in ‘Phone Land,
Leaving your mind quite dead behind one ear,
Telling him you couldn’t come to the party,
You had too much homework. A complete lie.
Some live with their mobiles snug to their lips,
Or melting against their cheeks.
They belong to a different race. They sound so happy.
I bury mine, and panic at its warble.
And only in deepest love would I make a call
And not be relieved when I heard the ‘engaged’ beeps.
But when it’s your voice, Isabella, saying hello,
So brave and clear, with nothing at all phoney
(Ahem) in your yes and no, I see why it’s good
To talk. I wish you a lifetime of easy phoning.
Be mobile-merry, and never mind the bills
Or curse the bells. I’ll stick to e-mail, though.

De Chirico’s Threads is available on the Seren website: £8.99

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

Friday Poem – ‘Doxology’ by Dai George

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Doxology’ by Dai George from his collection Karaoke King.

The cover of Karaoke King shows a drawing of a teenage boy wearing a red and brown stripped vest and white shirt. His glasses are crooked and he is wearing a crumpled yellow crown.

Dai George’s confident second collection Karaoke King, addresses the contentious nature of the times. Always deeply thoughtful but also alternately ebullient, angry, curious, ashamed, the poet moves through urban and digital spaces feeling both uneasy and exhilarated. There is a feeling of history shifting, as a younger generation confronts its ethical obligations, its sense of complicity and disappointment. Ecological crisis hovers in the background. Karaoke King also contains numerous reflections on popular culture, culminating in ‘A History of Jamaican Music’, a sequence at the heart of the volume speaking to urgent contemporary questions of ownership and privilege, pain and celebration. 

Doxology
Blessings flow, through narrow fields, a weir
finds restitution as it falls.
Tightroping gulls, the crumbling edge
is anxious as they slip and cling to show them
peace below. I number the blessings
in a split and democratic sky.
The clemency of inland water.
The resourcefulness of creatures left to try.
Blessings flow, but trouble finds me
in the impasse after rain. I mean democratic
as an argument that neither side can win.
Praise grass from which the pylons ship
invisible cargos that I wait upon
unthinkingly, an emperor inured to the hand
that serves him fruit.
You’ll find little god here but demanding
drifts of pollen, little trouble but a boy
whose dream last night was of a concert
and his frozen voice.
The gulls find trouble in a moment
they can’t trust, a wind that smashes them aloft
then drops beyond the river.
Obstacles and carrion,
fluidity and rest, a hatchling woken
in its nest of foil. The parliament still warring
through its agonies of choice,
the hustle never ending
nor the trouble nor the joy.

Karaoke King is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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

Earlier this year, Dai George put together a playlist of songs that tie in with poems from Karaoke King. Take a look here.

Friday Poem – ‘21. When he tells me I’m not allowed’ by Kim Moore

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘21. When he tells me I’m not allowed’ by Kim Moore from All The Men I Never Married.

The cover of All The Men I Never Married shows a collage of a man made up of small images of nature - butterflies, flowers, leaves

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.

21.
When he tells me I’m not allowed to play with cars
because I’m a girl, I bring his arm up to my mouth
and bite. I’m sent to the Wendy House to pretend
to be good. Blank-faced dolls stare up at me.
Pretend oven filled with plastic fish-fingers.
Pretend windows with flowery curtains
sewn by someone else’s mother. Pretend hoover,
pretend washing machine. Pretend teapots
and tea-set. I watch through a gap in the wall
as my teacher sits in her chair, crossing her legs
in the way she told us only yesterday
we should copy. Be ladylike she said.
Stop showing your knickers. I’m burning in here
as she calls the class to order, waits for them
to cross their legs and settle. I long to sit
at her feet, listen to all the old stories
of sleeping women who wait to be rescued.
The book is a bird, its wings held tight in her hands.
She bends the cover back so the spine cracks,
balances it on one palm, turns to me and tells me
turn around, at once, face the wall.

All The Men I Never Married 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 – ‘More Context Required’ by Vidyan Ravinthiran

Following our previous guest post by Zoë Brigley on ecojustice, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘More Context Required’ by Vidyan Ravinthiran from 100 Poems to Save the Earth.

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

Our climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. 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 from editors Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans, this landmark anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have. 

Vidyan Ravinthiran
M O R E C O N T E x T R E Q U I R E D
There is no clear picture as yet
as to how many tigers were killed or if they were blue
because it’s that
time of year and they did themselves in as you do.
I have been becoming more
and more independent but I’m not a journalist
or the kind of guy asked if I know the score
now it’s hard to remember even if we won or lost,
and who we are exactly. There was
a protest, I remember that, and stories
about women and children
that somehow became about a witch and her cauldron,
or how exactly the tiger got his stripes.
And beautiful computer-generated maps.

100 Poems to Save the Earth is available on the Seren website: £12.99

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

Read 100 Poems to Save the Earth co-editor Zoë Brigley’s guest post on ecojustice here.

Friday Poem – ‘Offering’ by Alexandra Davis

As the last Friday Poem of 2021, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Offering’ by Alexandra Davis from the festive pamphlet Twelve Poems for Christmas.

Christmas Closing dates

The Seren Offices will be closed for Christmas from Thursday 23rd December until Monday 4th January. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas Nadolig Llawen
Offering
for Rufus
After the wrapping, unwrapping.
After unwrapping, the mess.
Through paper wasteland my boy wades;
his hot, sticky hands embrace my face,
pressed like a prayer, gargoyling my smile.
Our brown eyes speak of love.
Along with the giving, the learning.
After the learning, his deed.
Up fairylit stairs he charges, inspired;
above me the ceiling clunks like a factory;
he delivers two papers beneath the tree:
one for his daddy, one for me.
After the folding, the hiding, the finding,
the moment of moment: his hurried gifts.
Each scarecrow portrait, carefully drawn,
guards a faded five pound note.
I accept this gold with kisses.
Later I post the paper money back into his box.
Alexandra Davis

Don’t forget to visit your local bookshop for last minute Christmas gifts. Find your local shops using the Books Council of Wales or Booksellers Association shop finders.

Have you seen the new Seren Subscription? Buy today and receive your first book in January 2022. Annual and gift subscriptions available.

Friday Poem – ‘The Calving’ by Ilse Pedler

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Calving’ by Ilse Pedler from her debut poetry collection Auscultation.

This cover shows an image of a stethoscope against a white background with an orange butterfly resting on the cord.

Ilse Pedler is a veterinary surgeon who works in Kendal. Her debut collection is 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.

The Calving
Straw hastily spread
crisps under the frost’s force,
a single dusty bulb
explores the darkness.
She stamps a warning,
twists her tethered head,
the whites of her eyes
moons of fear.
The cowman and his lad
stamp their numbing toes,
thick square hands
freezing on the halter’s buckle.
I prepare ropes and a jack,
roll up my sleeves,
take off my watch and ring,
push them deep into my pocket.
I trail cold gel up my arm
like the track of a snail,
pinch my fingers together to ease
the passage and slip inside.
Following the wall of the womb
I touch nose and ear,
inch loops of rope
over knuckles of hooves,
twist the ends over the hooks
on the jack and start to pull.
She bellows her pain,
crushes my bones on hers.
We both strain to birth
this new life - and only she
and I are warm,
and I am at the warmth’s core.

Auscultation is available on the Seren website: £9.99

It’s not too late to order on the Seren website in time for Christmas. If you’re still struggling for inspiration why not look through our Christmas Gift Guide? Or check out the new Seren Gift Subscription.

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

Friday Poem – ‘Going to Liverpool’ by Sheenagh Pugh

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Going to Liverpool’ by Sheenagh Pugh from the anthology Newspaper Taxis: Poetry After The Beatles. Congratulations to Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics which won Waterstones Book of the Year 2021.

Newspaper Taxis: Poetry After the Beatles. Edited by Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Woolley.

January 1963. ‘Please, Please Me’ by The Beatles shoots to number one. So begins a new era, in which one band transforms the face of music, youth and popular culture. Taking in everything from the music, their influence, the way we lived then and the way we live now, Newspaper Taxis is a response to the Beatles’ creativity and capacity to influence successive generations. Beatles fans young and old will want this anthology to add to their collection.

GOING TO LIVERPOOL

I am a middle-aged woman
travelling on business
and I’m going to Liverpool,

where I’ll take time out
to visit Albert Dock
and the museum

where my youth is preserved.
The fashions I followed,
the songs I knew by heart,

the faces that convulsed
my own into screams
and sobs, they’ll all be there.

I’m going to Liverpool,
and it is autumn.
The fields outside Leominster

lie in stubble, the leaves
of Ludlow’s trees are jaundiced
and flushed with the fever

that says they’re finished.
The ticket collector
said Thank you, Madam.

My daughter’s grown up
and my mother’s dead,
and between the pages

of the notebook
where I’m writing this
I keep a yellowed ticket

to a match, a picture
of an actor, Edwin Morgan’s reply
to my fan letter,

and I’m going to Liverpool
because I’m the kind
that always will.

Sheenagh Pugh

Newspaper Taxis is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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

Browse the Seren Christmas Gift Guide for more gift recommendations for your loved ones.

Have you heard about the new Seren Subscription? Buy today and receive three brand-new Seren books in 2022. Find our more on our website www.serenbooks.com/subscription.

Friday Poem – ‘Eva’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Eva’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke from her new collection We Have to Leave the Earth.

This cover shows a photo of a balled up piece of blue fishing-twine lying against a pale pink and blue background.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s most recent 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.

Eva

Then you were here
real as a wound.

They placed you in my arms
with such care I thought you a parcel of feathers

that might fly away.
I stroked your face –

your eyes were midnight blue.
Time bended to you,

language re-strung its instruments
to sound your name.

Visitors admired your lace-
ears, your peony fists, but they

could not see you as I did –
you slid from your skin

just as you had slipped out of me
and became a shard

of morning light, turning
cobwebs to crystal thread,

the windowsill a gold bar,
dew on hedges constellations

of delicacy. I knew then
this love was alchemy.

Our bond is not made of that loose
wet rope they cut

but of instruments that show
the unseen and sound the silent,

the heart’s infinite missions
harnessed in flight.

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

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

Join us online for Virtual First Thursday on 2nd December from 7:30pm GMT where Carolyn will be reading from We Have to Leave the Earth alongside Jeremy Dixon. Tickets are £2 plus Eventbrite admin fee. Buy yours here www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/216146057677.

Friday Poem – ‘Bowerbirds’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Bowerbirds’ by Deryn Rees-Jones from her collection Erato which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year.

This cover shows a blurred black and white image of someone dancing.

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. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? 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.

Bowerbirds
Start now with the smallest things,
a pile of blackened acorns, glinting beetle wings,
the green fruit and purple flowers of the potato bush.
He trails a path of halts and hesitations
like stations of the cross,
turns colour in his mind, perspective.
Snail shells or the blue of berries?
(Is that a bud of jasmine in his beak?)
His bower, I see, is thatched with orchid stems,
moss laid like a lawn at the entrance to his bivouac,
orange leaves like a pool of restless koi.
This stuff he collects as a small boy might,
adrift on a prayer of football cards and dinosaurs.
All settles as he eyes her. And here now,
like a seal on his heart, a bed of blooms
pulled from a bush.
How carefully he’s considered her.
This pink, he thinks, of roses.

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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

Looking for Christmas gift inspiration? Browse our Christmas Gift Guide for literary ideas for the whole family.

Friday Poem ­– ‘Thirlmere’ by Rhiannon Hooson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Thirlmere’ by Rhiannon Hooson from 100 Poems to Save the Earth.

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

Our climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. 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 from editors Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans, this landmark anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have. 

Thirlmere
After we lit the last candle
the gales couldn't hold us any more.
Along the lane the walls had begin
to slump, water sluicing through them 
green as grass, but we drove
through anyway and out into the valley.
The fields were polished flat.
Trees were hung with drooping ropes
of fleece that caught in the breeze like kudzu.
Banks of shale sprawled
draining across the roads, and the sky
was open, dizzying and blue, tall into the air
above the crowns of our heads, 
and the slate face of the lake
was the same as always. Lakes survive
any flood, lie oblique in their hollows,
streaked with the half-truths of glimpsed reflections. 
The birds were only then beginning to sound.
All across the fields the fallen trees were burning.

100 Poems to Save the Earth is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Rhiannon Hooson’s collection The Other City is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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