Seren Christmas Gift Guide 2022

This Christmas, find gifts for the whole family with our 2022 gift guide. We’ve got special offers on some of your favourite authors, books which are hot-off-the-press and popular classics.

Bestsellers

All The Men I Never Married by Kim Moore

'All The Men I Never Married' by Kim Moore

Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Poetry 2022, All The Men I Never Married is the astounding second collection by Kim Moore. Pointedly feminist, challenging and keenly aware of the contradictions and complexities of desire, this collection speaks to the experiences of many women. The 48 numbered poems take us through a gallery of exes and significant others where we encounter rage, pain, guilt, and love.

Four Dervishes by Hammad Rind

'Four Dervishes' by Hammed Rind

“Easily the most remarkable work of fiction to come out of Wales in a thousand moons” says Jon Gower. Hammad Rind’s debut novel Four Dervishes is a satirical comedy which takes inspiration from the dastan, an ornate form of oral history. Forced onto the street by a power cut, the unnamed narrator finds himself sheltering in a cemetery where he comes across four others – a grave digger, an aristocrat, an honourable criminal and a messiah – each with a past, and with a story to tell. Crimes have been committed, dark family secrets revealed, fortunes rise and fall, the varieties of love are explored, and new selves are discovered in a rich round of storytelling. And as the Disappointed Man discovers, a new story is about to begin…

Bar 44: Tapas y Copas by Owen & Tom Morgan

Bar 44 Tapas y Copas is the perfect gift for hardcore foodies and home cooks alike. Packed with over 100 out of this world recipes which elevate Spanish cuisine to exciting new heights, it includes dishes for any occasion. Chicken sobrassada and spiced yoghurt, beetroot gazpacho, tuna tartare with apple ajo blanco, lamb empanada, strawberry and cava sorbet and pear and olive oil cake are just some of the dishes you can try at home. There’s even a chapter dedicated to sherry and Spanish wines with some fantastic cocktails mixed in for good measure. What more could you want?

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

'100 Poems to Save the Earth' edited by Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans'

A book for both the climate conscious and poetry fanatics, this landmark anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth brings together poems by the best new and established contemporary poets from Britain, Ireland, America and beyond. They invite us to fine-tune our senses, to listen to the world around us, and pay attention to what we have been missing. The defining crisis of our time is revealed to be fundamentally a crisis of perception. We must act now if we are to save the only planet we have.

Dark Land, Dark Skies by Martin Griffiths

'Dark Land, Dark Skies: The Mabinogion in the Night Sky' by 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 one. Griffiths draws on his research into the past use of Welsh heroes from the Mabinogion in the naming of constellations, to create an interesting and provocative guidebook that combines astronomy with a new perspective on Welsh mythology.

Darkness in the City of Light by Tony Curtis

The ‘city of light’ under German occupation: Paris, a place, a people, lives in flux. And among these uncertainties, these compromised loyalties, these existences under constant threat, lives Marcel Petiot, a mass murderer. A doctor, a resistance fighter, a collaborator: who can tell? Stretching backwards and forwards through the twentieth century, Darkness in the City of Light is a remarkable multi-form novel that combines fiction, journals, poetry and images in its investigation of what war can let loose, and how evil can dominate a man. The compelling debut novel by Tony Curtis.

Christmas Bundle: The Occasional Vegan and The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott

'The Occasional Vegan' by Sarah Philpott (background) with 'The Seasonal Vegan' by Sarah Philpott (foreground).

The Occasional Vegan is a collection of 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. Her recipes are homely and easily cooked, suitable for gourmet cooks and the kitchen novice.

In her follow-up, The Seasonal Vegan she presents a kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of fine food writing and beautiful photography. Her guide to eating with the seasons takes a realistic approach to shopping cheaply and sustainably and proves that the vegan lifestyle is anything but expensive.

163 Days by Hannah Hodgson

'163 Days' by Hannah Hodgson.

In her debut collection 163 Days Hannah Hodgson uses a panoply of medical, legal, and personal vocabularies to explore what illness, death and dying does to a person as both patient and witness. In her long poem ‘163 Days’, her longest period of hospitalisation to date, she probes various truths which clash like a tray of dropped instruments in a silent operating theatre. The mundanity of hospital life is marbled by a changing landscape of mood, hope and loss. A gap yawns between the person she is, and the person in her medical notes. In ‘Aftercare’, Hannah navigates the worlds of both nightclubs and hospice care as she embarks on a new version of her life as a disabled adult. An important collection, in which Hodgson’s true voice takes poetry into difficult places.

The Rivalry of Flowers by Shani Rhys James

'The Rivalry of Flowers' by Shani Rhys James.

The Rivalry of Flowers is a book of new paintings and works by Shani Rhys James, one of Britain’s leading and most distinctive artists. Her latest work has developed a lighter palette to deal with new subjects of flowers and colourful patterned wallpaper backgrounds. These themes of domesticity are not anodyne however, but informed by ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 story about the plight of women in the home. Rhys James’s paintings continue her exploration of the position of women in society, and in particular how women can be imprisoned by consumerism and the domestic environment.

With contributions from William Packer, Francesca Rhydderch and Edward Lucie-Smith.

Christmas Bundle: Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers and The Stromness Dinner by Peter Benson

'The Stromness Dinner' by Peter Benson (background) with 'Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers' by Peter Benson (foreground).

If a light, witty read is what you’re looking for, then you’ve found it here. Kidnap Fury of the Smoking Lovers details exactly how Fargo Hawkins steals a car to travel across Britain with his ex-employer’s wife. Described by Buzz Magazine as the ‘perfect read to provide a bit of escapism’, this novel will bring a bit of joy in lieu of winter gloom this Christmas.  

Preter’s previous novel The Stromness Dinner is the story of two Londoners who follow their dreams. Odd job man Ed and city banker Claire end up in Stromness where they find anything is possible in this compelling novel. Kind, funny, narrated by white van man Ed, The Stromness Dinner is a novel which rattles along with “irresistible pace and panache” – Val Hennessy.

Twelve Poems for Christmas edited by Amy Wack

'Twelve Poems for Christmas' edited by Amy Wack.

Twelve Poems for Christmas is a sparkling selection of Christmas poems, 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.

Fiction Favourites

This Is Not Who We Are by Sophie Buchaillard

'This Is Not Who We Are' by Sophie Buchaillard.

This is Not Who We Are is the gripping debut novel by Sophie Buchaillard which follows the lives of two women, Iris and Victoria. In 1994 they are pen friends. Iris writes to Victoria from her home in Paris. Victoria writes back from a refugee camp in Goma, having fled the genocide in Rwanda in which thousands are being killed. One day Victoria’s letters stop, and Iris is told she has been moved.

Twenty years after their unlikely pen pal correspondence, they are living different lives in different places. But this one horrific event still connects them. As the pressure of long-kept family secrets builds, will they ever find each other?

Sabrinas Teardrop by Leslie Scase

'Sabrina's Teardrop' by Leslie Scase.

Fans of historical crime fiction are sure to be captivated by Leslie Scase’s latest Inspector Chard mystery Sabrina’s Teardrop. Returning to his native Shrewsbury, the previously enigmatic Inspector Chard finds himself arrested for a horrific double murder. Facing execution, he must fight to clear his name. As tensions rise, can Chard find a missing woman and the stolen Sabrina’s Teardrop sapphire to solve the riddle before it is too late?

Don’t forget to also look up book two in the series Fatal Solution.

Two-book Deal: Scar Tissue and An Affair of the Heart by Clare Morgan

'An Affair of the Heart' by Clare Morgan (background) with 'Scar Tissue' by Clare Morgan (foreground).

In a world of uncertainties, how do human beings navigate the increasingly complex interrelations of love, desire, home, community? In her short story collections An Affair of the Heart and Scar Tissue Clare Morgan offers a fresh perspective on the nature of individual existence in all its transient vulnerability. In these lyrical, evocative and searching stories, Clare Morgan unflinchingly explores the darker and more challenging aspects of emotional, sexual and familial relationships, while simultaneously celebrating the joys of being alive in an unfathomable world. 

The Chicken Soup Murder by Maria Donovan

'The Chicken Soup Murder' by Maria Donovan.

Maria Donovan’s debut novel, The Chicken Soup Murder, subverts the crime and murder mystery genres in a meditation on bereavement, friendship and the meaning of family. This emotionally involving coming-of-age narrative is told with resilience and humour by eleven-year-old Michael, a thoughtful boy who tests the boundaries of his own behaviour as he carries a burden of knowledge no one else seems willing to share.

Japan Stories by Jayne Joso

Japan Stories is a spellbinding collection of short fiction set in Japan by Jayne Joso. Each centres on a particular character – a sinister museum curator, a son caring for his dementia-struck father, a young woman who returns to haunt her killer, and a curious homeless man intent on cleaning your home with lemons! This work also includes Joso’s stories, ‘I’m not David Bowie’ and ‘Maru-chan’ an homage to Yayoi Kusama. Together, these compelling narratives become a mosaic of life in contemporary Japan, its people, its society, its thinking, its character. Illustrated by Manga artist Namiko, Japan Stories provides a window into a country we would all love to know more deeply.  

Please by Christopher Meredith

'Please' by Christopher Meredith.

“Punctuation killed my wife,” states octogenarian Vernon in the opening sentence of Please. Full of humanity, sly humour and verbal invention, Christopher Meredith’s fifth novel is his shortest and arguably funniest, most innovative and most outrageous. It’s a tragicomedy touching on themes of the limits of knowledge, on isolation, and male frailty in new and playful ways. The whole gradually and inexorably unlocks the meanings of its extraordinary opening sentence in a complex and dazzling psychological and linguistic entertainment that ends in a surprising, dreamlike and ultimately moving denouement.

Miriam, Daniel and Me by Euron Griffith

'Miriam, Daniel and Me' by Euron Griffith.

When Miriam fell in love with Padraig life seemed simple. But she soon discovered that love is a treacherous business. Everything changed when she met Daniel. She was taken down an unexpected path which would dictate and dominate the rest of her life.

Spanning three generations of a North Wales family in a Welsh-speaking community, Miriam, Daniel and Me is Euron Griffith’s absorbing and compelling story of family discord, political turmoil, poetry, jealousy… and football.

Top Travelogues

The Edge of Cymru: A Journey by Julie Brominicks

'The Edge of Cymr: A Journey' by Julie Brominicks.

The Edge of Cymru is the story of Julie Brominicks’ year-long walk around the edge of Wales. As an educator she knew a lot about the country’s natural resources. But as a long established incomer from England and more recent Welsh learner, she wanted to know more about its history, about Wales today, and her place in it. As her walk unwinds the history of Wales is also unwound, from the twenty-first century back to pre-human times, often viewed through an environmental lens. Brominicksʼ observations of the places and people she meets on her journey make a fascinating alternative travelogue about Wales and the lives its people live. A quest of personal discovery, the narrative of The Edge of Cymru is also a refreshingly different way of looking at place, identity, memory and belonging.

Delirium by Robert Minhinnick

'Delirium' by Robert Minhinnick.

In his new book of short prose pieces, Delirium, award winning author Robert Minhinnick delivers a breathless epic. It opens with a real 1945 diary kept in Burma, and Minhinnick telling stories to his mother in her care home. There are a series of pictures of war-stricken Baghdad, and vignettes about place and travel, dedicated to Jan Morris. On the way we encounter a Middle East island devoted to sustainability, close ups of what clearing a family house reveals, and the writer’s intimately imagined Welsh sand dunes, as well as the Covid pandemic, threats of extinction, and images of post-apocalyptic life.

Real Hay-on-Wye by Kate Noakes

'Real Hay-on-Wye' by Kate Noakes.

This new addition to the Real Series explores the town of Hay-on-Wye, home to the prestigious the Hay Literature Festival, How the Light Gets In festival, and so-called ‘town of books’. Kate Noakes ventures into its hinterland, which is historically so much a part of the town too. The Black Mountains to the south, the river and Clyro to the north, rural Herefordshire to the east and out towards Brecon to the west fall into her territory, a rich and varied area, which appears in so many travel guides and so much literature, and in the DNA of Hay locals as their patch. The beautiful countryside and dramatic mountains surrounding Hay also bear witness to change and Noakes makes her own contribution to the cultural heritage of an area which has inspired artists and in particular writers, for centuries. Real Hay-on-Wye is full of discoveries in a place that is familiar to many, though not as familiar as we might think.

Critically-acclaimed

A City Burning by Angela Graham

'A City Burning' by Angela Graham.

Longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2021

A city burns in a crisis − because the status quo has collapsed and change must come. Every value, relationship and belief is shaken and the future is uncertain.

In the twenty-six stories in A City Burning, set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, children and adults face, in the flames of personal tragedy, moments of potential transformation. Some of these moments occur in mundane circumstances, others amidst tragedy or drama. On the threshold of their futures each must make a choice: how to live in this new ‘now’. 

Much With Body by Polly Atkin

'Much With Body' by Polly Atkin.

Longlisted for the Laurel Prize 2022

In Much With Body by Polly Atkin 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, 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.

The Amazingly Astonishing Story by Lucy Gannon

'The Amazingly Astonishing Story' by Lucy Gannon.

Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2021

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story is a frank and surprising look into a child’s tumultuous mind, a classic story of a working-class girl growing up in the 60s. Her Catholic upbringing, a father torn between daughter and new wife, her irreverent imagination and determination to enjoy life, mean this really is an amazing story (including meeting the Beatles).

‘The saddest, happiest, funniest books I’ve read for ages.’ – Dawn French

Inspiring Stories

Aperture: Life Through a Fleet Street Lens by John Downing

'Aperture: Life Through A Fleet Street Lens' by John Downing.

John Downing was the pre-eminent press photographer of his generation. His memoir, Aperture: Life Through a Fleet Street Lens, offers a unique and first-hand insight into life behind the Fleet Street lens during one of the most interesting periods of world history and a golden age of photojournalism. The glamour and excitement of journalism at the time: the hard-nosed editors, the rivalries, the ‘work hard play hard culture’, foreign assignments issued at the drop of a hat, are brought vividly to life, but so too is the toll on journalists and photographers. At a time when the world was less accessible than now, newspapers, and photojournalists in particular, played a vital role in shining light into some of its darker, more inaccessible parts. Completed shortly before his death, with the help of colleague Wendy Holden, Downing filed a story for the final time: his own remarkable life.

Elaine Morgan: Life Behind the Screen by Daryl Leeworthy

'Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen' by Daryl Leeworthy.

Elaine Morgan: A Life Behind the Screen is Daryl Leeworthy’s informative biography of award-winning screen writer Elaine Morgan. The book establishes her reputation and significant place in writing from Wales. It outlines her early days living only just above the poverty line in the Rhondda, before reading English Literature at Oxford, and examines her careers as an award-winning television writer and visionary anthropologist. Richly detailed it is essential in understanding the life and work of this important writer.

“A scintillating new biographical study, impressively researched and elegantly written.” – Dai Smith

Best New Poetry

Escape Room by Bryony Littlefair

'Escape Room' by Bryony Littlefair.

Escape Room is the long-awaited debut collection by Bryony Littlefair, following her Mslexia prize-winning pamphlet Giraffe. At the heart of Escape Room is the question of how to find light within the pain of anxiety and loss, the consolatory powers of friendship and creativity and the reimagining of life’s darkness as ‘an emerald, exciting kind of dark, a gaseous dark, dark / with a lot of light inside it.’

Balancing resolute joy, with humour and irony, it is a contemporary Betjemanesque exploration of suburban, middle-class life, with all its apathy and subconscious fear. Wryly observed this collection’s warmth, honesty and precision makes it an irresistible and perspicacious first collection.

Two-book Deal: Peter Finch’s Collected Poems: Volumes 1&2

'Collected Poems: One 1968-1997' by Peter Finch (background) with 'Collected Poems: Two 1997-2021' by Peter Finch (foreground).

Peter Finch’s two-volume Collected Poems chart the course of a remarkable writing career. A restless exploration of the ideas behind his boundary-pushing poems, they are a testament to the experimental in literature, to ways of doing it differently, and to an alternative modernist culture in Wales and Britain. Consequently, invaluably, they also open a window on a poetry scene seemingly lost from view to the twenty-first century. They remind us that there was interesting and vital writing happening outside of what has now calcified into the canon of twentieth century British poetry. And that Finch was at its cutting edge.  

“The publication of his collected poems in two big juicy volumes will delight readers new and old.” – The Western Mail

Lairs by Judy Brown

'Lairs' By 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 analytical, fearful and mocking in their response to the systems shaping an altered world. The 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. 

Homelands by Eric Ngalle Charles

'Homelands' By Eric Ngalle Charles.

In his debut collection 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.

Goliat by Rhiannon Hooson

'Goliat' by 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.

“Hooson’s poetry is a rich and assured gift—complex truths are revealed in language that is precise and luminous.” – Menna Elfyn

As If To Sing by Paul Henry

'As If To Sing' By Paul Henry.

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 Paul Henry’s compelling body of work.

As If To Sing explores the human condition through the language of music and does so with a mastery of poetics.’ – Wales Arts Review

Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere by Angela Graham

'Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere' by Angela Graham, with Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson.

Sanctuary is – urgent. The pandemic has made people crave it; political crises are denying it to millions; the earth is no longer our haven. This theme has enormous traction at a time of existential fear − especially among the young − that nowhere is safe. Even our minds and our bodies are not refuges we can rely on. Truth itself is on shaky ground. In Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere, Angela Graham and five other writers from Wales and Northern Ireland, addresses these critical situations from the inside. How we can save the earth, ourselves and others? How valid is the concept of a ‘holy’ place these days? Are any values still sacrosanct? We all deserve peace and security but can these be achieved without exploitation?

With Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson

“A necessary and urgent response to the world’s increasing crises…” – Robert Minhinnick

Same Difference by Ben Wilkinson

'Same Difference' by 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.

Books for Nature Lovers

Waterfalls of Stars by Rosanne Alexander

'Waterfalls of Stars' by Roseanne Alexander.

When 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. With great sensitivity, and humour, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. Her lyrical evocation of the natural world will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape. Waterfalls of Stars is the perfect gift for any one needing a captivating breath of literary air.

Christmas bundle: Wild Places Wales and Wild Places UK by Iolo Williams

'Wild Places: Wales' Top 40 Nature Sites' by Iolo Williams (background) with 'Wild Places UK: Uk's Top 40 Nature Sites' by Iolo Williams (foreground).

In these two books, television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his top 40 nature sites, first in Wales and then across the UK. He criss-crosses countries, taking in coastal sites from marshes to towering cliffs, to mountains, valleys, bogs, meadows, woods and land reclaimed from industry. Drawing on his considerable knowledge, he guides readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Illustrated in beautiful detail with glorious images of the sites by top nature photographers, naturalists of all kinds will find much to enjoy in these fascinating volumes.

The Owl House by Daniel Butler

'The Owl House' by Daniel Butler.

In The Owl House, Daniel Butler charts his relationship with two barn owls which nested in the barn of his rural mid-Wales home. In this pastoral exploration of his locale, rich in wildlife of all kinds, he roams the mountains and forests, takes trips to the coast, encounters all manner of animals and birds, and grows to understand the relationship between the local people and their surroundings. A rich and vivid portrait of one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of Britain – mid-Wales – broad in its horizons yet full of fascinating detail.

Seren Classics

The Green Bridge edited by John Davies

'The Green Bridge' edited by John Davies.

The short story has long been a popular form with writers and readers in Wales.  The Green Bridge, part of the Seren Classics series, collects work by 25 of the country’s foremost writers of the twentieth century in an entertaining and varied anthology. Horror, satire, humour, war, tales of the aristocracy, of navvies, love, and madness, industry, the countryside, politics and sport: these stories provide insight into the changing values of Wales and the world.

Tide-Race by Brenda Chamberlain

'Tide-Race' by Brenda Chamberlain.

Tide-Race is Brenda Chamberlain’s remarkable account of life on Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli in Welsh), a remote and mysterious island off the coast of North Wales, where she lived 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.

Stocking Fillers

Other Women’s Kitchens by Alison Binney

'Other Women's Kitchens' by Alison Binney

Winner of the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2020

Alison Binney’s debut pamphlet of poems Other Women’s Kitchens introduces us to a gifted new voice who writes with flair and feeling about coming out and coming of age as a gay woman in 21st century Britain. The collection explores the challenges of discovering and owning a lesbian identity in the 1980s and 1990s and the joy of finding both love and increased confidence in that identity as an adult. Beautifully entertaining, pointedly political and often very funny, Other Women’s Kitchens is essential reading.

Angola, America by Sammy Weaver

'Angola, America' by Sammy Weaver.

Winner of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2021

Angola, America takes its name from a prison in Louisiana in the southern United Sates. In these strikingly original, thoroughly contemporary, and deeply moving poems, we are immersed in the world the inmates must endure. From the first poem, when we witness a home-made tattoo and understand that this scarring and incision is a “map in the connective tissue of pain and loss”, we are drawn into this world in a way that is carefully observed and beautifully empathetic.

Flamingo by Kathryn Bevis

'Flamingo' By Kathryn Bevis.

Kathryn Bevis’s critically-acclaimed debut pamphlet Flamingo introduces us to a troupe of wild, unique, and captivating poems. Life and our own embodiment are brought sharply into focus as we encounter a variety of subjects including work, survival, love, and mortality. Formally inventive, these hopeful and sometimes surreal poems are not afraid to confront complex or difficult emotions. Cancer is posed as a ring-tailed lemur, capering through the sufferer’s body, and the title poem imagines death as a flamboyant transformation where the speaker shapeshifts into the afterlife. Each poem is a discovery and a joy.

“A stunning and original pamphlet… inspiring, impressive and wonderful.” – The London Grip

bodies, and other haunted houses by S.L. Grange

'bodies, and other haunted houses' by S.L. Grange.

Winner of the inaugural Poetry Wales Pamphlet Competition 2021

Speaking from and for LGBTQIA+ communities, SL Grange gives a voice to lost transcestors, celebrates acts of resistance, sings a gender-fluid love song, and hosts a tender-angry conversation with the ghosts of the personal and political histories that inhabit us. In true haunted house tradition, the non-human and the supernatural are also given rooms of their own; personal demons are summoned, we are entangled with our wilder sides. Witchcraft, seance and prophecy are invoked and brought up against sharp slices of reality. Described by judges as ‘strong and self-assured’, ‘sheer gorgeous’, and ‘a dark and brooding collection that combines the visceral nature of the body with the ephemeral and supernatural’, bodies, and other haunted houses is a beautifully crafted exploration of identity which queers time as well as self.

Subscriptions

Seren Gift Subscription

The one year Seren Gift Subscription is the perfect present for any book lover. The recipient will receive three brand-new Seren books across the year plus a range of other subscriber perks. Buy today and we’ll post them a gift card explaining who the gift is from to open on Christmas Day in advance of the first book arriving in January 2023. Every new subscriber will receive a Seren tote-bag, notebook and pen with their first delivery.

Poetry Wales Subscription

Founded in 1965, Poetry Wales is Wales’ foremost poetry magazine. Edited by Zoë Brigley, the magazine publishes internationally respected contemporary poetry, features and reviews in its triannual print and digital magazine. Its mission is to sustain and preserve the artistic works both inspiring our literary present and shaping our literary future. The perfect gift for any poetry lover.

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An Interview with Clare Morgan

To celebrate publication of her new short story collection Scar Tissue, we interviewed Clare Morgan about her inspiration, writing process and work teaching creative writing.

This cover shows a painting of a woman with short ginger hair staring out at the reader. She is wearing a pink camisole top with a heart icon over the left of her chest. The text reads Scar Tissue Clare Morgan.

Scar Tissue is the enigmatic new collection of short stories by Clare Morgan, a follow up to her newly reprinted collection An Affair of the Heart. As we travel from Wales and the Marches to places as far away as India, Paris, New England, Scandinavia and Spain, these lyrical, evocative and searching stories unflinchingly explore the darker and more challenging aspects of emotional, sexual and familial relationships, while simultaneously celebrating the joys of being alive in an unfathomable world.

You founded Oxford University’s creative writing programme and are director of the course. Before we discuss your new book, tell us more about the connection between being a writer and teaching creative writing. How do they inform one another? Do you have any advice for someone thinking of studying creative writing? 

I came to teaching creative writing rather by accident. I find that working with eager and able writers who are keen to explore and really take their work forward is stimulating and enriching. Our students come from a rich and diverse range of backgrounds and locations around the world, and the mix of voices and approaches this offers is unparalleled in helping to hone any writer’s ear and method. Working with other writers provides a community of comrades with a shared purpose. Addressing the challenges they face helps a writer to refresh and reinvigorate her own approaches.  As to advice: I’d say, look around carefully at what’s on offer; think very carefully about why you want to study creative writing in a formal setting. It’s not right for everyone, but can – in the right circumstances – be a life-changing experience that you’ll continue to treasure, whether you achieve significant publication or not.

Scar Tissue is separated into five distinct sections: Space; Home; Away; Nowhere; and Somewhere. What was the reason behind structuring the book in this way and what do each of these headings imply within the context of the book?

The stories fell naturally into these divisions. The first story – ‘Breathing on the Moon’ uses the concept of space and space travel as a metaphor for life experiences. The ‘Home’ section focuses on stories set in the Welsh Marches – a very distinct borderland between countries and cultures.. ‘Away’ places its characters in various locations around the world – the U.S, India, France – and explores the search for some kind of belonging. ‘Nowhere’ equally uses foreign settings (Scandinavia, Spain, a transatlantic flight from Washington), to consider lives in motion between different ways of being; while the final section, ‘Somewhere’, comes to rest in a medieval farmhouse in Snowdonia, where past lives co-exist and enrich the present, posing more questions than can ever be answered, and disturbing the veil between ‘then’ and ‘now’. Like scar tissue in the flesh, the collection as a whole looks at where things divided and where – and if – they have grown back together. It looks at what is and what might have been.

There is a strong sense of place in the stories in Scar Tissue. What does the concept of ‘place’ mean to you and how does it influence your writing?

Place is fundamental to who and what I am. It was a defining feature as I grew up in the Welsh countryside (rural Monmouthshire) and remains so. My paternal forebears were from Cardiganshire and Aberdare. My maternal family from the Marches – Pembridge Castle, Shobden, Symond’s Yat, Monmouth. Place to me is about belonging, or the absence of belonging. It has always been interlinked with history and time, and family, in complex ways.

You write often of relationships and their complexities. What draws you to this subject and how does it relate to other themes in your work? 

Relationships are fundamental to who we are and how we survive in the world. I believe they are infinitely complex and impossible ever to understand fully. The affections co-exist very often with their opposite.  Goodness and morality in all of us are countered by darker actions and instincts. My characters enact these endless oppositions and counter-tows, as they are buffeted by the equally complex and conflicting tides of life and circumstance. I think short stories have always explored these aspects of being human, from de Maupassant onwards through Raymond Carver and to George Saunders today.

You often switch between male and female narrators in your work, and many of the stories in Scar Tissue are written in the third person. How do you approach characterisation and narrative voice in your stories?

The stories speak to me in terms of who their central character is, and this influences the voice in terms of gender, and in terms of first, third or second person narration. I’ve always been comfortable writing from a male character. It just depends on who the story emanates from, and who I see and hear in my head. I often approach stories quite obliquely, and the third person allows plenty of room for manoeuvre in moving indirectly from the start point to the crux of the story.

The stories in Scar Tissue and your previous collection An Affair of the Heart are set in a wide range of geographical locations, although the characters in these stories aren’t always from those places. What drew you to each of these locations as settings for these stories? 

I’ve visited or worked in all the locations I write about. Being away from a usual environment enables a very different perspective on things in that being ‘other’ offers a detachment that fosters observation and reveals previously unrealised aspects of people and things.

In Scar Tissue American novelist Henry Miller and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche frequently appear, and elsewhere writers such as Virginia Wolf have featured in your work. How have these figures and other writers influenced your writing, and in particular the stories within Scar Tissue and An Affair of the Heart

Nietzsche and Woolf were characters in my novel A Book For All and None and have exercised a strong influence on my writing, as characters and as thinkers. Nietzsche’s writings on time, redemption and alienation are reflected in particular in some stories in Scar Tissue, while Woolf’s approaches to writing, and her contribution to the Modernist aesthetic, resonate throughout my work. Henry Miller is a key aspect of ‘Breathing on the Moon’ the first story in Scar Tissue, where he exercises a strong influence on the life and emotional approaches of the young central character.

In the story ‘Special’ you choose to write in second person. What difference does this make to the story and why did you make this decision?

The second person allows a writer to simultaneously occupy closeness and distance of voice and perspective. This give the almost hallucinatory quality of recollection that I was seeking in ‘Special’, where a young girl is at a turning point in her life and in her family’s fortunes.

Over twenty years have passed between first publication of An Affair of the Heart and your new collection Scar Tissue. How has your writing process changed during this time?

I think a constant has been the battle to carve out time to write, or at least substantial enough blocks of time to enable the intense concentration needed for a longer work. I used to write by hand initially, always in pencil. Now I tend to type onto my laptop, although I revert to longhand if I get stuck, or am writing in the middle of the night. Composing on my laptop still involves multiple drafts and sub-drafts (just as by hand) and I usually work with many windows open simultaneously, mimicking the pages of a A4 ruled writing book.

The last piece in Scar Tissue brings us inside your own home. What is the significance of ending the collection with this piece? 

The medieval farmhouse in Gwynedd where the last piece is set does offer a kind of permanence to set against the transient and fast-paced aspects of contemporary existence. Time appears to operate differently and there is a rootedness that doesn’t seem available in more recent settings. There’s a silence, too, through which it appears you can ‘hear’ the past and perhaps feel a connection to it that isn’t obvious elsewhere. It’s an illusion, no doubt, but perhaps a comforting one, and that has allowed me to suggest a kind of concreteness through being ‘Somewhere’ as opposed to ‘Nowhere’.

Scar Tissue is available on the Seren website for £9.99 or you can buy it in a bundle with An Affair of the Heart for just £15.00.

Join us for the launch of Scar Tissue at Kellogg College in Oxford at 6pm on Wednesday 28th September. RSVP to sarahjohnson@serenbooks.com.

Seren invites you to the launch of Scar Tissue by Clare Morgan. Wednesday 28th September 6-8pm. Kellogg College, 60 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6PN. RSVP to sarahjohnson@serenbooks.com by 5pm on Tuesday 27th September. ISBN 9781781726891. www.serenbooks.com. £9.99

Friday Poem – ‘[ search ]’ by Sammy Weaver

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘[ search ]’ by Sammy Weaver from her pamphlet Angola, America which won this year’s Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Prize.

This cover shows a geometric image of think white lines against black stripes. A gaping white hole is cut from the middle. The text reads: Angola, America. Sammy Weaver.

Angola, America, winner of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2021, takes its name from a prison in Louisiana in the southern United Sates. In these strikingly original, thoroughly contemporary, and deeply moving poems, we are immersed in the world the inmates must endure. From the first poem, when we witness a home-made tattoo and understand that this scarring and incision is a “map in the connective tissue of pain and loss”, we are drawn into this world in a way that is carefully observed and beautifully empathetic.

[ search ] 

In the beginning the guard’s gloved hands
pat you down, searching for weapons,
his touch is weaponized, the muted duty 
of his movements smooth along each of your arms.  
Soon the guard’s touch is the only touch 
from another 
and you think of your mother 
after bath time, the harbour of her chest 
against yours, the rough-love of her towelling 
you dry, reaching into all the nooks 
and crannies, no cabbages behind the ears 
she says.  And yes, I guess searching the body 
is another way of saying the body is a trove 
of treasure and your touch a torch.

Angola, America is available on the Seren website: £6.00

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Read Sammy’s poem ‘[ exhibit : electric chair ]’ and a comment about ‘How she did it’ on the Mslexia website.

The Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Prize 2022 is now open for entries. Find out more here.

Friday Poem – ‘Under One’s Hat’ by Hannah Hodgson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Under One’s Hat’ by Hannah Hodgson from her debut collection 163 Days.

This cover shows a photo of the artist Sue Austin diving underwater in her wheel chair. The text reads: 163 Days Hannah Hodgson.

Hannah Hodgon is an award-winning poet and a palliative care patient. In her compelling debut collection 163 Days, she uses a panoply of medical, legal, and personal vocabularies to explore what illness, death and dying does to a person as both patient and witness.  

“Hannah Hodgson takes us to the paradoxical heart of poetry itself” – Caroline Bird

Under One’s Hat
My mother thinks my tongue is retractable tape.
That I reveal too much, that I’m not good
at keeping secrets. One of my friends said
the only reason he can keep things quiet,
is his body has the handy feature of forgetting.
Never registering which truths belong to who,
blank pages recorded in place of events. Part of it
is my inheritance. My nan is a lethal gossip.
I’m a witness to so many lives unspooling,
that I’ve stopped waiting for the Police to arrive
and collect statements. Truth is slippery.
There’s a reason why water polishes riverbeds
and stones. I close my mouth around the things I know,
lock them inside of me as treasure.
I understand now, why NHS noticeboards
are laminated. It’s because of blood.
Turns out, doctors can’t keep secrets either.
They hide them, chirping, tiny birds nesting
in their desks; fed by a tiny paintbrush.

163 Days is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Listen to a radio play of 163 Days on the BBC New Creative Website

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

Somniloquy
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 book-ish.co.uk to buy tickets.

As If To Sing is available on the Seren website £9.99

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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
Farzana,
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,
Farzana,
and if you will return.

Homelands is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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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.

Gifts for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we’ve rounded up a list of books that would make great Mother’s Day gifts. Browse the list below, or visit our new titles page for more ideas.

Auscultation – Ilse Pedler

This cover shows a digital image of an orange butterfly resting on the cord of a stethoscope. The text reads: Auscultation, Ilse Pedler. "Unique and utterly original" Kim Moore.

Auscultation 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. Ilse Pedler is poet of breadth and depth. There are poems about waiting rooms and surgical instruments, about crisis calls, about overhearing farmers and pet owners and colleagues. There are 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.

Writing Motherhood – Ed. Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This cover shows a painting of two mothers and their young daughters looking out at the reader. The text reads: Writing Motherhood, A Creative Anthology. Edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Through a unique combination of interviews, poems, and essays by established writers, Writing Motherhood interrogates contemporary representations of motherhood in media and literature. It asks why so many novels dealing with serious women’s issues are packaged in pink covers with wellies and tea cups, and demonstrates how the exquisite moments of motherhood often enrich artistic practice rather than hinder it. Writing Motherhood is a vital exploration of the complexities of contemporary sexual politics, publishing, artistic creation, and 21st Century parenting.

Cecil & Noreen – Patrick Corcoran

This cover shows a close up sepia image of an elderly couple's hands. The text reads: Cecil & Noreen, Patrick Corcoran.

Cecil & Noreen is a poignant, subtle and amusing love story in which an elderly couple reminisce about their marriage. In a nursing home, Cecil recollects the memories through the aide-memoir of Noreen’s preserved letters which he keeps in a box by his bed. Noreen visits the ailing Cecil twice daily, and provides a more reliable version of the events the letters describe. Both are committed Catholics. The novel opens with their first meeting at church, at which Noreen accidentally floors Cecil with a ceremonial banner. Beautifully-written and deeply compassionate, Cecil & Noreen ennobles the ’ordinary’ lives of its characters. 

Waterfalls of Stars – Rosanne Alexander

This cover shows a photo of Skomer Island surrounded by rough seas. The sky is an eerie green where a storm meets blue sky and sunshine. The text reads: 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 Island, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions. In Waterfalls of Stars, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. Her lyrical evocation of the natural world will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape.

The World, the Lizard and Me – Gil Courtemanche

This cover is orange. Shadowy figures of children fighting in a war and a bright lizard are overlaid in the background. The text reads: The World the Lizard and Me, Gil Courtemanche

The World, the Lizard and Me is a novel of testament to the plight of children caught up in the civil wars of Central Africa. First published in 2009, this translation by David Homel is the first in EnglishThe World, the Lizard and Me follows the life of Claude Tremblay who, from the age of eleven has sought justice for thousands of voiceless victims. Now an investigator at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he is pursuing Thomas Kabanga, a warlord charged with creating child soldiers in the Congo. Gil Courtemanche draws on his own experiences to write a novel of gripping immediacy.

Women’s Work – Edited by Eva Salzman and Amy Wack

This cover shows a painting of a child looking over the edge of a table, looking a  jug teetering on the edge of falling over. The text reads: Women's Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English.

With over 250 contributors, Women’s Work brings together generous selection of poetry by women, with an emphasis on twentieth-century poetry in English. Featuring poets from the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand, it is arranged by thematic chapters that touch on various aspects of modern life. Women’s Work aims to be a touchstone of women’s thoughts and experiences; to be entertaining and relevant as well as inclusive and representative of some of the best poetry published today.

Welsh Quilts – Jen Jones

This cover shows a close up of an intricate grey and red quilt with a starburst shape in the centre. The text reads: Welsh Quilst, Jen Jones. Foreword by Kaffe Fassett, Patterns by Sandie Lush.

In Welsh Quilts expert author Jen Jones presents an authoritative guide to the history and art of the quilt in Wales. Driven by her desire to see this gloriously high-quality craft revived, Jones set out to research the topic which led to the creation of her extensive quilt collection, now housed in the Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter. Including stunning, high resolution images of the bold designs and intricate stitching of the quilts in her collection, Welsh Quilts is the essential book on the subject, whether you are a quilter yourself, or simply interested in quilting heritage.

Call Mother a Lonely Field – Liam Carson

This cover shows a black and white photo of Liam Carson's parents in the 1940s. The text reads: Liam Carson, Call Mother a Lonely Field. "A short but intense portrayal of his parents and the divided city where they made their loves. It will leave you enriches no matter your origins." Bernard MacLaverty.

Call Mother a Lonely Field mines the emotional archaeology of family, home and language as the author attempts to break their tethers, and the refuge he finds within them. Liam Carson confronts the complex relationship between a son thinking in English, a father dreaming in Irish ‘in a room just off the reality I knew’, and a mother who, after raising five children through Irish, is no longer comfortable speaking it in the violent reality of 1970s Belfast.

Love and Fallout – Kathryn Simmonds

This cover shows an illustration of a woman lying fully clothed in a bath reading a book. The text reads: Love and Fallout, Kathryn Simmonds.

When Tessa’s best friend organises a surprise TV makeover, Tessa is horrified. It’s the last thing she needs. What’s more, the ‘Greenham Common angle’ the TV producers have devised reopens some personal history Tessa has tried to hide away. Moving between the present and 1982, and set against the backdrop of the mass protests which touched thousands of women’s lives, Love and Fallout is a book about friendship, motherhood and the accidents that make us who we are. A hugely entertaining novel from debut novelist and award-winning poet Kathryn Simmonds.

A Second Whisper – Lynne Hjelmgaard

This cover shows an abstract painting  of two grey figures against a background of a blue, grey and yellow. The text reads: A Second Whisper, Lynne Hjelmgaard. "these poems tell the story of a special late love after bereavement, as well as of loves of all kinds, and the very experience of being alive." – Gillian Clarke

A Second Whisper is a thoughtful and sensitive collection that reflects the changing identities of a woman: in motherhood, in widowhood, in friendship and grief. Hjelmgaard looks back upon her life in New York, Demark, The Caribbean, and London. There are elegies to her late husband as well as to her mentor and partner, the renowned Welsh poet Dannie Abse, who died in 2014. Her lyrics are precise, warm in tone, and suffused with optimism for the future.

The Old And The Young – Margiad Evans

This cover shows a black and white photo of Margiad Evans in a box in the centre. The text reads: The Old And the Young, Margiad Evans. Seren Classics.

First published in 1948, The Old And The Young is a collection of short stories by Margiad Evans (1909-1958). These many of these fifteen stories, all but one written during the Forties, the hardships of rural living are exacerbated by the war. Men are absent, families are separated, women have to shoulder added burdens. This collection is testament to the quiet heroism of the home front, to the stoic resourcefulness of those who have no cenotaph. Indeed, in war or in peace, it is Evans’s ability to delineate the defining nature of small incidents, and to uncover in a precise locality moments of profound spirituality, which raise The Old And The Young to the level of a classic.

The Stromness Dinner – Peter Benson

This cover shows a geometric painting of overlapping blue, yellow and green circles. The text reads: The Stromness Dinner, Peter Benson

Ed Beech is one half of Beech Building Services. He’s based in Bermondsey but no job’s too small, no distance too great. So when he’s asked to do some work on a house in Orkney, he loads the van with paint, tools and sandwiches, and takes off. He gets nervous around farm animals and large ships, and he’s never been so far north, but when he’s joined by Claire, his client’s city banker sister, he discovers that in Stromness, anything is possible.

Seren Gift Subscription – one year

Seren Gift Subscription

If you’re looking for a gift that will last a whole year, why not treat Mum to a one year Seren Gift Subscription? Seren Subscribers receive three brand-new Seren books across the year – one poetry, one fiction and one non-fiction – plus a host of other exclusive perks. We’ll post them a gift card explaining who the subscription is from, as well as a welcome pack containing a Subscriber tote-bag, notebook and pen in anticipation of their first book arriving in May 2022.

Browse our new titles pages for more great gift ideas.

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10 Books for International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day we’ve put together a list of ten books by and about women which you should read.

In Her Own Words – Alice Entwistle

In Her Own Words: Women Talking Poetry and Wales. Alice Entwistle.

In Her Own Words: Women Talking Poetry and Wales is a collection of interviews with women poets from Wales. The interviews variously explore topics ranging from personal biography, the complex joys and strains of balancing life with art, issues of cultural politics, gender, family life, to the women’s often contrasting experiences of various kinds of change, including political devolution.

The Black Place – Tamar Yoseloff

This cover shows an abstract painting by Georgia O'Keefe of rolling red and orange hills in the desert. The text reads: The Black Place, Tamar Yoseloff."Yoseloff makes us look at the world, and then look at it again to see something new" - Time Dooely

The Black Place is a dark and gorgeously multi-faceted artwork, like a black diamond. Tamar Yoseloff eschews the sentimental, embraces alternatives, offers antidotes to cheery capitalist hype. The central sequence in this collection, ‘Cuts’, is a characteristically tough look at the poet’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis arrives at the same time as the Grenfell Tower disaster, a public trauma overshadowing a private one. These poems focus on the strangeness of the illness, and of our times – they refuse to offer panaceas or consolations.

A City Burning – Angela Graham

This cover shows a fiery sunset above Belfast reflected in the windscreen of a car. The text reads A City Burning by Angela Graham

In the twenty-six stories in A City Burning, set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, children and adults face, in the flames of personal tragedy, moments of potential transformation. On the threshold of their futures each must make a choice: how to live in this new ‘now’. Some of these moments occur in mundane circumstances, others amidst tragedy or drama.

Women’s Work – Edited by Eva Salzman and Amy Wack

This cover shows a painting of a child looking over the edge of a table, looking a  jug teetering on the edge of falling over. The text reads: Women's Work: Modern Women Poets Writing in English.

With over 250 contributors, Women’s Work brings together generous selection of poetry by women, with an emphasis on twentieth-century poetry in English. Featuring poets from the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand, it is arranged by thematic chapters that touch on various aspects of modern life. Women’s Work aims to be a touchstone of women’s thoughts and experiences; to be entertaining and relevant as well as inclusive and representative of some of the best poetry published today.

The Longest Farewell – Nula Suchet

A photo of James Roberts, Nula's husband. The text reads: The Longest Farewell: James, Dementia and Me.

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.

Losing Israel – Jasmine Donahaye

Jasmine Donahay, Losing Israel. Winner of Creative Non-Fiction Category Wales Book of the Year 2016

In 2007, in a chance conversation with her mother, 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. 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.

All the Men I Never Married – Kim Moore

This cover shows a collage of a man made up of tiny images of nature. The text reads: All the Men I Never Married, Kim Moore. "These are searing, musical reckonings." Fiona Benson

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. A powerful collection of deeply thoughtful and deeply felt poetry.

The Colour of Grass – Nia Williams

This cover shows a photo of a tree looking up from the base. The text, laid out as if on a family tree, reads: Nia Williams, The Colour of Grass

The Colour of Grass by Nia Williams is a story about families, past and present, and life’s unexpected connections. Helen’s family is falling apart. There are no answers from her husband. She can’t communicate with her daughter. So she turns to other relatives: the ones who are dead and gone. Straightaway she finds herself floundering in a new world of friends, secrets, enemies and family history enthusiasts. Clandestine meetings, a mugging, and the surprisingly tragic story of her mystery grandmother – all of these weave themselves into Helen’s present and her unknown past.

Japan Stories – Jayne Joso

This cover shows a black and white photo of a young japanese man in a black suit.

Japan Stories is a spellbinding collection of short fiction set in Japan by Jayne Joso. Each centres on a particular character – a sinister museum curator, a son caring for his dementia-struck father,  a young woman who returns to haunt her killer, and a curious homeless man intent on cleaning your home with lemons! Together, these compelling narratives become a mosaic of life in contemporary Japan, its people, its society, its thinking, its character. Illustrated by Manga artist Namiko, Japan Stories provides a window into a country we would all love to know more deeply.  

Forbidden Lives – Norena Shopland

Forbidden Lives: LGBT Stories from Wales. Norena Shopland. Foreword by Jeffrey Weeks

Forbidden 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. 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.

Find many more fantastic titles by female authors on the Seren website.

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Friday Poem – ‘Portrait of the Artist Asleep’ by Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Portrait of the Artist Asleep’ by Ben Wilkinson from his collection Same Difference which was published earlier this week.

This covers shows an abstract painting made up of blues and grey. There are splashed of red and green down the left hand side and a face-like smudge in the centre. The text reads: Same Difference, Ben Wilkinson "Formally dextrous... likes to keep the reader on their toes." The Poetry Review

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.

Portrait of the Artist Asleep
after Verlaine
She looks for all the world like some deadbeat angel,
foetal but hopeful, an inch of light haloing
her temple. She’s restless, sure, half mumbling
to herself as the door rocks gently in its frame,
stirred by a breeze the way her waking thoughts
follow whatever her eyes light on, even you.
Truth is, she’ll be up and gone before you know,
back among the world and brilliant with it,
and you, friend, won’t even make a painting
or poem, whichever she turns her hand to next.
You’re no more her muse than the lamp distilled
in the mirror she’ll fix her face in before she leaves.

Same Difference is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Catch Ben reading from Same Difference in person at Bolton Central Library on Tuesday 8th March. Visit boltonenglish.com for more details.

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

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