Friday Poem – ‘Swan’, Ross Cogan

Friday Poem Ross Cogan Swan

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Swan’, from Ross Cogan’s new collection, Bragr.

Ross Cogan BragrWhether 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 dig and the discovery of a child’s grave. The centuries-old tomb contains something extraordinary: ‘a single swan’s wing’.

 

Swan Ross Cogan Bragr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bragr is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

 

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An extract from The Wellspring by Barney Norris

Barney Norris The Wellspring extract

‘A rare duet, in which father and son rediscover a whole world through the redeeming power of art.’
– Declan Kiberd

Barney Norris The WellspringIn The Wellspringacclaimed novelist and dramatist Barney Norris conducts a conversation with his even more acclaimed father, the pianist and composer David Owen Norris, on creativity, cultural identity, and how the two intertwine.

In this free extract, the conversation between father and son turns towards David’s career as a pianist: how it began; the impact of failures and accolades; the strangely altering milestone of 30.

This extract begins on page 87 of The Wellspring.

Playing

BN: I’ve titled this second sequence ‘Playing’. Ostensibly, what I hope to cover here is the bulk of your professional life – your work as a performer. But I have it in my mind as well that what we’re circling is one person’s route into a life, into living well, and I want to draw attention to that as we begin. This book will take the same path everyone does as they find their way into the world – first we listen, then we simulate, then we live. In some lives, I don’t think the path is as easy to trace. Not everyone has a vocation. Not everyone’s entire life can be expressed as the development of a single project. Of course, your life isn’t adequately summarised if we turn it into a single developing theme, either. If we were to exhaustively catalogue everything you’ve ever done, a meaning would emerge that was too diffuse and complex to express – or you might end up with a catalogue of infinite drift, I don’t know how open you are to the idea that lives have inherent meanings at all, or whether it’s fairer to say all narratives are superimposed. But the opportunity we have here is that it’s in the nature of an artist’s career, where the life feeds the work and the enthusiasms are buried deep in childhood and the work is all-consuming, that a narrative can be constructed more easily than is usually the case that expresses something like a linear development through life. So when looking at an artist’s life, you can say things about the way all people move through time more easily than you can with some other careers. The milestones are easier to make out. So for the purposes of this book we’ll read your performing career as a second stage in a development that leads, eventually, to the writing of music. Not an adequate summation, but perhaps it’s an interesting one, you see the two as connected?

DON: It was the break-down of my early composing career that led directly to my performing career. I’ve already hinted that my composing didn’t go down too well in 1970s Oxford, though come to think, I left with a composition scholarship to the Academy. But the contemptuous reaction to my B. Mus exercise a year later – ‘This fugue subject implies harmony’ was one criticism I still recall with some puzzlement – and the prevailing narrow taste in ‘modern music’ funding circles, led me to concentrate on something I did to everyone’s satisfaction, namely, play the piano. Young performers play a wide range of music, partly because they know they need a wide range of experience, and partly for frank commercial reasons, and so I formed hands-on opinions of the work of still-living composers like Tippett & Britten & Messiaen, and I gave innumerable premieres of works by composers now forgotten.

BN: It’s a very interesting environment, the generation of contemporaries one works with at the beginning, before it’s clear who’s really going to make it. I’ve been going through that myself for the last few years – it’s still a bit too soon to tell which of my generation of theatremakers will one day be filed under that ‘now forgotten’. Because there’s no precise formula for identifying the ones who’ll last, is there. It’s not only talent, it’s not only prevalent fashions in funding circles, it’s not only luck, it’s not only hard work, it’s not only whether you choose to have a family, or where you’re from, or who you know; it’s not even whether you’re someone that anyone likes. It’s terrifying, because of course, after the first six months when a few people who thought they were serious wake up and back out, anyone who’s tilting at the windmill of the arts can’t imagine doing anything else, and doesn’t have a back-up plan, even though some will end up needing one. The arts are so hard to break into, you’d never do it if you were capable of doing anything else. But it’s also a very wonderful moment, because, in a Schrodinger sort of way, you live suspended in this moment where anything might be possible for you and your friends – even if in actual fact, when you get to the end, you will look back and find that it wasn’t.

DON: ‘Now forgotten’ sounds callous, doesn’t it? I meant it more as a merciful imprecision. Your list of things that need to slot into place is pretty scary – and very carefully ordered! Academy Professors, as I discovered when I became one, all agreed that we should exert ourselves to the utmost to put students off, because only the students that can’t be put off stand the slightest chance in the business. Good as far as it goes, but things change, become less narrow – good changes as well as bad changes. Some of the less positive changes at institutions of higher education are down to money, which has all sorts of repercussions – not all new courses fill purely educational needs. Then, if half the population is going to university, degrees will need to change, not necessarily for the worse: but we need to make sure that the former methods of study, where they were valuable, can be continued – which has emphatically not happened in secondary school music.

But there are positive changes too. I’m thinking especially of social change. What’s often called dumbing-down (something I’ve hinted at in the previous paragraph) can also be seen as a welcome acceptance that art need not always be on the verge of unintelligibility to be worthy – which is why my music can reach listeners now, though it was so out of tune with the seventies. Another helpful social development is a public acceptance of the portfolio career. We can take real advantage of the new opportunities the twenty-first century has brought us, the communications revolution. I wonder if I could have created a taste for my sort of music back in the seventies, if we’d had the Internet. But it lumbers up too late, like Chesterfield coming to the assistance of Dr. Johnson. Still, it gives us new ways to reach audiences, if only we had time to develop them.

BN: You told me once that the thing to watch for was what happened when everyone turned thirty – it was around then that things started shaking out. Having turned thirty not so long ago, I can increasingly attest to the truth of this. Did that advice come from personal experience?

DON: Observation rather than experience, luckily. There were so many schemes and scholarships that you could compete for till you were thirty. After that, you were on your own, and many winners didn’t make the change into actually earning a living. It’s an age that concentrates the mind in many ways. Clocks are ticking, clocks of self-esteem as well as of biology. Is it still too late to become a bank manager? we used to ask ourselves back in the day, in blissful ignorance, probably, of how difficult it is to be a bank manager.

 

 

The Wellspring is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Hues’, Elizabeth Parker

Friday Poem Hues Elizabeth Parker

Our Friday poem this week is ‘Hues’ by Elizabeth Parker, from her recently released debut collection, In Her Shambles.

‘Hues’ is a shimmering, lyrical account of a river journey that highlights Parker’s artful skill with language and surrealist imagery.
In Her Shambles is a ‘radiantly-written’ collection from a ‘rising star of British poetry’ (David Morley), filled with poems that are emotionally rich, vibrant and original. From the alternative reimagining of Lavinia from ‘Titus Andronicus’ through to the collection’s opening, ‘Crockery’, where a potential lover is fragmented into reflections, In Her Shambles offers a fascinating, observational account of things seen aslant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Her Shambles is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

Recipe & Interview with Sarah Philpott – The Occasional Vegan Blog Hop

The Occasional Vegan blog hop KFC recipe

Today marks the beginning of The Occasional Vegan  blog hop – two weeks of recipes, giveaways, reviews and articles from some of the UK’s best foodie blogs. To kick things off we have an interview with author Sarah Philpott, and a free recipe – Kentucky Fried Cauliflower.

The Occasional Vegan Sarah Philpott

The Occasional Vegan, your new cookbook, has just been released and we couldn’t be happier. You describe in the introduction how you dived straight into veganism, giving up meat and dairy cold turkey after making the decision that you wanted to eat more ethically. What was the hardest part about changing your diet so radically and so quickly?

Well, it was a bit of a shock to the system and it took my body a little while to adapt so I was quite tired and hungry at first. That didn’t last for long though, and as my taste buds changed, I soon realised that there was so much food for me to eat. It’s easier now than ever because there are so many vegan alternatives out there and plenty of biscuits, cakes, and even cheeses, to enjoy.

Would you recommend the same approach to others who are considering the vegan diet? And which resources would you recommend, to help with the transition?

Everybody is different and it’s important to do what feels right for you, your body and your lifestyle. If you want to try eating vegan, you can introduce new things gently and gradually, perhaps buying almond milk for your cereal or making a spaghetti bolognese with lentils instead of minced beef. There’s plenty of support out there and we’re a friendly bunch in the vegan community – we don’t preach, we teach! Veganuary is a great resource and there are plenty of great vegan cookery books and blogs out there – some of my favourites are Avant Garde Vegan, Anna Jones and Aine Carlin – and Instagram is full of inspiration, too.

Criticism of veganism often leans towards comments about ‘rabbit food’, kale, and boring salads. What do you have to say to people who think vegan food lacks variety and flavour?

It’s such a myth that vegans don’t like food! Of course, vegans can eat salad all the time, but most of us don’t! And if your salads are boring, you’re not making them right. Cooking as a vegan forces you to be more creative and to play around with different flavours and textures. What’s not to love about that?

What do you cook for your non-vegan friends and family? Do you have a go-to dinner party menu that has proven to be a hit?

Luckily, most of my friends and family don’t mind that I cook without meat and my boyfriend is a vegetarian so that makes things a lot easier. I tend to cook hearty but healthy meals like spaghetti bolognese, chilli, and warming stews and casseroles. My salads always go down well; I like to experiment with different flavours, and beetroot, orange and fennel is a current favourite combination. I also make a mean chocolate mousse.

All of us have times when we fancy eating something naughty – perhaps late at night, or maybe even the next morning. What’s your favourite go-to greasy food?

I don’t think that any food is ‘naughty’, because enjoying a bit of what you fancy is an important part of balanced eating. If I fancy something a bit greasy I’ll sometimes have chips or I’ll make a toasted sandwich with vegan cheese, and if I want a real treat I’ll make KFC – that’s Kentucky fried cauliflower! – which tastes amazing and is surprisingly easy to make. My favourite breakfast is avocado on toast with peanut butter and Marmite because it’s sweet and salty and a good source of protein and healthy fats – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

There are masses more vegans now than there have ever been before. Do you think the popularity of plant-based diets will lead to real social, ecological and agricultural change? What would you like to see happen?

I’d like to see more people embrace the idea of veganism, even if they decide not to eat that way all the time. Every little helps and reducing our consumption of animal products can make a real difference. People are a lot more aware of the impact that agriculture has on the environment and the cruelty that animals suffer and I think they want to change that.

And finally, what do you most hope people will get out of your book? 

I hope people will try the recipes and discover that being vegan can be just as delicious – if not more so – as any other way of eating. Giving up meat doesn’t mean that you have to miss out!  

Thank you Sarah for giving us some insight into your vegan experience. And now for a little vegan comfort food…

Kentucky Fried Cauliflower (KFC) with sweet potato fries

KFC vegan

Delicious, cruelty-free and surprisingly easy to make, thisKentucky Fried Cauliflower uses most of the ‘secret’ spices in KFC’s blend. By grounding the flaxseed, you create an egg-like binder which makes the spicy coating stick to the cauliflower. There’s no other way to say this: these are delicious. Seriously good and definitely worth the mess.

Ingredients

–1 large head of cauliflower, cut into largish pieces
– 200ml vegetable oil, or more depending on how shallow your pan is

For the dry coating
– 3 tsp salt
– ½ tsp dried thyme
– ½ tsp dried basil
– ½ tsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp black pepper
– 2 tsp sweet paprika
– 2 tsp smoked paprika
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– 2 tsp brown sugar
– 150g plain flour

For the wet coating
– 2 tbsp ground flaxseed (or linseed) or chia seeds
– 3 tbsp hot sauce
– 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
– 1 tbsp maple syrup
– 70ml water

For the sweet potato fries
– 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– ½ tsp dried rosemary or thyme
– 1-2 tbsp plain flour or cornflour
– Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 200C. Make the chips by popping everything into a freezer bag and shaking it so that the potato fries are coated. Place them onto greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the wet coating for your cauliflower. Put the seeds into a food processor or grind in a pestle and mortar. Add to a bowl and mix together with the other ingredients. Stir well and give it a few minutes to thicken.

Make your dry coating. In a large bowl, mix the flour with all the spices, sugar and salt and pepper.

Pour the vegetable oil into a large pan (make sure it’s about 2-3cm high so that the cauliflower pieces are fully submerged when you dip them in) and place on a high heat. Make sure that it doesn’t get too hot – it shouldn’t bubble or splatter.

Now comes the messy bit. Take a cauliflower piece and dip it into the wet coating, making sure to cover both sides. Dip into the flour coating, again covering both sides. Now, repeat the process: roll in the wet coating and then again in the flour mixture.

Using tongs, take the cauliflower and submerge in the oil. Cook for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown and crispy. Place on a plate with some kitchen roll to absorb some of the oil. Repeat with all the pieces (you may need to top up the oil), then serve with the sweet potato fries.

 

The Occasional Vegan is available from all good bookshops, and also the Seren website (£12.99).

Follow the rest of the blog hop, which features 13 fabulous food bloggers – tomorrow, there will be a giveaway and guest post from Sarah on the For the Love of Hygge blog.

 

The Occasional Vegan – Blog Hop

The Occasional Vegan blog hop

Today marks the official release of Sarah Philpott’s The Occasional Vegan and to celebrate we are hosting a blog hop – two weeks of content from some of the UK’s best foodie blogs.

The Occasional Vegan blog hop

 

What is a blog hop?  A blog hop is when group of bloggers all join up to write about or engage with a certain theme. Our theme is delicious vegan food – specifically the food you’ll find inside Sarah’s stunning new book, The Occasional Vegan.

From March 21 – 05 April, a selection of brilliant bloggers will be sharing recipes, giveaways, reviews and articles about The Occasional Vegan. Get a sneak peek inside the book and find out what experienced bloggers think of it by following along – each blogger will be publishing something new and different.

We will kick things off on the Seren blog with an author interview, recipe and video on March 21, and from there on a different blogger will take the reins each day.

Here’s what you can look forward to:

21 March   Seren – vegan KFC recipe & author interview
22 March   For the Love of Hygge – Finding balance through veganism & free recipe
23 March   Eat Happy Wales – review & giveaway
24 March   Definitely Vegan – recipe & review
26 March   Hungry City Hippy – book giveaway
27 March   Freelancer’s Cookbook – ‘God’s Butter’ recipe
28 March   The Flexitarian – review
29 March   Sareta’s Kitchen – review
30 March   Little Nibble – ‘the parental test’ recipe review
01 April      Wrapped in Newspaper – Meatless Moussaka & book giveaway
02 April     Win Friends with Salad – book & recipe review
03 April     The Rare Welsh Bit
04 April     ScandiNathan
05 April     Vegan Burd

 

We hope you enjoy this whistle-stop tour of vegan ideas and inspiration – whether you’re new to plant-based meals or otherwise.

 

Attend The Occasional Vegan book launch party!

Sarah Philpott The Occasional VeganReserve your free tickets for the book launch, which will be taking place at the Cardiff Story Museum on Wednesday 04 April:
https://occasional-vegan.eventbrite.co.uk

You will have the chance to enjoy tasters of food from the book, and also to hear about Sarah’s vegan journey and the inspiration behind her delicious recipes. Sarah will also be available to sign copies of the book.

Families & children welcome.

Please book your free ticket to guarantee your place.

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Giraffe’, Bryony Littlefair

Friday Poem Giraffe Bryony Littlefair

Our Friday Poem this week is the title poem from Bryony Littlefair’s Mslexia Prize-winning debut pamphlet, Giraffe.

Giraffe Bryony LittlefairPoems need head, heart, and soul but this particular pamphlet has an extra ingredient – a feminist kick. There is a good deal of wit on display, but also a wonderful humanity. There are also other novelistic qualities: clarity of language and the use of realism, a feeling for plot and incident, an eye and ear for character. The author indicates emotion and relationships in a myriad of subtle ways: heartbreak can be summarised by one glance at the ‘Lido’. Love can be inferred by the tender description of someone from the back, as they are walking away.
Giraffe, the title and a euphemism for happiness, is a beguiling, beautiful and entertaining debut pamphlet of poems.

 

Giraffe Bryony Littlefair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giraffe is half price in the Seren January Sale until 11 January: £2.50

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us after the sale ends.

 

We’re all about self-gifting this Christmas with Mystery Book Bundles

Mystery book bundles

Unless you’re one of Santa’s particularly jolly elves, we imagine the countdown to Christmas might be a stressful and arduous experience. With that in mind, we’ve prepared some mystery book bundles – the ideal affordable self-gift! (Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous, a gift for someone else.)

Coming in Fiction and Poetry varieties, these lovingly gift-wrapped parcels contain three books from our fantastic Seren list – and are just £9.99.

Mystery Book Bundle Fiction
Mystery Bundle: Fiction
For the Fiction Bundle, we’ve chosen a mix of enthralling literary novels and absorbing short stories.

No matter what you get, you can expect to be glued to your comfiest chair for at least a few days.

 

Mystery Book Bundle poetry
Mystery Bundle: Poetry
For the Poetry Bundle, we’ve selected a blend of exciting debuts and powerful works from established poets.

We can’t tell you what you’re likely to receive as it would ruin the surprise, but we have a wonderful mix of things ready to wrap up.

 

 

Find our Mystery Fiction Bundle and Mystery Poetry Bundle on the Seren website – while stocks last.

 

Merry Christmas GIF

 

 

A glittering new festive pamphlet: Twelve Poems for Christmas

Twelve Poems for Christmas festive pamphlet

‘It’s not Christmas, it’s only November!’ we hear you cry. Well, we can’t help but feel a little festive as the new Twelve Poems for Christmas pamphlet is now available to pre-order.

Last year’s Christmas Poetry Competition was a huge success. Judge Amy Wack, Seren’s Poetry Editor, states:

The challenge of a successful Christmas poem is the same as a challenge of a ‘regular’ poem: both to embrace tradition and subvert it, to resist cliché.  I was looking for variation of tone, manner and address, for brevity, and for a certain sparkling something, suitable for the season.

The submissions certainly didn’t disappoint. From the entries Amy compiled a shortlist of twelve outstanding festive poems, and we have combined these to create the Twelve Poems for Christmas poetry pamphlet:

Pippa Little
‘St. Leonore and the Robin’
Winner

Helen Overell
‘Camel’

Cathy Bryant
‘Noticing Cards While Eating Stuffing’

Alexandra Davis
‘Offering’

Will Johnson
‘What Wish’

Sarah Rowland Jones
‘Gabriel’s Greeting’

Gina Wilson
‘A Child for Our World’

Nancy Charley
‘On Losing my Voice at Christmas’

Nicola Healey
‘Two Pheasants’

Philip Rush
‘Daylight is in Short Supply’

Sarah Westcott
‘Guardians’

Wendy Klein
‘The Usual Suspects’

 

The Twelve Poems for Christmas pamphlet is publishing on 01 December, but you can pre-order your copy now. Why not post it to someone you love instead of a card? That is, if you can bear to part with it…

Don’t forget: you can claim 20% off when you become a registered user on our website.

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Sax Burglar Blues’, Robert Walton

Friday Poem Sax Burglar Blues Robert Walton

This week our Friday Poem is the title number from Robert Walton’s brand new collection, Sax Burglar Blues.

Not so much a discovery as a re-discovery, Robert Walton’s new book of poems, Sax Burglar Blues, is his first full collection since winning a Welsh Arts Council Prize in the ’70s. After a working life as a teacher, Walton has resurrected his artistic gifts, and years of experience give his poetry both a spiky mien and an artful complexity. Subjects include: woodlice, jazz, teachers, grandparents, a canary who runs for President, Sisley’s lovely painting of the Gower, the iconoclastic poet John Tripp, a night bus named after Dusty Springfield, a Dad who loves Cardiff City, the annoying closure of bookshops and much more.
A guest at last night’s First Thursday event at the Chapter Arts Centre, Robert treated the audience to a live performance of ‘Sax Burglar Blues’, complete with saxophone solos. Scroll down to see for yourself.

 

 

Robert Walton Sax Burglar Blues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sax Burglar Blues is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

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September Book Giveaway: win a copy of Welsh Verse

September giveaway Welsh Verse win

This month we are giving away a copy of Tony Conran’s milestone of translation, Welsh Verse.

To enter, simply sign up to the Seren newsletter before 1st October:
https://www.serenbooks.com/newsletter/signup

Win a copy of Welsh Verse Tony Conran


About Welsh Verse:
Welsh Verse Tony Conran
Welsh Verse has made a triumphant return to print. Tony Conran’s unrivalled volume of Welsh poetry through the ages contains lively yet meticulous translations stretching from the sixth century to the late twentieth century. Virtually every significant poet (or poem: there are several Anonymous entries over the centuries) is present, and every poetic form: the epics of Taliesin and Aneurin, the poets of the medieval princes, Tudor poets, Non-conformist poets, hymn-writers, Romantics, Social Realists and political Nationalists.
Welsh Verse also includes an influential Introduction full of insight into the history of poetry in the Welsh language, and into the challenges of translating it, particularly over so many centuries and styles.

 

We will pick a winner at random from all our email subscribers on 1st October. Make sure you have signed up to Seren News before then to be in with a chance of winning!

Why not give your friends a chance to win too, by recommending that they sign up to our newsletter before the end of the month using this link?
www.serenbooks.com/newsletter/signup

 

Congratulations to last month’s winner, Norma Curtis, who is now enjoying her copy of Black Shiver Moss by Graham Mort.

 

 

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