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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Friday Poem – ‘43. When I open my ribs’ by Kim Moore

To celebrate her collection All The Men I Never Married being shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘43. When I open my ribs’ by Kim Moore.

This cover shows a collage image of the figure of a man made up of tiny pictures of nature. He is against a black background surrounded by butterflies. The text reads: All The Men I Never Married Kim Moore

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.

“All the Men I Never Married is a work of immense focus, intelligence and integrity.” – The Yorkshire Times

43.
When I open my ribs a dragon flies out
and when I open my mouth a sheep trots out
and when I open my eyes silverfish crawl out
and make for a place that’s not mine.
When I open my fists two skylarks soar out
and when I open my legs a horse gallops out
and when I open my heart a wolf slips out
and watches from beneath the trees.
When I open my arms a hare jumps out
and when I show you my wrists a shadow cries out
and when I fall to my knees
a tiger stalks out and will not answer to me.
Now that the beasts that lived in my chest
have turned tail and fled, now that I’m open
and the sky has come in and left me
with nothing but space, now that I’m ready
to lie like a cross and wait for the ghost
of him to float clear away, will my wild things
come back, will the horse of my legs
and the dragon of my ribs, and the gentle sheep
which lived in my throat and the silverfish
of my eyes and the skylarks of my hands
and the wolf of my heart, will they all come back
and live here again, now that he’s left,
now I’ve said the word whisper it rape,
now I’ve said the word whisper it shame,
will my true ones, my wild, my truth,
will my wild come back to me again?

All The Men I Never Married is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Catch Kim at the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival on the 30th July! She’ll be taking part in a session on Poetry & Empowerment and discussing The Result is What You See Today, an anthology about running which she co-edited with Paul Deaton and Ben Wilkinson. See the full programme and buy tickets at cardiffpoetryfestival.com. All our in person events are also being streamed online.

Books to celebrate Earth Day 2022

We’re celebrating Earth Day 2022 with a list of books that address the natural world, the climate emergency and nature in all its glory.

100 Poems to Save the Earth – Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans

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

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, this landmark anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have. 

Wild Places UK:UK’s Top 40 Nature Sites – Iolo Williams

Iolo Williams Wild Places UK UK's Top 40 Nature Sites

In Wild Places UK television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his favourite forty wildlife sites from the many nature reserves around the country. As this informative and lavishly illustrated book demonstrates, all forty places are packed with the widest variety of trees, plants, birds, animals and insects. Williams draws on his enormous knowledge to guide readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Wild Places will show them rarities like the osprey, where to find almost six hundred different species of moths, or an incredible 51 species of caddis fly. Readers will discover where to find birds, both rare and in huge numbers, where hares box and otters swim, where to spot dolphins and salmon, and where to see whales and sharks.

We Have To Leave the Earth – Carolyn Jess-Cooke

We Have to Leave the Earth Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Fierce and very beautiful - Jen Hadfield

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s new poetry collection is both keenly political and deeply personal. The opening poem ‘now’ features a seemingly peaceful domestic scene of a family lounging at home as the starting point for meditation on history, time, mortality and the fate of the planet: I think of what tomorrow asks and what is yet/ to be done and undone, how many nows make up a life/ and what is living. There are hints of a struggle with depression stemming from a difficult childhood, inspiring Jess-Cooke to express her experiences with her child and their autism diagnosis.

Blood Rain – André Mangeot

Blood Rain Andre Mangeot A thought-provoking book for turbulent times - Matthew Caley

Resonant, complex, rich in heft and texture, these are mature poems that grapple with serious themes. André Mangeot’s Blood Rain opens with a deeply personal love poem (“Remember, too, our secret pool?”) that also introduces the natural world and it’s endangerment – one of several key themes in a book that addresses some of the most troubling man-made issues now facing us all.  The second poem, ‘Bellwether’, reflects this: a subtle socio-political piece, a warning in a time of populism and radicalisation. This breadth of awareness and range is part of the collection’s appeal, giving the poems an urgent topicality and depth.

Much With Body – Polly Atkin

Much With Body Polly Atkin This is series play indeed – Vahni Capildeo Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Much With Body is the startlingly original second collection by poet Polly Atkin. The beauty of the Lake District is both balm and mirror, refracting pain and also soothing it with distraction: unusual descriptions of frogs, birds, a great stag that ‘you will not see’. 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.

Waterfalls Of Stars – Roseanne Alexander

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, a small uninhabited island off the south west tip of Wales, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions for the trip to the island. This was the first of many challenges Rosanne and Mike faced during their ten years on the nature reserve, from coping with periods of isolation when they were the island’s only inhabitants, to dwindling food supplies during the winter when rough weather made provisioning from the mainland impossible. Thrown on their own resources they had also to deal with catastrophes like the devastation of the island’s seal colony following an oil spill.

The Shaking City – Cath Drake

The Shaking City Cath Drake A guide to staying clear-eyed, combative and caring in unsettled times. – Philip Gross

The shaking city of Australian poet Cath Drake’s debut poetry collection is a metaphor for the swiftly changing precarity of modern life within the looming climate and ecological emergency, and the unease of the narrator who is far from home. Tall tales combine with a conversational style, playful humour and a lyrical assurance.​ The poet is able to work a wide set of diverse spells upon the reader through her adept use of tone, technique, plot and form.

Nia – Robert Minhinnick

Nia A Novel Robert Minhinnick

Nia Vine is about to fulfil her dream of exploring an unmapped cave system. With her will go two friends who were brought up in the same seaside town.  These companions are international travellers, but Nia, who has recently become a mother, feels her experience insignificant compared with that of her friends. While the three explore, Nia finds herself obsessed by a series of dreams that finally lead to a shocking revelation. Page-turningly evocative, immersive and compelling, Robert Minhinnick has written a novel in which realism and poetry collide and mingle.

Dark Land, Dark Skies – Martin Griffiths

Dark Land, Dark Skies The Mabinogion in the Night Sky 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 culture.

Find these titles and many more on the Seren website serenbooks.com.

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Barney Norris – The Wellspring: From Page to Stage

In this guest post, Barney Norris discusses the link between his memoir The Wellspring and his new stage production of the same name currently touring the UK. Catch Barney and his father David Owen Norris performing The Wellspring at the Oxford Playhouse from today.

Barney Norris' 'The Wellspring: Conversations with David Owen Norris' cover; a greyscale sketch of a countryside scene with a single square turret in the middle.

In The Wellspring acclaimed 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 addition to being called ‘quite possibly the most interesting pianist in the world’ (Toronto Globe and Mail) and ‘a famous thinker/philosopher of the keyboard’ (Seattle Times), Norris senior is a respected and longstanding television and radio presenter who has worked with a huge range of musicians, conductors and composers in the concert hall and on the airwaves.

The Wellspring

Seven years ago, I was sitting outside Romsey Abbey when the thought came to me that I should write a book of interviews with my father. David Owen Norris, my Dad, has had many jobs – he’s a pianist, a broadcaster and a teacher, among other things. He’s also a composer, and while we were touring a piece of music he’d written, that I’d written some accompanying poems for, I had the idea of writing a book about this aspect of his life. Partly as a way of amplifying his work; partly to trace the journey of one artist from childhood into creativity, as a means of exploring how that journey happens for every artist; partly as a way of knowing my Dad better. I called up Mick Felton at Seren Books, a publisher with the courage and heart to take on quixotic, idiosyncratic projects of this nature, who had previously published my study of the Welsh theatre artist Peter Gill, To Bodies Gone, and who I occasionally besiege with poetry in the hope that he’ll one day let me have a collection (I’m doing the same thing now, here in this blog, not ever so subtly, look!), and he agreed to publish the book if we wrote it.

Barney Norris lays a table cloth on a table while David to his left brings a saucepan on a chopping board to the table.
Photo by Robert Day

What emerged from that process was a sequence of three long interviews with my Dad, loosely grouped around the activities of ‘listening’, ‘playing’ and ‘writing’. I think you can map these onto any artist’s trajectory: they start by absorbing the world, then explore the art form that interests them, and finally, if things go their way (if kind and visionary publishers give them a collection, say), they find a way to make a statement. Dad’s particular version of that journey took in lots of specific things – he’s a study in a particular kind of Englishness, a particular rural culture and a particular artistic context as well. We were very proud of the book, and all the more so when the theatre I was working with at the time, Northampton’s Royal and Derngate, asked me whether we’d consider adapting the book for the stage. Being a book of interviews, it was done in dialogue, after all – so why couldn’t it work live?

Barney Norris sits centre stage on a chair while David Norris sits diagonally to him in the bottom-left corner, facing a piano
Photo by Robert Day

Dad and I got together in the rehearsal room in December 2019 to work out whether it was possible. The first big decision we made was that we mustn’t use the original book too closely as source material – they had to be companions to each other, palimpsests of one another, because an evening where we read out an abbreviated version of the book wouldn’t work. Reading and performing are so fundamentally different, and require such a different kind of writing. In addition, the relationship in the book – that of interviewer and subject – wouldn’t wash onstage. Onstage, everyone visible to the audience has equal weight in the overall picture; one of them can’t be the interviewer, secondary characters don’t exist. I would need to take up more space in the play we made.

Barney Norris sits with his feet on a chair in front of him (centre stage), right index poised in the air, waiting to say something
Photo by Robert Day

So we created something that slightly resembled a winterbourne – the previous Wellspring, my book of interviews with Dad, had passed through this way the previous winter, and now, in a different winter, new water would make its way through the same gullies and eddies of our life stories. Whatever we created would take the same path, passing through all of the same material, but the summer that has passed between the two projects would inevitably mean everything was somehow different. What emerged, then, was a story that seemed both strikingly different, and strikingly the same. It’s a huge privilege to have got to explore this, the idea of telling the same story twice. Part of what I’m writing is my own journey through life, and the changes in my relationship with my father, after all; I am watching my time pass as I retell this tale from its source again, and note how I change it each time.

Both Norrises smile as David sits by the piano(bottom right stage corner)  while Barney stands centre stage addressing the audience.
Photo by Robert Day

Barney Norris

Visit the Oxford Playhouse website for tickets to see ‘The Wellspring’ this week www.oxfordplayhouse.com/events/the-wellspring.

The Wellspring is available on the Seren website for £12.99.

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Friday Poem – ‘Interviewing’ by Ruth Bidgood

Following the sad passing of Ruth Bidgood, and in celebration of International Women’s Day, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Interviewing’ from Ruth’s award-winning collection Time Being.

This cover shows a mid-wales valley shrouded in mist beneath a sky tinged pink by the sunrise. The text reads: Ruth Bidgood. Time Being. A Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Ruth Bidgood’s Time Being, winner of the Roland Mathias Prize, is emphatically a collection of location. The history and nature of the poet’s particular region of mid-Wales inspire these poems. Bidgood avoids sentimentality but not sentiment: an observation can engender joy or sorrow or fear uncluttered by irony. These descriptions are sharp and memorable, tending to a cool accuracy. Nature is not always benign, but often inescapably dark and mysterious, lyric and move towards a more epic, multi-faceted form equal to the many experiences of her long life.

Interviewing 

When I was the one with the recorder 
I liked the richness of dark and light
in their reminiscing, the unexpectedness, 
the shocks and laughter, but not 
the drooping voice they used for saying 
“All gone now, all over”, 
or “Water under the bridge, eh?” – 
as if there was something wrong 
with ending on a high note, 
or moving to the present without 
that cloying downbeat refrain. 

So now when she comes, this likeable girl 
with her little gadget, her young hands 
(no slack skin, no gravespots) setting it up, 
I’m my own censor, ignoring 
her questions’ invitation 
to lament, her disappointed eyes 
thirsty for the juice of my tears.

Time Being is available on the Seren website £8.99

Poems from this collection are also featured in A Last Respect, an anthology of poems by the eleven winners of the Roland Mathias Prize.

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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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Seren at 40 – From strength to strength

Earlier this year, we shared an archive article written by our founder Cary Archard in 1981 shortly after Seren, then called Poetry Wales Press, branched out into traditional publishing. In a second post, Cary shared some of the long-lasting friendships which helped Seren grow into the press it is today. In this new post, he reflects on some of the great books and writers we have published over the years, many of which continue to resonate today.

From Poetry Wales Press to Seren

It may have all begun with the realisation that many poets in Wales were not being published but soon my ambition widened. Not just poets but writers were being neglected. So within Poetry Wales Press, the Seren imprint was set up for prose, and in 1989 the name Poetry Wales Press was quietly dropped and the briefer, friendlier, more aspirational SEREN became the masthead (much easier to fit on the spine too) in recognition that the intention now was to publish the full range of genres – from poetry, of course, to fiction, biography, essays, even art and photography books.

Seren logo

I must mention two early debates. At the start, publishers in Wales applied for grant support (from the Arts Council) on a book by book process. Seren initiated a fundamental change when it became the first publisher to receive a block grant which enabled us to plan an annual programme of publications. The result was startling: from half a dozen titles a year to a dozen and soon to twenty or more. The press’s performance was regularly assessed but the new approach was clearly ground-breaking and soon other publishers in Wales benefitted from the same practice. The second debate could be more heated. Should Seren confine itself to Welsh authors? There was certainly a need. The question was; was Seren a publishing house in Wales or a publishing house for Wales? If a good proposal came from outside Wales, should it be disregarded? What if it made sense commercially to publish? Finally it was decided the focus would always be on Wales and its writers but there should also be a recognition of the wider world, its influences and opportunities. (Even extended later to books in translation.)

The growth of the Series

One of the fruits of the block grant approach was our series of Series. One of the first was the comprehensive Border Lines Series edited by the remarkable poet and critic, John Powell Ward. With over twenty titles it included introductory biographies of writers, composers and artists of the Welsh Marches. A reader might have expected to see Elgar, Vaughan, Margiad Evans, Kilvert and Housman, but the Series also included Chatwin, Ellis Peters and Francis Brett Young. Its distinctive yellow and green jacketed volumes have now become collectors’ items. This was soon followed by the ‘REAL’ Series, edited by the wonderful Peter Finch who started with his own idiosyncratic ‘Real’ guides to Cardiff and then persuaded other writers to write their own very personal takes on their home towns. With more than two dozen titles, the Series seems to grow annually. If you want to find out about the real Port Talbot, Cambridge or Glasgow you know where to go.

Left to Right: Margiad Evans Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan (Border Lines), Real Cardiff The Flourishing City Peter Finch (Real Series) white Ravens Owen Sheers (New Stories from the Mabinogion)

A very different sort of series ran from 2009 to 2013. In New Stories from the Mabinogion, edited by Penny Thomas, ten contemporary Welsh authors chose one of the medieval tales to reinvent and retell in their own ways. The result: ‘Seren’s series….may be the greatest service to the Welsh national epic since Lady Charlotte Guest (The Guardian)’. A mention should also be made of the look of these books and of Matthew Bevan’s beautiful designs.

Three first novels

From all the wonderful books published in the last forty years, I’d like to draw attention to three first novels. In 1988 Seren published Christopher Meredith’s Shifts, a novel that has become a classic of post-industrial Welsh life. It’s that rare thing, a fiction of real working lives. ‘A beautiful, under-stated first novel. More than a bitter, angry novel, Shifts is a sad and loving one. The prose is spare and poetic, at once plain and rich, musical in its rhythms of speech and clear descriptions’, sang the New York Times. It was followed by many more books of poetry and prose by Meredith, most recently Please and Still, that Seren has been privileged to publish.

Left to right: Shifts Christopher Meredith (Seren Classics), Mr Vogel Lloyd Jones, The Last Hundred Days Patrick McGuinness

A 2004 debut novel began with ‘Many years ago a strange incident took place in this town. The event, which went unobserved by the rest of the world, would have sunk into obscurity here also, but for the scribblings of an old bar tender and dogsbody at the Blue Angel’. This was Mr Vogel by Lloyd Jones a man who had walking, crisscrossed the whole of Wales absorbing its stories and characters out of which he fashioned a book which stretched the conventions of novel writing to breaking point. Jan Morris, no less, called it, ‘One of the most remarkable books ever written on the subject of Wales’. It went on to win the McKitterick Award and be shortlisted for the Everyman Wodehouse Prize. Lloyd’s second novel, Mr Cassini, won the Wales Book of the Year Award in 2007. His novels remain two of the most exciting and original books which Seren has published.

And the third of these first novels: The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness, who was better known at the time as a poet, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011. Set in a paranoid Bucharest in 1989, it vividly captures the tensions of Ceausescu’s last days. This thrilling story was probably the most commercially successful of all Seren’s novels. ‘A wonderfully good read, giving one a convincing taste of how it might be to live under the most surreal kind of communist rule…’ was typical of the reviews it garnered. It won the Wales Book of the Year Award for 2012 and the Writer’s Guild Award for Fiction. Patrick’s exciting ‘detective’ novel, Throw Me to the Wolves (Jonathan Cape) won the Encore Award. Seren has recently published Patrick’s encyclopaedic, Real Oxford in our Real Series.

Cary Archard

Read more:

Seren at 40: In the Beginning An archive article written by Cary Archard shortly after Seren’s inception in 1981.

Seren at 40: Looking back – Seren FriendshipsCary reflects on the long-lasting friendships that have helped Seren during the last 40 years.

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Looking for Christmas gifts? Browse our 2021 gift guide to find ideas for the whole family.

Seren Christmas Gift Guide 2021

Our gift guide returns for 2021 with loads of great new recommendations. From old favourites to brand new books that are hot off the press, find something for everyone this Christmas.

Bar 44 Tapas y Copas by Owen and 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?

Seren Gift Subscription

The new 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 2022. Every new subscriber will receive a Seren tote-bag, notebook and pen with their first delivery.

Two book deal – Please and Still by Christopher Meredith

Published simultaneously earlier this year, renowned author Christopher Meredith’s two new books will satisfy any literature lover. His poetry collection Still uses the title word as a fulcrum to balance paradoxical concerns: stillness and motion, memory and forgetting, sanity and madness, survival and extinction. Meanwhile his short novel Please is a verbally dazzling tragicomedy about hidden passion and regret in which octogenarian language geek Vernon tries to find a way to write the story of his long marriage.

All The Men I Never Married by Kim Moore

One of this year’s most highly anticipated poetry books, All The Men I Never Married is the astounding new 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.

Real Oxford by Patrick McGuinness

In Real Oxford, Professor Patrick McGuinness guides us through the past, but also the present Oxford, as he walks the city from the station to the ringroad. He tracks its canals and towpaths, its footbridges and tunnels to introduce us to the unnoticed and reflect on the familiar, revealing that the ‘Real Oxford’ is more than dreaming spires, bicycles, and Inspector Morse. This is a guide to Oxford unlike any other.

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.  

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 brings together 100 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.

Four Dervishes by Hammad Rind

“Easily the most remarkable work of fiction to come out of Wales in a thousand moons” says Jon Gower. This outstanding debut novel from Hammad Rind 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…

Welsh Quilts by Jen Jones

Welsh Quilts Jen Jones

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.

Troeon : Turnings by Philip Gross, Cyril Jones and Valerie Coffin Price

This beautifully illustrated, bilingual collection (a great gift for Welsh learners) sees two poets, each confident in their own traditions, meet in the hinterland between translation and collaboration ­– Cyril Jones from the disciplines of Welsh cynghanedd, Philip Gross from the restless variety of English verse. Rather than lamenting the impossibility of reproducing any language’s unique knots of form and content in translation, they trust each other to explore the energies released. Valerie Coffin Price’s striking letter press designs make this a fantastic gift.

Fatal Solution by Leslie Scase

Fans of historical crime fiction are sure to be captivated by Leslie Scase’s latest Inspector Chard mystery. In Fatal Solution Inspector Thomas Chard once again finds himself faced with a murder in bustling Victorian Pontypridd. On the face of it the case appears unremarkable, even if it isn’t obviously solvable, but following new leads takes Chard into unexpected places. A second murder, a sexual predator, industrial espionage and a mining disaster crowd into the investigation, baffling the Inspector and his colleagues and Chard finds his own life at risk as the murderer attempts to avoid capture. In this page-turning story of detection, both Chard and the reader are left guessing until the final page…

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.

Much With Body by Polly Atkin

Much With Body by Polly Atkin is a Poetry Book Society Winter Choice. 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.

Just You and the Page by Sue Gee

Part biography, part memoir, Just You and the Page by acclaimed novelist Sue Gee is a must-read for the aspiring writer. Opening in 1971, with the dramatist Michael Wall hammering out his plays on a portable typewriter, and concluding in 2020, when the novelist and academic Josie Barnard is teaching students to compose novels on Instagram, Gee interviews twelve distinctly different writers about their craft. As she examines what has shaped them and their careers, several themes emerge: struggle, inspiration, dedication, and above all, resilience.

A Last Respect edited by Glyn Mathias and Daniel G. Williams

A must-have anthology for fans of contemporary Welsh poetry, A Last Respect celebrates the Roland Mathias Prize, awarded to outstanding books of poetry by authors from Wales. It presents a selection of work from all eleven prize-winning books, by Dannie Abse, Tiffany Atkinson, Ruth Bidgood, Ailbhe Darcy, Rhian Edwards, Christine Evans, John Freeman, Philip Gross, Gwyneth Lewis, Robert Minhinnick, and Owen Sheers.

Morlais by Alun Lewis

Morlais Alun Lewis

Miner’s son Morlais Jenkins is already being educated away from his background at grammar school when he is adopted, on the death of her own son, by the wife of the local colliery owner. Despite the heavy price, Morlais’s parents recognise the opportunity for their son to make a better future. Morlais is a gifted poet and, stiffled by middle class life, his adoptive mother encourages him to be neither working class or middle class, but true to his talent. As Morlais struggles to find his place between his two families, his two backgrounds and his desire to become a poet, this enthralling novel by Alun Lewis is the journey of a boy who becomes a man.

The Amazingly Astonishing Story by Lucy Gannon

By turns laugh out loud funny and deeply sad, The Amazingly Astonishing Story (which was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year) 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).

Regional Pamphlets edited by Amy Wack

Our series of regional poetry pamphlets celebrates the beauty, history, and lively everyday goings-on of four areas of Wales: Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia, the Borders, and the capital city of Cardiff. Each pamphlet comes with an envelope and a postcard – the perfect stocking filler for your loved ones this Christmas.

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, this remarkable multi-form novel 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.

Real Cambridge by Grahame Davies

Grahame Davies revisits his own university town in Real Cambridge to examine it anew and discovers another Cambridge away from A List alumni, Nobel prizes and scientific discoveries. Behind the picture-postcard image of punts, Pimms and polymaths, is the working East Anglian fenland community that gave us Pink Floyd, Association Football, the Society for Psychical Research, the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Reality Checkpoint – and the graffiti protestor who sprayed his messages in Latin… Tourists and armchair travellers alike will be surprised by the discoveries Davies makes in this offbeat exploration.

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.

We Have to Leave the Earth by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s new poetry collection is both keenly political and deeply personal. As well as tender poems about family and mental health, there are two sequences: Songs for the Arctic, inspired by field work done for the Arctic at the Thought Foundation, poems that are vividly descriptive of an extreme landscape sensitive to the effects of global-warming. And The House of Rest, a history in nine poems of Josephine Butler (1828-1906), who pioneered feminist activism, and helped to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act 1869. Jess-Cooke is unafraid of dark material but is also ultimately hopeful and full of creative strategies to meet challenging times. 

All the Souls by Mary-Ann Constantine

While away the long winter nights with this enthralling collection of short fiction by Mary-Ann Constantine. Two doctors and a folklorist meet in northern Brittany in 1898, determined to prove that leprosy still exists. But their ardour for collecting evidence draws them into a dark, watchful landscape where superstition is rife. From poignant and dangerous obsessions with the iconic (a Romano-British figurine; a carved wooden Christ-child; a bronze angel) to direct, often puzzled conversations with ghosts, the characters in this book all strive to make contact with the impossible.

The Golden Valley by Phil Cope

Illustrated with stunning photographs, The Golden Valley is Phil Cope’s personal account of the Garw valley where he has lived for thirty-five years. In it he explores the valley’s history: sparsely worked agriculture; boom-town coal exploitation; sudden, followed by gentle, post-industrial decline; attempts at re-invigoration through heritage and leisure; and now, existing in a post-covid world. He photographs everything from the ancient Garw hilltops, to the terraced houses of the coal villages, to the valley’s outstanding areas of natural beauty.

The White Trail by Fflur Dafydd

In this contemporary retelling from Seren’s New stories from the Mabinogion series, award-winning writer Fflur Dafydd transforms the medieval Welsh Arthurian myth of the Mabinogion’s ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ into a 21st century quest for love and revenge. Life is tough for Cilydd, after his wife Goleuddydd, who is nine months pregnant, seems to vanish into thin air at a supermarket one wintry afternoon. Cilydd gets his cousin, Arthur – a private eye who has never solved a single case – to help him with the investigation. So begins a tale of intrigue and confusion that ends with a wild boar chase and a dangerous journey to the House of the Missing.

Newspaper Taxis edited by Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Woolley

January 1963. ‘Please, Please Me’ by The Beatles shoots to number one. So begins a new era, in which one band transforms the face of music, youth and popular culture. Taking in everything from the music, their influence, the way we lived then and the way we live now, this book is a response to the Beatles’ creativity and capacity to influence successive generations. With contributions by a myriad of poets including, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Finch, Adrian Henri, Philip Larkin, Lachlan Mackinnon, Roger McGough, Sheenagh Pugh, Jeremy Reed and Carol Rumens. Beatles fans young and old will want this anthology to add to their collection.

The Green Bridge edited by John Davies

This new edition of The Green Bridge, collects work by twenty-five of the Wales’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. Includes work by Dannie Abse, Glenda Beagan, Ron Berry, Duncan Bush, Brenda Chamberlain, Rhys Davies, Dorothy Edwards, Caradoc Evans, George Ewart Evans, Margiad Evans, Sian Evans, Geraint Goodwin, Nigel Helseltine, Richard Hughes, Emyr Humphreys, Glyn Jones, Gwyn Jones, Alun Lewis, Clare Morgan, Leslie Norris, Ifan Pughe, Alun Richards, Jaci Stephen, Dylan Thomas and Gwyn Thomas.

Auscultation by Ilse Pedler

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 debut from a striking new voice.

Wild Places by Iolo Williams

Television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his top 40 nature sites in Wales. From Cemlyn on Anglesey to the Newport Wetlands, from Stackpole in Pembrokeshire to the Dee Estuary, Williams criss-crosses Wales. His list takes in coastal sites from marshes to towering cliffs – plus Skomer and other islands – mountains, valleys, bogs, meadows, woods and land reclaimed from industry. Drawing on his considerable knowledge, Williams guides readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Naturalists of all kinds will find much to enjoy in this beautifully illustrated book.

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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Guest Post: COP26 – Kristian Evans on poetry & the climate crisis

Today’s guest post is by Kristian Evans, co-editor of the landmark anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth – vital reading as world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26.

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

Our climate is on the brink of catastrophic change. 100 Poems to Save the Earth invites us to fine-tune our senses, to listen to the world around us, pay attention to what we have been missing. The defining crisis of our time is revealed to be fundamentally a crisis of perception. For too long, the earth has been exploited. With its incisive Foreword from editors Zoë Brigley and Kristian Evans, this landmark anthology is a call to action to fight the threat facing the only planet we have. 

Leaders from the world’s governments and businesses are currently meeting in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Delegates are attempting to create a roadmap towards a zero-carbon future, to find ways to prevent the earth from warming by more than 1.5C, and to explore other technological and financial options to help us mitigate climate change.

Considering the results of previous conferences, we can be forgiven for feeling less than optimistic about this one. Surely here are the same old people, using the same old tools, trying to make the problem conform to the same old solutions they have found for it.

Einstein famously said “no problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew.”

So how does our culture see the world today? What does ‘nature’ mean to those of us in the West? What does our way of life tell us about our unconscious beliefs and attitudes to it? What might ‘seeing the world anew’ mean?

empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.

From ‘A Portable Paradise’ by Roger Robinson – 100 Poems to Save the Earth

Since the Enlightenment, it has become the custom to see nature as a machine, something inert, a predictable resource, perfectly intelligible to reason. Animals are considered to be little more than complicated robots – it’s ok to test cosmetics, drugs and ammunition on them. Nature can be dominated, controlled and tamed. There is nothing truly strange or mysterious out there, certainly no ghost haunting the moving the parts.

We find these beliefs reflected in our perception of human life: consciousness is only a brain process, life has no intrinsic meaning and ends completely in death. We don’t have souls and should find fulfilment in material things, tools and toys that will, we are promised, get bigger and better year after year. Get it while you can and drink it dry, because time is running out and soon you will be gone.

At least, that’s how it used to be. That was the dream. Poets were never quite convinced by it and climate change and the ecological crisis are now ringing a very loud alarm. Blake railed against the oppression of a rationalising utilitarian mind he saw embodied in ‘the dark Satanic mills’. The Romantics, foreshadowing Freud, found plenty of evidence that the Enlightenment had a concealed dark side, that it was haunted and shaped by the superstitions it thought it had banished.

Illustration of ‘The Ancient Mariner’ by artist David Jones

Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is now often read as an ecological fable, a warning of the consequences of adopting a violent, domineering attitude to nature. Most of us will have seen images of dead Albatross chicks, their stomachs stuffed full of the bits of plastic they’ve been fed by the parent bird, the shiny junk plucked from the waves, fragments of the rubbish with which we fill our own lives. We’re all the Mariner now, it seems; every one of us has killed the Albatross.

Yet at the end of his terrifying hallucinatory voyage to the edges of the world, to the edges of himself, the Mariner does “see the world anew.” He is reconciled to a vision of nature as a complex web of relationships, beautiful and strange, everything intertwined with everything else.

Albatros chick

What if we were no longer separated and isolated, disconnected from nature and each other? We too might see a world transformed. What was once viewed as a collection of dead, inert or robotic objects, might now be experienced as a community of vibrantly alive subjects, multi-faceted aspects of a cosmos full of meaning, intelligence and imagination not confined to humans, but distributed throughout everything.

When we were editing 100 Poems to Save the Earth thoughts such as these were never far from our minds. Poets have always kept an ear open to communication from the earth, imagining what the birds and fish and fungi, the oceans and forests might say. It’s not hard to hear them. They are only saying what our own souls are saying after all. Stop. Change. Please listen.

It is as if there were some irresistible force
blowing us over into a strange new century
that billows beyond us, between our thin heart-beats.

From ‘Climate’ by George Szirtes – 100 Poems to Save the Earth

It’s time also to listen to those of us beyond the West, especially indigenous peoples, who are often on the front line of climate change and habitat and biodiversity loss, and who still hold a vision of the possibility of a meaningful existence with an intelligent world. As Ozawa Bineshi Albert of Climate Justice Alliance says, “Solutions to the climate crisis must come from those communities most directly impacted. At COP26, the orientation of the international community must come from them, not economists, corporations and politicians who created the problems in the first place. Solutions can’t be about us without us.”

The ecological crisis is transforming us, forcing us to reassess the relationship between mind and nature, forcing us to revise our cultural assumptions and beliefs about who we are, where we are going and what we want to become. COP26 might attempt technological solutions and new finance initiatives. It might be an exercise in perception management that enables business as usual. A new dark age might be closer than we realise.

Whatever happens, if we don’t jettison the old mechanistic worldview and learn to see the world anew as alive and intelligent, we will remain stuck in the old ways of thinking that got us into this crisis in the first place.

Kristian Evans

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

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David Baker reads ‘Pastoral’ from 100 Poems to Save the Earth

Friday Poem – ‘How I Hold the World in This Climate Emergency’ by Cath Drake

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘How I Hold the World in This Climate Emergency’ by Cath Drake from her debut collection The Shaking City, which is longlisted for The Laurel Prize 2021.

This cover shows a colouful purple and orange painting of a shaky cityscape.

The shaking city of Australian poet Cath Drake’s debut poetry collection is a metaphor for the swiftly changing precarity of modern life within the looming climate and ecological emergency, and the unease of the narrator who is far from home. Tall tales combine with a conversational style, playful humour and a lyrical assurance.​ The poet works a wide set of diverse spells upon the reader through her adept use of tone, technique, plot and form. She is a welcome new voice for contemporary poetry.

How I Hold the World in This Climate Emergency
Sometimes I hold world in one hand, my life
in the other and I get cricks in my neck
as the balance keeps swinging. I walk uneasily.
Sometimes I am bent over with the sheer weight of world,
eyes downcast, picking up useful things from the ground.
Sometimes one shoulder is pulling toward an ear
as if it’s trying to block the ear from hearing but can’t reach.
Sometimes my body is a crash mat for world. I want to say
‘I’m sorry I’m sorry!’ but don’t say it aloud.
I am privileged so I should be able to do something.
Sometimes I lie on my side and grasp world like a cushion.
I’m soft and young, and don’t feel I can change anything.
I nudge world with affection, whispering: I know, I know.
Sometimes I build a cubby from blankets thrown across furniture.
There is only inside, no outside. When I was a child,
world was a small dome and change came summer by summer.
Sometimes I make a simple frame with my arms to look at world.
I’m not involved directly. It carries on without me.
This way I can still love the sky, its patterns of clouds and contrails.
Sometimes I’m chasing world through the woods, bursting
with hope and adrenalin. Oh God, am I running!
I want to keep moving. My mouth is full of fire.
Some days are like bread and milk. I just get on with pouring
and buttering. I want the little things to be what matters most again.
Sometimes I hold little: I’m limp and ill.
Days barely exist. It’s enough to make soup.

The Shaking City is available on the Seren website: £9.99

This poem also features in the anthology 100 Poems to Save the Earth, available for £12.99

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Cath recently appeared on the Mouthful of Air podcast to talk in detail about this poem. Listen on their website.