In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.
Zoë was shortlisted for the award alongside two other titles, Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones and Fur Coats in Tahiti by Jeremy Over (Carcanet). The English-language winners were announced in a special awards programme on 31 July hosted by Nicola Heywood Thomas and broadcast on BBC Radio Wales.
Speaking about her win, Zoë said: “I’m delighted by this award, especially as Footnotes to Water is in conversation with Wales in all sorts of ways. Some of the poems grew out of dialogues with artists Ben Stammers and Miranda Whall, whose work explores Welsh landscapes through visual and performance art, while my own thinking about place and its relationships developed while I was editing Poetry Wales. I’m also glad that this award – and the shortlist – recognises the excellent work done by Seren Books in sustaining English-language poetry’s role in Wales’s cultural life.”
Amy Wack, poetry editor at Seren added: “Zoë Skoulding’s wonderfully inventive and subtly musical work remains both challenging and delightful, so pleased she has won this prize.” Lleucu Siencyn, CEO of Literature Wales, also commented that Zoë’s work “always feels fresh and new.”
The winner of English-language Book of the Year was Niall Griffiths with his novel Broken Ghost (Jonathan Cape) and Babel by Ifan Morgan Jones (Y Lolfa) was the overall winner of the Welsh-language award.
Speaking about the awards, Lleucu Siencyn said: “Wales Book of the Year is one of the highlights of our cultural calendar, and this year more than ever we are extremely pleased to be able to continue to shine a light on our incredible literary talents. Literature helps to guide us through our darkest hours, as well as bringing joy and hope to readers of all ages. Wales consistently produces excellent writers, and this Award is testament to this each year. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!”
Wales Book of the Year is an annual award hosted by Literature Wales. Other categories include Fiction, Creative Non-fiction and, new for this year, Children and Young People. You can see the full list of winners in both Welsh and English on the Literature Wales website.
Today, we publish Sarah Philpott’s much-anticipated new book The Seasonal Vegan, and who better to introduce it than the author herself.
The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott is a kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of fine food writing and beautiful photography. This 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. As well as tasting good, these dishes look beautiful thanks to the wonderful photography of Manon Houston.
I can’t think of a more apt time to write about seasonal eating. With food security at risk more than ever thanks to the Covid outbreak and Brexit (it’s still happening, in case you’d forgotten), it might be time to think about what we’re eating and where it comes from.
I started writing The Seasonal Vegan over a year ago when things were very different. I always try to eat seasonally, mainly because it tastes better, and I wanted to create recipes inspired by the different seasons.
For a while now, campaigners, food writers and chefs have advocated seasonal eating because it can have a positive impact on the environment and local communities. Now, in these unprecedented times, access to imported foods might become more difficult, and so seasonal eating is more important than ever.
You can still buy pretty much anything you want at the supermarket all year round – and fruit and vegetables tend to be ignored by panic buyers – but there are some very good reasons to eat with the seasons.
Buying seasonal produce is generally better for the environment because it requires lower levels of heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year. Eating fruit and vegetables that have been grown in the UK reduces the energy needed to transport them from other countries – 26 per cent of all carbon emissions come from food production – so eating British asparagus in May uses less food mileage than buying what’s flown in from South America – and, of course, it’s tastier.
Because food in season is usually in abundance and has less distance to travel, it’s also cheaper. It costs less for farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to the supermarket or greengrocer, which means that a British tomato bought in peak harvest season in August will cost less than one bought in January. And it’s not only cheaper at the big supermarkets – if you can, shopping at your local greengrocer, or farm shop can be just as cost effective. And although farmer’s markets can be a little pricier, you’ll be supporting a local business and you really do get what you pay for in terms of freshness, taste and quality.
Now, I’m no gardener (the flat we live in doesn’t have a garden) and I’ve never grown my own vegetables – not yet, anyway – but I love nature and I notice the change in the air as the months go by. Wouldn’t it be dull if we ate the same all year round? Nothing beats a warm stew with squash or beetroot when it’s cold outside, and now, at the peak of summer, we can enjoy succulent strawberries, tomatoes, broad beans and peas.
Eating seasonally is sometimes seen as inaccessible or elitist, but it really doesn’t have to be – and it’s possible to cook and eat fruit and vegetables in a way that’s easy, inexpensive and tasty. Studies show that only 31 per cent of adults in the UK eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – with just 18 per cent of children doing the same – and that’s something we need to address.
The Seasonal Vegan isn’t about being perfect, puritanical or prescriptive about eating what’s in season, but it does celebrate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and all their health benefits – and it might inspire you to eat and cook a bit differently.
Recipe: Cucumber Gazpacho
15 minutes, plus 2 hours in the fridge
2-3 cucumbers, cut into chunks
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 slice of white bread, roughly torn
350ml hot vegetable stock
4 tsp rice vinegar
1-2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1. Blend the cucumber, onion, garlic and bread using a food processor or a hand held blender. You should end up with a fairly smooth mixture. Tip into a large bowl and pour over the hot stock and the other ingredients and stir. Leave to cool, then when at room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours
2. Serve with toasted flaked almonds and torn basil leaves.
This week’s Friday Poem is ‘here we come’ by Zoë Skoulding which is part of the longer, multi-part poem ‘Heft’. ‘Heft’ makes up the middle part of Zoë latest collectionFootnotes to Water which has just been shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2020.
In Footnotes to Water Zoë Skoulding follows two forgotten rivers, the Adda in Bangor and the Bièvre in Paris, and tracks the literary hoofprints of sheep through Welsh mountains. In these journeys she reveals urban and rural locales as sites of lively interconnection, exploring different senses of community, and the ways in which place shapes and is shaped by language.
Vote for your favourite book on the Wales Book of the Year shortlist to win the People’s Choice Award. Zoë’s collection has been shortlisted in the poetry category alongside Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones. Vote now.
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Poetry Wales are raising money to set up a new bilingual competition and anthology for young people aged 10-17 across Wales and the UK, but they need your help.
In order to run the Wales Young Poets Award, which will be free to enter and have a theme of empathy, they need to raise a minimum of £3000 which will go towards prizes, judging, translation and the cost of a print anthology.
However, they’d also like to create a set of new accessible online resources that will give all students, whether in school or learning from home during the pandemic, a fair chance. These new resources will include activity plans and video lessons on writing and performing poetry, and will be designed to compliment the new Welsh national curriculum, whilst also giving priority to freelance poets who have lost income due to Coronavirus. Your support up to £6000 would help make this possible.
Any additional funds over £6000, will be put towards subsidising free entries for low-income writers into the Wales Poetry Award which launched last year.
Their crowdfunder is running until 8.59am on Friday 10th July so please donateTODAY if you would like to support the campaign and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. Help them support the next generation of poets.
Your support up to £3000 will fund Wales Young Poets Award, including prizes, a print anthology sent to schools in Wales, judging and bilingual translation.
Your support up to £6000 will fund the creation of freely accessible poetry resources, including activity plans and video lessons for young poets. These are designed to complement the new Welsh national curriculum.
Support exceeding £6000 will be used to subsidise free entry to Wales Poetry Award for those from low-income backgrounds, ensuring fair access for all.
As bookshops in Wales and England begin to reopen, we wanted to remind you of how you can support your local indie bookshop this Independent Bookshop Week.
Buy a book
Many indie bookshops are working harder than ever to get books out to customers during lockdown and are continuing to sell online, over the phone or via social media as they begin to open up. Find your local indie and check how they’re selling here https://indiebookshopweek.org.uk/bookshopsearch.
Support them on social media
Spread the word about the indie bookshops you love, and those you’ve supported during lockdown by tagging your favourite ones on social media. Don’t forget to tag @booksaremybag, #IndieBookshopWeek and your friends.
Get involved with online events
As well as working hard to get books to you, lots of Indies are also busy organising fantastic online events with all your favourite authors. Check with your local shop to see what they have going on. You should also take a look at what At Home With 4 Indies have coming up.
Encourage others to buy from Indies too
Share your love of indies with your friends and family and encourage them to buy from independent bookshops too.
We are proud to work with a number great independent bookshops in Wales and across the UK. Here is an update from some of them about how they’re currently operating.
The Wellfield Bookshop, Cardiff
“We are continuing to post out orders, and in view of the Welsh Government’s announcement last Friday we are hoping to open the shop later this week. We’d like to say a huge thank you for the continued support The Wellfield Bookshop has received during these uncertain times. Hopefully, see you soon!”
The Wellfield Bookshop are taking orders over the phone 029 2036 0777 or via Facebook.
Book-ish has officially re-opened today with strict social distancing guidelines in place. They are posting regular updates on their Twitter page @Bookishcrick and also offer a great online service at https://www.book-ish.co.uk/.
Book-ish are also one of the shops running regular online events through At Home With 4 Indies. Check out what events they have coming up on Facebook.
Griffin Books, Penarth
“We’re pleased to announce that we will reopen the shop on Wednesday 1 July. Please keep an eye on our website and social media channels for details of new opening times and the social distancing measures that will be in place.
We will continue to offer an online ordering and home delivery service beyond Wednesday 1 July. If you would like to place an order, or have an enquiry about any of our services, please email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org You can also contact us via our social media channels: Twitter @GriffinBooksUK, Facebook @griffinbookspenarth, and Instagram @griffinbooksuk.
DELIVERY: We are offering a FREE home delivery service within the Penarth area (excludes Sully, Dinas Powys and Llandough) and posting to customers further afield (£3.00 postal charge applies). A FREE click and collect service will be in operation from Wednesday 1 July.”
They are also running a fab series of online events to celebrate Indie Bookshop Week this week. See what they have coming up and book tickets on their website www.griffinbooks.co.uk.
Browsers Bookshop, Portmadog
“Following the Welsh Government’s recent announcement, Ben and I would like to advise you of Browsers intentions.
It is NOT our intention to open the building for public admittance on Monday 22nd June. We will review the situation over the coming weeks/months.
We will continue to provide online, telephone, mail and doorstep orders/collections as we have done throughout lockdown.
We would like to thank each and every one of you who has supported us and other local independent businesses in any way during lockdown and ask you to respect our decision.
“Gardners Books wholesalers to the independent book trade, our postman, Clive, our UPS delivery man, Rob, Books Council Wales and The Booksellers’ Association have provided wonderful support. We also continue to offer Gardners Home Delivery service. Either way, you can still browse Gardners website, order your book through us and we will instruct Gardners (very nicely) to dispatch direct to you, or to a friend, via Royal Mail. We are still dealing direct with major publishers and our good allies, Y Lolfa and Atebol, the Independent Alliance and Yale University List representative – order away!”
The bookshop is closed to visitors, but you can order books via this form or by emailing email@example.com. You can also call them on 01654 700559 (10am – 12noon weekdays only).
Cover to Cover, Swansea
“We’ve opened the doors, and it’s been great to see your friendly faces this morning. Offers all week with Dylan’s Mobile Bookstore (@Dylanthomasguy)!
You can also order via email, phone, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and we’ll deliver with social distancing for free within 10 miles, and post further afield.”
Palas Print, Caernarfon
“Thank you for your continued support during these testing times, and for your patience as we sort and deliver your orders. We understand how books are a comfort, a means of escape and a way of making teaching at home fun in these difficult times. Thank you for staying at home, staying safe, protecting our communities and NHS Wales. For the time being, please continue to take care and stay at home!
If you need a book or two, or advice about books, we are happy to accept and deliver orders, being mindful of the need to do this in a safe way. You’re welcome to order online from the shop section of the website at any time. Or, email your query and we’ll reply as soon as we can.
You can phone the shop 01286 674631 between 10am and 2pm Monday – Friday, or contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We will respond as soon as we can, but please be patient as we may take up to 24 hours to get back to you. Once your parcel is ready, we will deliver or post it to you. The service provided by the Post Office in Caernarfon has been excellent throughout.”
Palas Print are also running a number of free online events this Indie Bookshop Week, register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workers Gallery, Porth
“Our focus has been to create book bundles that included artist cards and locally handmade chocolates so people could support us and 3 other small and independent businesses with one purchase. We provide a free gift wrapping and messaging service – which most orders used as they were bundles sent as gifts. We imagined the recipient opening the handwritten card, unwrapping the bundle to later be reading a fabulous book while chomping on a lovely chocolate treat! Feedback has been really good. We’ve even had recipients of The Occassional Vegan bundle (sent with vegan chocs) sending us photographs of the food they made from the recipes! We’re going to continue offering the book bundles online.”
“We unfortunately remain closed but are pleased that after the initial shock and panic, sleepless nights and stress-filled days, we found our feet and have managed to use the time well and wisely. We’ve had some small improvement works completed that needed to be done internally at the shop; upgraded and improved our website and made (half-whispered, hopeful) plans for later in the trading year. We’re now in the process of having customer and staff safeguarding work done at the shop including safety screens etc, and are looking forward to reopening when it is safe to do so.
We have been impressed by the First Minister and Welsh Government’s cautious but measured and mature approach to the handling of the pandemic. It has been a stressful, frightening and unsettling time for businesses everywhere (indeed everyone, everywhere) and no doubt we will all see devastating repercussions for some time yet with the Arts, Hospitality and Tourism being especially badly hit it would seem. We can only trust that the right decisions have been made at the right times here in Wales and do our very best to recover and resume trading. I would stress that that cannot happen without continued financial and other support from all the relevant bodies and sectors, should any businesses still require it – they will.
Everyone navigating the ‘new normal’ demands lots of joined up thinking, empathy and support. Pulling the plug now and just hoping things fall into place isn’t optional and we urge Welsh Government to be there now, for everyone, at this pivotal point for the Welsh economy.”
We look forward to further updates on their re-opening soon.
Inigo Jones Slate Works, Caernarfon
“We have not opened our shop yet but we are accepting online orders at www.inigojones.co.uk. We hope to open soon but this will depend on certain restrictions being lifted.”
Don’t forget you can find your local independent bookshop using the Independent Bookshop Week bookshop search.
We’d love to hear what Independent Bookshops you’ve been shopping with during lockdown and what books you’ve been buying. Tag us on social media @SerenBooks.
Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day. Celebrated on the 15th May every year, it is a day to remember those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill, both in the past and today. There have been a number of notable COs within art and literature in Wales and in this guest post Tony Curtis reflects on them.
Concerning Some Conchies: A brief survey of some notable COs in Welsh art and letters
On May 15th this year we commemorate International Conscientious Objectors Day. In my 2007 book Wales at War: Essays on Literature and Art I found myself writing a chapter on pacifism and conscientious objectors in Wales. I was ill-prepared, but had been let down by a fellow academic and the book was past its projected publication deadline. There have been more useful sources published since then and I have more reasons to re-visit the subject having found out about my father’s court-martial in 1943. I try to deal with this in the poem ‘Pro Patria’ (From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, Seren, 2016) but I am still to be convinced that his leaving the army and brief imprisonment can be explained by the CO story some members of my family clung to.
Whatever happened, the whole thing’s been
washed away – personal feelings, the loss of face,
a Field General Court Martial
before they packed you off to Lincoln Prison
and a cell alongside the ne’er do wells,
Quakers and spivs, malingerers, wastes of space.
What is certain is that I had several writer and artist friends who really had been COs and had suffered the consequences. Two of the earliest and most valued supporters and influences on my early writing career were Glyn Jones (1905-95) and Roland Mathias (1915-2007). In 1940 Glyn had registered his objection to the war, despite the fact that, as a teacher, he would have been unlikely to be conscripted immediately anyway. He was sacked from his teaching job in Cardiff, but later found another post. Glyn’s reasons for protesting were rooted in his Christian belief. His position is an interesting contrast to that of his friend Dylan Thomas, who sent letter after letter to Glyn and others in a desperate attempt to avoid conscription. Glyn’s close friend, the artist John Elwyn (1916-97) was also a CO. In the middle of his studies at the Royal College of Art, in 1940 he objected and was directed to farm work in what was then the village of Lisvane, north of Cardiff. His paintings of Ceredigion are luminous and celebratory, as in this fitting cover to Glyn’s Selected Poems.
More determined and honest in his position than Dylan was their contemporary Roland Mathias, the poet, critic and founding editor of The Anglo-Welsh Review, who was jailed twice for his objections. Roland’s father had served as an army chaplain in the First World War and had retired before the Second with the rank of Colonel. However, Roland’s mother was a firm and unyielding pacifist who had no sympathy for army life and profoundly influenced Roland. He was adamant; the wing forward for St Helens RFC, “One scarcely expects to find a pacifist in a rugby pack”, as a glowing match report observed, absolutely refused any wartime activity that might have been seen to condone the fighting.
On the occasion of his second term of imprisonment, with hard labour, his pupils at the Blue Coat School in Reading raised the money to secure his release. For he had suffered:
Seven-square days that bleach and crack
Between the wells and balconies
And concrete exercise…
The significant Welsh language poet Waldo Williams (1904-71) wrote of the horrors of the Swansea Blitz in ‘Y Tangnefeddwyr’. He was from a Baptist upbringing, though later a Quaker, embodied the two main strands of conscientious objection in Wales – religion and politics – as he was also a Labour Party member in the Thirties. Waldo maintained his position throughout his life; he lost his teaching job in the war, and he later refused to pay taxes to support the Korean War. He too was jailed on two occasions as a protest against conscription and National Service: “The sick world’s balm shall be brotherhood alone.” Williams was undoubtedly influenced by the poetry and politics of the older Pembrokeshire poet T.E. Nicholas.
T.E. Nicholas (1879-1971) ‘Niclas y Glais’, was a pacifist through both world wars. He and his son Islwyn were jailed on ludicrous charges of fascism in 1940. A committed Christian and Communist, a non-conformist minster who later trained as a dentist, Nicholas wrote his admired Prison Sonnets after spells in Swansea and Brixton and these were published during the war. He had also preached consistently against the Great War and would surely have been imprisoned then if he had not been an ordained minister.
In the last decade of his life I became friends with the writer and artist Jonah Jones (1919-2004) whose remarkable life has been celebrated in the Seren books An Artist’s Life and Dear Mona: Letters from a Conscientious Objector (edited by son Peter Jones). Fascinated by John Pett’s illustrations to Dylan Thomas poems in issues of Wales magazine, Jonah followed his fellow Conchie into the army as an unarmed medic in the Parachute Regiment. He described the exhilaration and terror of jumping: “…when I jump, once I’m in the slipstream, I just ride it like a witch riding her broom.” After jumps over occupied Europe in support of the Allied offensive Jonah arrived at the Belsen concentration camp. After witnessing those horrors he said he knew his objection had been wrong.
The artist, collector and critic Arthur Giardelli (1911-2009), as a teacher in Folkestone, was evacuated to the south Wales valleys and there, after his sacking as a CO, was instrumental in setting up the Dowlais Settlement. After the war, Arthur moved to Pendine, then into south Pembrokeshire; he contributed greatly to the practice and teaching of art in Wales for the next sixty years, particularly in his innovative paper and shell constructions and his work for the 56 Group. His re-location to Wales, as that of the refugee Polish Jew Josef Herman, was one of the significantly positive consequences of the dislocation that war can bring.
Emyr Humphreys is one hundred and one years old this year. The pre-eminent novelist of the twentieth century in Wales, his work is predicated on a non-conformist faith which meant that he registered as a CO in the Second World War and, in common with Jonah Jones, worked on the land. He later undertook relief work with displaced persons in Italy and Egypt. For over sixty years his books, broadcasting work and criticism have reflected a commitment to Wales that is unparalleled.
Therefore prepare the stage for a decent action
Present the right alignment for a crime
International crisis is a personal situation
Prison, wall, bandage and the lime.
Conscientious Objection in Wales may be traced from D. Gwenallt Jones (1899-1968) the Welsh Nationalist and Christian poet, who was one of the most notable COs in the Great War. Conscripted in 1917, he objected and was sent to Wormwood Scrubs and then a work unit at Dartmoor. It may be argued that this tradition and those principles informed and guided later protest movements. The arson carried out at Penrhos, at the proposed site of a bombing school by Saunders Lewis, D.J. Williams and Lewis Valentine at Penrhos in 1936 and later the Tryweryn actions and protests of 1965, are all part of the narrative of resistance in Wales to British policies.
So too the C.N.D. protests in Wales which included the occasion when R.S. Thomas and others sat down in the road in front of the council offices in Carmarthen town where a nuclear bunker was said to have been built. The Greenham Common fence camps of 1981-2000 which began with the march from Cardiff to Berkshire by the Women for Life on Earth group would also be a significant example of those principles of peaceful protest. The artist Ifor Davies (b. 1935) continues to explore this legacy of protest.
There is a tradition of religious and socialist action which in the literatures and art of our country have been an important element in our challenge of self-identification. Today there is an opportunity again to reflect on COs from Wales and their continuing influence.
Tony Curtis is a poet, critic, essayist and expert on Welsh Art. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including his latest: From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems. He has also written volumes of critical work on poets and artists and edited popular anthologies of poetry. He is Emeritus Professor of Poetry at the University of South Wales, where he established and was Director of the MPhil in Writing for many years. He has been elected to the Royal Society of Literature and has toured widely reading his poetry to international audiences.
Nia Vine is about to fulfil her dream of exploring an unmapped cave system. With her will go two friends brought up in the same seaside town. As they explore, Nia finds herself obsessed by a series of dreams that lead to a shocking revelation.
Newly longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, Nia is the latest novel from award-winning author Robert Minhinnick. Join us to hear him in conversation with Jon Gower discussing the book’s themes, its links to his previous two novels Sea Holly and Limestone Man, and to hear him read extracts from the book.
“a dizzying, yet, brilliant carrousel of delirium.” – Wales Arts Review
Robert Minhinnick is the prize-winning author of four volumes of essays, more than a dozen collections of poetry, and several works of fiction. He has edited a book on the environment in Wales, written for television, and was formerly the editor of Poetry Wales. He is the co-founder of the environmental organisation Sustainable Wales. His debut novel Sea Holly was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2008. Robert’s second novel Limestone Man is a gripping story of a man trying to connect past and present, haunted by dreams of Australia and his youth. Nia was published by Seren in 2019.
Jon Gower has over thirty books to his name, in Welsh and English, including The Story of Wales which accompanied the landmark BBC series, An Island Called Smith which gained the John Morgan Travel Writing Award and Y Storïwr which won the Wales Book of the Year award. He is a former BBC Wales arts and media correspondent and was for many years the presenter of Radio Wales’ arts programme First Hand. He lives in Cardiff with his wife Sarah and daughters Elena and Onwy.
Pigeon Songs by Derry-born poet Eoghan Walls is richly detailed, densely metaphorical, and steeped in themes of love and loss. The totemic pigeon suggests both a down-to-earth physicality and an ability to astonish, to take flight. Formally adept, vividly evocative, Pigeon Songs is a collection that rewards re-reading. Introduced by our poetry editor Amy Wack, Eoghan joins us from his home to read from the collection.
Eoghan Walls was born in Derry in Northern Ireland. He studied in Wales, Dublin and Belfast, where he completed a PhD in the Seamus Heaney Centre. He was the winner of an Eric Gregory Award and an Irish Arts Council Bursary, and his work has been published widely in journals and anthologies throughout the UK and Ireland. His first collection of poems, The Salt Harvest, was published by Seren in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Strong Award for Best First Collection. Eoghan teaches creative writing at Lancaster University, and lives with his wife and daughters in a village near the sea.
Calling all poets! If you’ve got a burning question you would like to put to an award-winning author, this is the event for you. In this special Q&A, Kim Moore, author of The Art of Falling, will be answering your questions and offering advice on all aspects of poetry. Attendees will be able to submit questions for Kim in advance of the event which will be chaired by Seren poetry editor Amy Wack.
Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015) won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. She won a Northern Writers Award in 2014, an Eric Gregory Award in 2011 and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2010. If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. She is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University and is working on her second collection.
Join author and photographer Phil Cope on a richly-illustrated journey through the wellsprings of Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland. Found on mountaintops, in deserted valleys, on the coast, in sea caves and even in city centres, wells have long-standing links with religion, healing and folklore, and have always been places of inspiration for our poets. Phil will share some of his favourites of these responses with us. Followed by a short Q&A.
Way More Than Luck is the vivid debut collection of well-known poet and critic Ben Wilkinson. At its heart is a series of poems inspired by a lifelong devotion to Liverpool Football Club. We meet former players, coaches and re-live moments of both stoic despair and wild joy, where vivid themes are adroitly enacted in poetic forms. Ben joins us from his home to read from the collection and discuss the poems he has been sharing on social media to get us through lockdown.
Ben Wilkinson was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield. In 2014 he won the Poetry Business Competition and a Northern Writers’ Award, and in 2015 he was awarded a writers’ grant from Arts Council England. He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool FC fan, and he writes criticism for The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and Poetry Review. He lectures at the University of Bolton.
When Nula’s husband James was struck by Pick’s Disease, an early onset form of dementia, her life began a terrible downward spiral. Feeling alone and consumed by grief and the demands of caring for James with little support, she turned to the care system for help. There she met Bonnie, a resident in the same home as James, and in turn Bonnie’s husband, the broadcaster John Suchet. The similarity of their plight became a bond between them and after the deaths of James and Bonnie, and some guilt-induced false starts, they eventually married. In this event, Nula and John join us from their home for an intimate discussion on the heart-breaking reality of caring for a loved one with dementia and of unexpectedly finding a happy ending.
“A cry from the heart that is a triumph of love over despair.” – Alan Titchmarsh
Nula Suchet was born in Ireland, part of a large family. After a difficult early life she became an interior designer who worked internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. She now lives in London with her husband John Suchet. The Longest Farewellis her harrowing account of dealing with her husband’s dementia and the heart-break that accompanied it.
Peter Finch is a poet, author and critic who lives in Cardiff. His latest book Walking Cardiff (Seren, 2019) is a collection of twenty walks around the Welsh capital, written in conjunction with photographer John Briggs. His first collection of poetry in a decade The Machineries of Joy was published by Seren in February 2020.
Peter is a former publisher, bookseller and Chief Executive of the Welsh Academy (now Literature Wales), and recipient of the Ted Slade Award for Service to Poetry 2011. He compiles the poetry section for Macmillan’s annual Writer’s Handbook and the self-publishing section for A&C Black’s Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. His extensive website can be viewed at www.peterfinch.co.uk.
The archetypal Welsh church is not in town or village, enhanced by generations of patronage: it is the isolated, simple, evocative walls-with-roof, in a landscape often spiritually charged. The Welsh churches tell us about medieval times, and the Age of Saints that came before and, amazingly of the pagan Celtic times before that, which they were meant to erase.
Illustrated in colour Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches encompasses a millennium of churches around Wales, from tiny St Govan’s tucked in its cliff-face, through ruined Llanthony to the magnificence of the cathedrals at Llandaff and St David’s. It is an invaluable repository of history, art and architecture, spirituality and people’s lives which will appeal to the historian and the tourist, communicants and those without a god. T J Hughes brings the book alive in this fascinating illustrated talk.
“A really wonderful book.” – Simon Jenkins
T J Hughes was born in Denbighshire in 1959. His lifelong fascination with Welsh culture, and with its old churches and chapels, led him to write Wales’s Best One Hundred Churcheswhich aims to show some of the great treasures of Welsh churches, as well as explaining their very distinctive history and origins in Wales’s unique and ancient story. He also wrote the short biography of R.S. Thomas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Deputy Executive Director of the International Bar Association, which works around the world to foster the rule of law and to fight against infringements of human rights such as state use of torture, he lives in London with his wife and son.
Calling all writers! Join award-winning writer and playwright Jaki McCarrick for a special Q&A session. Perhaps you would like to know where she finds inspiration for her short stories, or you would like to write for the stage but don’t know where to begin? This is your chance to ask. Attendees will be able to submit questions for Jaki in advance of the event which will be chaired by Mick Felton.
Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer of plays, poetry and fiction. Her play Leopardville won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing, and The Naturalists premiered last year at the Soho Repertory Theatre, New York to rave reviews. Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio in London, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award. In 2016 Jaki was selected for Screen Ireland’s Talent Development Initiative and has recently completed the screen adaptation of Belfast Girls. Jaki’s plays The Mushroom Pickers, Leopardville and Belfast Girls were published by Samuel French in 2015. She has also had plays published by Routledge and Aurora Metro.
Her short story collection, The Scattering, was published by Seren and was shortlisted for the 2014 Edge Hill Prize. The collection includes her story ‘The Visit’ which won the Wasafiri Prize for Short Fiction.
Longlisted in 2014 for the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate, she is currently editing her first novel, set in the border area of the Cooley Peninsula, close to where she lives. Jaki also regularly writes critical pieces for the Times Literary Supplement, Irish Examiner, Poetry Ireland Review and other publications.
Alexandra Ford’s debut novel What Remains at the Endis wonderfully intelligent and hauntingly beautiful. It focuses on the largely undocumented ethnic cleansing of the former Yugoslavia’s ethnic German population, the Danube Swabians, by Tito and his partisan regime. Alternating between the late 1940s and contemporary Serbia, the story is told from the perspective of Marie Kholer who embarks on a journey to find out the truth about her grandparents’ flight to America. Ford speaks movingly of the personal stories that brought her to the book, and will answer questions from the audience about her research and how one can use the impulse to memoir as a way to weave a fictional tale of persuasive power.
“a deeply personal, startlingly honest, and devastating portrayal of the lasting effects of communal and generational trauma.” – Wales Arts Review
Alexandra Ford was born near Philadelphia. She earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her BA from Virginia Tech. Her writing appears in The Rumpus and No Tokens Journal, among others. She lives on a smallholding on the border between England and Wales.
Tamar Yoseloff and Martyn Crucefix join us from London for an exciting evening of poetry. Tamar Yoseloff’s new collection The Black Placeis a dark and gorgeously multi-faceted collection that eschews the sentimental, embraces alternatives and offers antidotes to cheery capitalist hype. Martyn Crucefix’s The Lovely Disciplines is full of elegantly-crafted, intriguing poems. The ‘disciplines’ of the title encompass many of the manifestations of human love: of a child, a partner, of ageing parents, of the world.
Tamar Yoseloff’s fifth collection, A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems, was published by Seren in 2015. She’s also the author of Formerly, a chapbook incorporating photographs by Vici MacDonald (Hercules Editions, 2012) shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award; two collaborative editions with artist Linda Karshan; and a book with artist Charlotte Harker. She’s a freelance tutor in creative writing, and runs poetry courses for galleries including the Hayward, the RA and the National Gallery. She lectures on the Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry. Her sixth collection, The Black Place, was published in 2019.
Martyn Crucefix has won numerous prizes including a major Eric Gregory award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He has published 7 collections of poetry including Hurt (Enitharmon, 2010): “an exceptional ear…superbly intelligent…urgent, heartfelt, controlled and masterful.” (Kathryn Maris, Poetry London). His translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies (Enitharmon, 2006) was shortlisted for the Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation and hailed as “unlikely to be bettered for very many years” (Magma). His translation of Rilke’s The Sonnets to Orpheus appeared from Enitharmon in 2012. His translations of Rainer Maria Rilke and the Daodejing, appeared in 2016. His collection The Lovely Disciplineswas published by Seren in 2017.
Date: Friday 22nd May
Location: Online via Zoom
David Llewellyn: A Simple Scale, interviewed by Nemonie Craven Roderick
In A Simple Scale, a piece of music starts a story that will range across Soviet Russia, McCarthyite Hollywood and post-9/11 New York, as the secrets of the lives of two gay composers are uncovered. David Llewellyn explores the points at which the personal and the political meet as narratives of love, death, deceit, the CIA, atomic bombs and classical music unfold. Hear David Llewellyn in conversation with Nemonie Craven Roderick discussing his Polari Prize shortlisted novel A Simple Scale.
‘Beautifully told and beautifully written’ – Philip Reeve
David Llewellyn was raised in Pontypool and is a graduate of Darlington College of Arts. As well as his four novels for Seren he has written scripts for the BBC and several short stories. David lives and works in Cardiff.
Nemonie Craven Roderick is an agent at Jonathan Clowes Literary Agents. Her clients include Gruff Rhys, Toby Vieira, Simon Critchley and The New York Times (for the popular column The Stone).
As we all become accustomed to our new circumstances in what is set to be a challenging and unpredictable few months, books have the power to help us escape. Let’s use this as an opportunity to reconnect with literature.
We are fortunate enough to live in a time where the internet connects us to books even when we are stuck in our homes. Not only are Seren books available via our website, we also work with a number of independent bookshops and businesses who sell online and offer home delivery. Here are a list of some of the local independents you can help to support.
Griffin Books, Penarth
“We will be happy to take orders over the phone (029 2070 6455), by email (email@example.com), via the ordering form on our website or our social media channels. We will also be offering a FREE home delivery service in the Penarth, Dinas Powys and Sully areas, and can post books to customers further afield.”
“BOOKSHOP: We’ll remain open and are able to take orders for anything in stock from www.book-ish.co.uk we can post anywhere in UK and Europe for a small P&P charge and can wrap too so any book and gift needs will be taken care of. We can help with presents and cards for birthdays etc.
But mainly we’ll still be here for you and will continue to serve our community with as much passion and pride for as long as we’re able with your support.”
“We intend to remain open here at the wonky green shop as long as we possibly can given the escalating Public Health situation. We’re here for whatever you need and contact-free delivery of all our goodies is available free of charge to anyone and everyone in the local area. So do get in touch…”
“You can still buy books from us; if you can’t make it to the Aardvark Bookery, get in touch! Call 01547 530744 in working hours, visit our website, www.aardvark-books.com where you can search, browse and buy – We’ll post books to you!”
“From today we’re bringing into the mix a book delivery service; either from stock here in the bookshop or ordered as normal with minimum postage or – and this is what we’re really looking forward to – walking and cycling to deliver books locally, which might mean bringing in shorter opening hours/days. But we’ll let you know. We have also set up a postal (Royal Mail) book delivery service SEND MY BOOK through one of our Independent Wholesale Book suppliers, and are excited about that. Also a means for our customers to send books directly as gifts. To order – visit the ‘contacts’ page on our website, with details of the book and we will be back in touch with the best options for that title.”
We will be keeping this post regularly updated over the coming days so keep checking back for more information. You can also get individual updates from the shops online and on social media.
Find your local independent bookshop using the Bookseller Association’s bookshop search.
Help us spread the book love by telling us which book(s) you’re reading this month. Get in touch with us via Twitter or Facebook with the title of a book you’re reading and be automatically entered into our book bundle giveaway. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #TimeForAGoodBook. Winner announced 17th April 2020.
(Bonus points (but no extra entries) if it’s a Seren book or one you’ve purchased from us or your local independent!)
Over the year’s we’ve been fortunate enough to work with a long list of fantastic female authors, all of whom bring something unique to the Seren list. There are too many to mention each by name in a single post, and so for International Women’s Day 2020 we’re shining a light on some of the women writers we are publishing in the first half of this year. Keep an eye out for their books coming your way soon.
Katherine Stansfield We Could Be Anywhere By Now, March 2020
Katherine Stansfield grew up in Cornwall and now lives in Cardiff. Her poems have appeared in The North, Magma, Poetry Wales, The Interpreter’s House, And Other Poems, Butcher’s Dog, and as ‘Poem of the Week’ in The Guardian. Katherine’s debut collection Playing House (2014), a pamphlet All That Was Wood(2019), and her second full-length collection We Could Be Anywhere By Now (March 2020), are all published by Seren. She is also a novelist, with five novels published to date. Her latest titles are The Mermaid’s Call (third in her historical crime series set in Cornwall in the 1840s) and Widow’s Welcome (a political fantasy novel co-written with her partner and published under the name DK Fields). Katherine is the recipient of a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales. She teaches for the Open University and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
Cath Drake The Shaking City, March 2020
Cath Drake lives in London and has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in the UK, Australia and US. Sleeping with Rivers won the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition in 2013 and was a Poetry Book Society Choice. She has been short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Prize, and was second in the 2017 Resurgence Poetry School Eco-poetry Prize (now called Ginkgo) and highly commended in the same prize in 2019. Her work has included campaigning, copywriting and storytelling for good causes, environmental writing and award-winning journalism.The Shaking City, forthcoming from Seren at the end of March 2020, is her first full collection.
Sarah Wimbush comes from Doncaster and currently lives in Leeds. After winning the Yorkshire Post Short Story Competition in 2011 she began writing poetry. Her poems are rooted in Yorkshire with tales of childhood, colliery villages, and Gypsies and Travellers, and they have appeared in a variety of magazines including; the North, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Stand and Strix. She won first prize in the Red Shed Poetry Competition 2016, and second prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition 2019 where the judge, Daljit Nagra, described her poem as ‘linguistically charged’. A winner of both the Mslexia Poetry Competition (2016) and the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition (2019), she received a New Writing North – New Poets Award in 2019. Her debut pamphlet Bloodlines (Seren, March 2020) is the winner of the Mslexia/PBS Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2019.
Sarah Philpott is a freelance copywriter and proofreader for a variety of organisations, and a fluent Welsh speaker who has appeared on S4C and ITV Wales to talk about vegan cooking. She is a regular guest on Radio Cymru, has written for Wales Online and writes restaurant reviews for the Wriggle app and website. She has a recipe column in Cardiff Now magazine and was featured in an article about vegetarianism in the Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella. Sarah also has a vegan food blog, Vegging It. Her first vegan cookery book, The Occasional Vegan was published in 2018 and her second The Seasonal Vegan is forthcoming from Seren this April.
Kate Noakes Real Hay-on-Wye, May 2020
Kate Noakes is a poet whose seventh and most recent collection, The Filthy Quiet, was published by Parthian in 2019 and was reviewed by the Poetry Book Society. Her work has been widely published in magazines in the UK, Europe and beyond. She was elected to the Welsh Academy in 2011. She lives in London where she acts as a trustee for writer development organisation Spread the Word. She reviews poetry for Poetry London, Poetry Wales, The North and cultural website London Grip. She can be found reading from her work all over the country, notably most recently at the 2019 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Kate has degrees from Reading University and the University of South Wales. She teaches creative writing workshops in London and beyond and offers one to one poetry coaching. Real Hay-on-Wye (May 2020) is her first non-fiction title.
Katrina Naomi Wild Persistence, June 2020
Katrina Naomi has published four pamphlets of poetry, including the Japan-themed Typhoon Etiquette (Verve Poetry Press, 2019). Her collection The Way the Crocodile Taught Me, (Seren, 2016) was chosen by Foyles’ Bookshop as one of its #FoylesFive for poetry. Katrina was the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in W Yorks, and since then has been poet-in-residence at the Arnolfini, Gladstone’s Library and the Leach Pottery. Her poetry has appeared on Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please, BBC TV’s Spotlight and on Poems on the Underground. In 2017 she was highly commended in the Forward Prizes. She has a PhD in creative writing (Goldsmiths) and tutors for Arvon, Ty Newydd and the Poetry School. She received an Authors’ Foundation award from the Society of Authors for her new collection, Wild Persistence (June).
Rhian Edwards The Estate Agent’s Daughter, June 2020
Rhian Edwards is a multi-award winning Welsh poet, renowned for bridging the gap between page and stage poetry. Her first collection Clueless Dogs (Seren) won the Wales Book of the Year 2013, winning the hat-trick of prizes. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2012. Rhian also won the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry, winning both the Judges and Audience award. Rhian’s pamphlet Parade the Fib (Tall Lighthouse) was awarded the Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice for autumn 2008. Rhian’s poems have appeared in TheGuardian, TLS, Poetry Review, New Statesman, Spectator, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Arete, the London Magazine, Stand and Planet. Her second collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter is forthcoming from Seren in June.
Sue Gee Just You and the Page: Twelve Writers and their Art, June 2020
Sue Gee is a novelist and short story writer. She has published eleven novels, including The Hours of the Night (1995), winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year award, The Mysteries of Glass (2005), long-listed that year for the Orange Prize, and Reading in Bed (2007) a Daily Mail Book Club selection. Her most recent novel is Trio (2016). She ran the MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University from 2000-2008 and was awarded a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at the University of London Graduate School in 2008. Since 2010 she has taught at the Faber Academy, and worked as a mentor for the Write to Life group at Freedom from Torture. With the novelist Charles Palliser she has for some twenty years run monthly author events at Stoke Newington Bookshop, under the umbrella N16 Writers & Readers. She is a frequent contributor to Slightly Foxed.
Jayne Joso Japan Stories, June 2020
Jayne Joso is a writer and artist who has lived and worked in Japan, China, Kenya and the UK. Now living in London, she is the author of four novels, including My Falling Down House(2016) and From Seven to the Sea (2019). Her journalism has been published in various Japanese architectural magazines and in the UK’s Architecture Today magazine. She has also ghost written on Japanese architects for the German publisher, Prestel Art. She is the recipient of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Award, given to artists whose work interprets Japan to other cultures and was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Award 2017. Her forthcoming short story collection Japan Stories (Seren, June 2020) reveals Japanese life in city and countryside through a variety of characters notable for their shared humanity.
Find more amazing books written by women on the Seren website.
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From the 16 – 20 December our Christmas pop-up shop will be back at Chapter in Cardiff to satisfy all your last minute present buying needs.
You’re guaranteed to find something for everyone amongst the books on sale so come along and have a browse. From stocking fillers like our fantastic regional poetry pamphlets, to gripping new fiction like Alexandra Ford’s What Remains at the End and fascinating non-fiction titles like the new Wild Places UKby Iolo Williams. Or for something extra special, why not trust us to do the choosing for you with one of our mystery fiction or poetry bundles?
Already got all your presents? Then come along and top up your 2020 to be read pile or find some fantastic books to fill the blissful amount of reading time you’ll have over the holidays.