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.

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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 – ‘Plasticine Love Hearts’ by Janette Ayachi

As it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Plasticine Love Hearts’ by Janette Ayachi from the anthology Writing Motherhood.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-Cooke

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

Janette Ayachi
PLASTICINE LOVE HEARTS
You curved into me like a child
that has never learnt to walk,
a scuttle into my chest
as I folded over you
like a Russian doll.
The first day
I left you there
I came back
to find you crying
nestled on the nursery
teacher’s lap like a newborn
regressing, an upside down egg chart.
You were late for their world
as I practised detachment
from tiny chairs and tiny
children asked me
to zip-up jackets
tie laces, tell stories
whilst you learnt
the letters in your name
made plasticine love-hearts
became the keeper of the chicken coup
sifting your fur-less hands over its feathers
feeding it corn and water with curious precision.
Today I am not there
watching you and the time
ticks slowly, my heart now scuttles
in my chest as I align trust and bravery
from its layers like a Russian doll internally displaced
into individual shapes, regiment in its own body-hollow echo
waiting for the bell to siren its puzzle-march to complete single form.
We step back into each other the same way people jump
onto moving trains, a leap toward shelter,
your nails darkened by the hearts
you carved and cloned for me in my absence.

This weekend Writing Motherhood is just £6.49 in our half-price Spring Sale! Enjoy 50% off titles across our website this weekend only. Sale ends midnight Monday 28th March 2022.

Gifts for Mother’s Day

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

Auscultation – Ilse Pedler

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

Auscultation means listening and specifically, in medicine, listening to sounds that come from the body’s internal organs. If listening is a central theme of this collection, it is also about being heard. Ilse Pedler is poet of breadth and depth. There are poems about waiting rooms and surgical instruments, about crisis calls, about overhearing farmers and pet owners and colleagues. There are poems about surviving a stern childhood and a heartbreaking sequence about being a stepmother. This is a compelling set of poems from a striking new voice.

Writing Motherhood – Ed. Carolyn Jess-Cooke

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

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

Cecil & Noreen – Patrick Corcoran

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

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

Waterfalls of Stars – Rosanne Alexander

This cover shows a photo of Skomer Island surrounded by rough seas. The sky is an eerie green where a storm meets blue sky and sunshine. The text reads: Rosanne Alexander, Waterfalls of Stars: My ten years on the Island of Skomer

When Rosanne Alexander’s boyfriend Mike was offered the job of warden of Skomer Island, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions. In Waterfalls of Stars, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. Her lyrical evocation of the natural world will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape.

The World, the Lizard and Me – Gil Courtemanche

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

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

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

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

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

Welsh Quilts – Jen Jones

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

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

Call Mother a Lonely Field – Liam Carson

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

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

Love and Fallout – Kathryn Simmonds

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

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

A Second Whisper – Lynne Hjelmgaard

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

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

The Old And The Young – Margiad Evans

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

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

The Stromness Dinner – Peter Benson

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

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

Seren Gift Subscription – one year

Seren Gift Subscription

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

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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.

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Reading for St David’s Day

Happy St David’s Day / Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus. 1st March not only marks the first day of Spring, but also St David’s Day here in Wales. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up a list of great books by some of our Welsh authors. How many of these have you read?

Miriam, Daniel and Me – Euron Griffith

This cover shows a black and white image of a woman's head in profile. She is looking down and is wearing a 1960s style hat. The background is cream fading to blue at the bottom. The text reads: Euron Griffith, Miriam, Daniel and Me

Miriam, Daniel and Me, Euron Griffith’s first novel in English, is a gripping story of relationships and simmering unrest in 1960s Gwynedd, driven by love, jealousy and vendetta. Spanning three generations of a North Wales family in a Welsh-speaking community, Miriam, Daniel and Me is an absorbing and compelling story of family discord, political turmoil, poetry, jealousy… and football.

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees – Clare Dudman

This cover shows a painting of a tree leaning to the right with green leaves on one side and bare branches on the other. It is surrounded by dry yellow grass. The text reads: Clare Dudman, A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees.

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees is a lyrical and insightful evocation of the trials of the first Welsh Patagonian colonists as they battle to survive hunger, loss, and each other. Impoverished and oppressed, they’d been promised paradise on earth: a land flowing with milk and honey. But what the settlers found after a devastating sea journey was a cold South American desert where nothing could survive except tribes of nomadic Tehuelche Indians, possibly intent on massacring them.

Gen – Jonathan Edwards

This cover shows a colourful abstract painting of people out on a busy street on a sunny day. The text reads: Gen, Jonathan Edwards. Winner of the Costa Book Award for Poetry 2014.

The poems in Costa award-winning poet Jonathan Edwards’s second collection Gen, celebrate a Valleys youth and young manhood, offering the reader affectionate portraits of family members alongside pop culture figures like Harry Houdini and Kurt Cobain, and real and imagined Welsh histories. 

A Last Respect – Glyn Mathias and Daniel G. Williams

This cover shows a painting of rolling green fields stretching towards a blue lake in the distance. Fluffy clouds hover in the blue sky above. The text reads: A Last Respect: The Roland Mathias Prize Anthology of Contemporary Welsh Poetry. Edited by Glyn Mathias and Daniel G. Williams.

A Last Respect celebrates the Roland Mathias Prize, awarded to outstanding poetry books 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. It is a who’s who of contemporary poetry which shows the form in good health in Wales.

Inhale/Exile – Abeer Ameer

This cover shows a close up painting of someone cutting yellow reeds in the heat of the sun. The text reads: Inhale/Exile, Abeer Ameer. "These poems remind us that even in the darkest times, there is light and there is love" - Katherine Stansfield

Cardiff-based poet Abeer Ameer writes of her forebears in her first collection, Inhale/Exile. Dedicated to the “holders of these stories”, the book begins with a poem about a storyteller on a rooftop in Najaf, Iraq, follows tales of courage and survival, and ends with a woman cooking food for neighbours on the anniversary of her son’s death.

Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches – T.J. Hughes

This cover shows a photo of a ruined Welsh church surrounded by green hills beneath a blue sky. The text read: Wales's Best One Hundred Churches, T.J. Hughes. "A really wonderful book" – Simon Jenkins

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.

Four Dervishes – Hammad Rind

This cover shows an cartoon of an old box TV sitting on the hazy, dry ground. The text reads: Four Dervishes, Hammad Rind. "Easily the most remarkable work of fiction to come out of Wales in a thousand moons" – Jon Gower

Four Dervishes draws on a long tradition of storytelling as it skewers issues like religious bigotry, injustice, the denial of women’s rights, and class division. Lavishly inventive, verbally rich, an exotic confection, this novel is both darkly thematic and humorously playful.

The Meat Tree – Gwyneth Lewis

This cover shows a cardboard cutout of a tree and a woman with a ragged dress in relief against a red background. The text reads: Gwyneth Lewis, The Meat Tree. New Stories from the Mabinogion.

A dangerous tale of desire, DNA, incest and flowers plays out within the wreckage of an ancient spaceship in The Meat Tree: an absorbing retelling of the Blodeuwedd Mabinogion myth by prizewinning writer and poet Gwyneth Lewis. An elderly investigator and his female apprentice hope to extract the fate of the ship’s crew from its antiquated virtual reality game system, but their empirical approach falters as the story tangles with their own imagination. By imposing a distance of another 200 years and millions of light years between the reader and the medieval myth, Gwyneth Lewis brings this tale of a woman made of flowers closer than ever before, perhaps uncomfortably so. After all, what man can imagine how sap burns in the veins of a woman?

We Could Be Anywhere By Now – Katherine Stansfield

This covers shows an abstract collage of a woman in 1920s style dress looking out over a balcony with into the blue sky. The text reads: We Could Be Anywhere By Now, Katherine Stansfield. "multi-layered and full of surprising transitions" - Patrick McGuinness

In her second collection, We Could Be Anywhere by Now, Katherine Stansfield brings us poems about placement and displacement full of both wry comedy and uneasy tension. Stints in Wales, Italy and Canada, plus return trips to her native Cornwall all spark poems delighting in the off-key, the overheard, the comedy and pathos of everyday life.

Please – Christopher Meredith

This cover has a blue background. The yellow text reads: Please , Christopher Meredith.

Christopher Meredith’s fifth novel Please, full of humanity, sly humour and verbal invention, is his shortest and arguably his 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 as octogenarian language geek Vernon, whose never written anything longer than a memo, tries to write the story of his long marriage.

Visit our new titles page for more fantastic books by Welsh authors.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding Day: A Recipe from The Seasonal Vegan

Sunday 23rd January is Sticky Toffee Pudding Day. As this month is also Veganuary, we wanted to re-share this indulgent Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding recipe from The Seasonal Vegan by Sarah Philpott. The perfect way to celebrate, especially when served with hot vanilla custard on a cold winter weekend.

The Seasonal Vegan is a kitchen diary of seasonal recipes with a delicious mixture of Sarah Philpott’s fine food writing and Manon Houston‘s 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. Perfect for long-term vegans and novices alike.

Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding with Vanilla Custard

Photograph by Manon Houston

1 hour 30 minutes | Serves 8

Ingredients

For the pudding:

– 250g dates
– 100g soft brown sugar
– 100g vegan butter, plus extra for greasing
– 3 apples, grated
– 300g self-raising flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 2 tsp ground allspice
– A pinch of sea salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tbsp treacle

For the sauce:

– 150g vegan butter, softened
– 350g dark muscovado sugar
– 1 tbsp black treacle
– 50ml oat milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– A pinch of sea salt

For the custard:

– 1 litre oat milk
– 150g white sugar
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– A pinch of sea salt
– 1 tbsp cornflour
– A pinch of turmeric (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the dates in a bowl and pour over 250ml boiling water and leave for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Tip in the flour, baking powder, grated apple, allspice and salt and stir well. Add the vanilla extract and treacle and stir again.

Lightly grease a large dish or tin and pour the batter in, making sure to spread evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by melting the butter, muscovado sugar and treacle over a very low heat in a heavy-based saucepan. Once the butter is melted, stir gently until everything else is melted too. Now stir in the oat milk, vanilla extract and salt, then turn up the heat and when it’s bubbling and hot, take it off the heat.

Take the pudding out of the oven and leave to stand for 20–30 minutes. To make the custard, put the oat milk, vanilla, salt and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the cornflour and bring to the boil. Keep stirring until you have a thick consistency, then add the turmeric, if using.

Pour the toffee sauce over the pudding and cut into eight slices. Pour over the custard and serve.

The Seasonal Vegan is available on the Seren website: £12.99

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Sarah talks us through her recipe for Beetroot and Hazelnut Soup

Reading for Remembrance – Armistice Day 2021

Every year, we observe two minutes silence at 11am, on the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the moment The Armistice began in 1918. Today, as we once again take time to remember the sacrifices made by servicemen and women in the armed forces, we’re sharing some of the commemorative titles we’ve published during the last 40 years. Lest we forget.

Men Who Played The Game by Mike Rees

Men Who Played the Game

The Great War and the resulting unimaginable loss of life had a profound effect on servicemen and those at home, perhaps never more so than in the case of sportsmen, who fought ‘battles’ on the pitch or in the ring according to rules devised for fair play. Men Who Played the Game by historian Mike Rees explores the development and importance of sport in Britain and the Empire leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, and the part played by sportsmen in the conflict. The book opens with revealing chapters on how various sports – the fans, the governing bodies and the sportsmen themselves – reacted to the outbreak of war. This book is an invaluable guide to the relationship of sport and war, to the state of sporting Britain, and a moving testimony to the fate of so many sportsmen.

Robert Graves: War Poems edited by Charles Mundye

Robert Graves War Poems Charles Mundye

Robert Graves: War Poems draws together all of Robert Graves’s poems about the Great War. It consists of his first two major published volumes: Over the Brazier (1916) and Fairies and Fusiliers (1917) as well as the previously unpublished 1918 manuscript, ‘The Patchwork Flag’. Critical and contextual introductions by editor Charles Mundye provide biographical and historical context, locating and ranking Graves amongst the other soldier poets of the First World War: Sassoon, Owen, Thomas, Rosenberg et al. 

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John Pikoulis

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John Pikoulis

Alun Lewis (1915-1944) was the most prominent writer of World War Two, in poetry and short fiction.  He was born in the industrial valleys of south Wales and grew up during the deep poverty of the Depression. Set against this background and war, Alun, Gweno & Freda is an account of Lewis’s life and his writing, through the particular prism of his relationships with his wife, Gweno, and with Freda Aykroyd, an expatriate in India whose house provided respite for British officers on leave. The book argues that Lewis’s charged relationships with these two women were the key to both his writing and his mental health. It also explores the circumstances surrounding Lewis’ death by a single shot from his own gun and contributes to the ongoing debate about whether this was an accident or suicide.

And You, Helen by Deryn Rees-Jones and Charlotte Hodes

This specially commissioned collaboration between poet Deryn Rees-Jones and artist Charlotte Hodes explores the life of Helen Thomas, wife of the poet Edward Thomas who was killed at the battle of Arras in 1917. Rees-Jones’s sequence takes Thomas’s only poem addressed directly to his wife, ‘And you, Helen’ as its starting point, and imagines Helen after Edward’s death. Complemented by a meditative essay on the complexities of the relationship between the poet and his family, and on war, grief, marriage and bereavement more generally, this is a critical exploration through a personal lens.

Poet to Poet edited by Judy Kendall

This scholarly volume offers insight into the highly influential writer and poet Edward Thomas, through his correspondence with Walter de la Mare: 318 letters from between 1906 and 1917. Poet to Poet offers a moving epistolary account of the developing personal and poetic relationship of both poets, with biographical revelations, and increased understanding of their influence on each other and key points relating to their poetic processes.

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Bar 44 Tapas y Copas: A tasty first look…

In this post, we’re bringing you a tasty first look at the highly anticipated Bar 44 Tapas y Copas cookbook which is publishing 8th November. 

Whether you’re meeting up with friends or enjoying a romantic night in, this delicious recipe for Tuna Tartare with Apple Ajo Blanco is sure to satisfy. Find plenty more delicious recipes just like this one in the book.

This autumn, brothers Owen and Tom Morgan, the force behind critically acclaimed, family-run restaurant group Bar 44, take the nation’s tastebuds on an unforgettable getaway. Bar 44: Tapas y Copas is the must-have tapas book of the year, packed with over one hundred beautifully photographed, out of this world Spanish recipes you can make in your very own kitchen.

“A great go-to recipe book.” – Matt Tebbutt, Saturday Kitchen

Tuna Tartare with Apple Ajo Blanco

300g fresh sashimi-grade tuna

50ml dark soy sauce

1 tbsp manzanilla sherry

Juice of 1 lime

For the ajo blanco

250g blanched almonds

100g white bread, crusts removed, then roughly chopped

3 slow-roast heads of garlic, peeled (see Note below)

200ml extra virgin olive oil

500ml pressed apple juice

2 tbsp amontillado sherry

Freeze the tuna for 48 hours to eliminate any parasites and bacteria and make it safe to eat. This is essential, so plan your meal ahead of time. Defrost the tuna in the fridge overnight.
      To make the ajo blanco, place the almonds, bread and garlic in a bowl, then add the olive oil and apple juice. Mix together and leave to soak for 1 hour.
      Transfer to a blender, add the sherry, grapes, cucumber and apples and blitz for at least 3 minutes. If you would like the purée to have a smoother consistency, press it through a fine strainer using the back of a large spoon. Season to taste, then chill until needed.
      Sharpen your knife as much as possible for clean, consistent cutting, then dice the tuna into regular 1cm cubes (no larger). Place in a bowl, add the soy sauce, sherry and lime juice, toss with a spoon and use straight away.
      To serve, pour some ajo blanco into the bottom of your serving bowls and top with the tuna. Garnish with the toasted almonds and coriander leaves, plus a drizzle of extra olive oil if you wish.

NOTETo roast garlic, preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC Fan/Gas mark 6. Place whole heads of garlic in a roasting tray and roast for 1 hour. Peel and use as needed.

Pre-order Bar 44 Tapas y Copas on our website: £25.00

Join us at Bar 44 Bristol this Thursday (4th November) for the in person launch. Tickets include a signed copy of the book, food and drink on the night and a donation to the Llamau and Street Smart charities. Find out more on Eventbrite www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/168241002367.

In this video Owen Morgan shares some of his favourite memories of Spain. Find more fantastic stories from their travels in the book.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day we’re showcasing books written by or about inspiring women. Find many more on our website.

women's work 2016

With over 250 contributors, this generous selection of poetry by women with an emphasis on twentieth-century poetry in English features poets from the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand. Arranged by thematic chapters that touch on various aspects of modern life, this anthology 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 now.

Wild Persistence by Katrina Naomi is a confident and persuasive collection of poems. Written following her move from London to Cornwall, it considers distance and closeness, and questions how to live. She dissects ‘dualism’ and arrival, sex and dance, a trip to Japan. The collection also includes a moving sequence of poems about the aftermath of an attempted rape.

The Estate Agent’s Daughter is the eagerly awaited follow up to Rhian Edwards’s Wales Book of the Year winning debut collection Clueless DogsAcute and wryly observed, the poems step forth with a confident tone, touching on the personal and the public, encapsulating a woman’s tribulations in the twenty-first century.

This informative biography restores Elaine Morgan’s reputation and establishes her 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.

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).

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.

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. On the threshold of their futures each must make a choice: how to live in this new ‘now’. 

In the aftermath of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavia’s ethnic Germans, the Danube Swabians, were expelled by Tito’s Partisan regime. A further sixty thousand were killed. Seventy years later, Marie Kohler’s marriage is falling apart. She’s seeing someone new, an enigmatic man named David, who takes her to the former Yugoslavia to find the truth behind her grandparents’ flight to America. Ford has written a moving narrative of emigration and identity, realpolitik and relationships, and asks what happens when the truth is unspoken.

The Women of Versailles Kate Brown

Princess Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, is at odds with the etiquette of the French court. Adélaïde envies her brother, is bored with her sister and, when Madame de Pompadour, a bourgeoise, comes to court as her father’s mistress, she is smitten, with dangerous results. Adélaïde pushes against the confines of the court, blind to the difference between a mistress and princess, with tragic results. Forty-four years later, under the looming shadow of the revolution, what has happened to the hopes of a young girl and the doomed regime in which she grew up?

Find many more fantastic titles by female authors on the Seren website serenbooks.com/shop/new-titles.

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