Friday Poem – ‘Politics of Water’ by Peter Finch

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Politics of Water’ by Peter Finch. Originally published in his 1996 collection Math, it now features in Volume One of his newly published Collected Poems.

This cover features a photo of a geometric concrete sculpture made up of hexagons. The text reads: Peter Finch Collected Poems One 1968-1997

Peter Finch’s remarkable career spans over fifty years. He has been taking poetry to places it didn’t know it wanted to go from the beginning; blending the avant-garde, concrete, visual, sound, performance and more conventional forms to create something unique. His new two-volume Collected Poems, edited by Andrew Taylor, cement his reputation as one of Britain’s leading poets.

This cover features a photo of a geometric concrete sculpture made up of hexagons. The text reads: Peter Finch Collected Poems Two 1997-2021

Volume One brings together work from long lost chapbooks, broadsheets and limited editions, as well as more conventionally published work. Volume Two focuses on the second half of Finch’s career with poems from later collections sitting alongside works from his prose books and those engraved in the public realm on sculptures, walls and buildings, particularly in his native Cardiff. Nerys Williams and Ian McMillan provide appreciative forewords to each volume.

POLITICS OF WATER
there (here) are (were) places (pimples) in (on)
Wales (wheels) I (we) don’t (can’t) go (gone)
reservoirs (places) that (this) are (will be) the (a)
subconscious (subterranean) (subtotal) (subliminal)
(superfluous) (serenity) of (in) (on) a (the)
people (people). Here (where) were (will be)
pimples (scars) (gouges) (savage stripes)
on (in) wheels (fields) (folds) I (you) (we)
can’t (can) (cannot) gone (grown) (green)
places (princes) (parsons) (people) this
(those) will be (will not) a (the)
subterranean (terminal) (termination) (treeless)
invasion (inversion) in (of) the (the) people
(person) (personal) (private) (so private)
(so personal) (only) it is (never) not (yours)
(mine) (moan) (theirs) (his) (hers) (ours) (whose)
dig (dirge) (deep) (down) (down) (down)

Order the Collected Poems Complete Set on the Seren website for £30.00, or buy them individually for £19.99 each.

We launched the Collected Poems at Jury’s Inn in Cardiff earlier this week. Watch the live stream recording on demand on our AM channel now amam.cymru/seren.

Photos by John Briggs.

Friday Poem – ‘Rhys’ by Rhian Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Rhys’ by Rhian Edwards from her collection Clueless Dogs.

This cover shows a cartoon collage of a Dalmatian. The text reads Clueless Dogs Rhian Edwards.

Clueless Dogs is the multi-award-winning debut collection by Rhian Edwards. Full of verve and humour, Rhian Edwards’ language has a winning honesty and intensity. Poems like ‘The Welshman Who Couldn’t Sing’ chronicle a fraught childhood in Bridgend, south Wales, where the sensitive child escapes through imaginative games of ‘Playing Dead’ and ‘Broken Lifeboat’. Later poems explore teenage lusts, student rivalries, damaged peers and tense situations. Although the author doesn’t flinch from ruthless depictions, in which we are often implicated by her use of the second person ‘You’, there is an underlying sweetness, an elegiac thread to this remarkable collection.

Rhys
Like the time you invited me inside
the ottoman on the landing
and sat on the lid laughing
while I scratched and screamed at the wood.
Or when the babysitter wasn’t looking,
you taught me the quickest way to add nine,
showed me to tie my laces with the tale
of two rabbits disappearing down a hole.
Like the day you caught the slow-worm
that tried to whip away the sun,
letting it loose into the folds
of the blanket that I held like a lover.
Not to mention the crimes I invented
for which I never knew you were beaten,
or that summer you took away the stabilisers
to be the sole witness to me riding away.
Like the times I spied in your bedroom,
played your records and fanned open your books,
only to slip between the sheets
with a nakedness meant only for bath time.

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Friday Poem – ‘Samuel Taylor Colderidge Walking from the Queen’s Head…’ by Jonathan Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Samuel Taylor Coleridge Walking from The Queen’s Head…’ by Jonathan Edwards from his collection Gen.

This cover shows a colourful painting of a street scene croweded with people. The text reads: Gen, Jonathan Edwards

Gen is a book of lions and rock stars, street parties and servants, postmen and voices. In the opening sequence’s exploration of youth and young manhood, the author sets his own Valleys upbringing against the 50s youth of his parents and the experience of a range of pop culture icons, including Kurt Cobain and Harry Houdini. These poems give way to a sequence of monologues and character sketches, giving us the lives of crocodiles and food testers, pianists and retail park trees.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Walking
from The Queen’s Head, Gray’s Inn,
to Hornsby’s and Co., Cornhill, to Buy
an Irish Lottery Ticket, November 1793
At twenty-one, he needs something big to happen
to cover his bar tab, run up trying to escape
thought of his debts. What his life is going like
is this: the blown scholarship
nothing that can’t be dealt with
by opium; ladies with abracadabra
clothes to make the girl who will not love
disappear. A night
of weighing up options: on one hand,
the army, in the other,
a pistol. Then drunken inspiration, a solution
to his life and here he is, on his way,
inventing a new walk –
the wobble-stride. He’s walking, walking,
writing in his head To Fortune, a poem
to read whose rhyming couplets
is to hear him walking
now. A month or two and his brother
will clear his debts,
a day or so and his lottery ticket
will lie in a ditch, a couple of weeks
and To Fortune will appear in The Morning Chronicle,
his first published poem, and they’ll pay a guinea,
which he’ll try – and find it good –
against his teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Poem – ‘The Creel’ by Kathleen Jamie

To celebrate Earth Day, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Creel’ by Kathleen Jamie from 100 Poems to Save the Earth.

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

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

Kathleen Jamie
The Creel
The world began with a woman,
shawl-happed, stooped under a creel,
whose slow step you recognize
from troubled dreams. You feel
obliged to help bear her burden
from hill or kelp-strewn shore,
but she passes by unseeing
thirled to her private chore.
It’s not sea birds or peat she’s carrying,
not fleece, nor the herring bright
but her fear that if ever she put it down
the world would go out like a light.

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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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Friday Poem – ‘Somniloquy’ by Paul Henry

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Somniloquy’ by Paul Henry from his new collection As If To Sing.

This cover shows an abstract painting by the artist Antony Goble. A woman with blue skin dominates the image in a vibrant orange dress. She is balancing an urn on her head and holds a red crow in her hand. The text reads: As If To Sing, Paul Henry. "One of the best lyric poets currently writing" - Hugo Williams

The power of song, to sustain the human spirit, resonates through As if to Sing. A trapped caver crawls back through songs to the sea; Welsh soldiers pack their hearts into a song on the eve of battle, ‘for safe-keeping’; a child crossing a bridge sings ‘a song with no beginning or end’… Rich in the musical lyricism admired by readers and fellow poets, As if to Sing is an essential addition to this poet’s compelling body of work.

“A poet at the top of his game.” – Radio Wales Review Show

Somniloquy
Speak into my good ear.
The house is bubble-wrapped
with rain. It’s late.
To better hear your voice
through this worn out device
I lean in closer to the page.
To better hear the sleep talk
tangled in its sheets
I lean in closer to your lips.
Speak into my good ear.
The crackle of dark matter
on its way to this room
clears at last, to better hear
your dream ask, Is it you?
Where have you been?

Listen to Gary Raymond, Paul Chambers and Dr Emily Garside reviewing As If To Sing on the Radio Wales Review Show.

Paul is launching As If To Sing at Book-ish in Crickhowell on Thursday 28th April. Visit their website book-ish.co.uk to buy tickets.

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

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Friday Poem – ‘When it Rains, I Think of You’ by Eric Ngalle Charles

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘When it Rains, I Think of You’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his new collection Homelands.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy wearing a blue robe tied around his waist and an oversized black hat standing in front of a building. The text reads: Homelands, Eric Ngalle Charles.

In Homelands Eric Ngalle Charles draws on his early life raised by the matriarchs of Cameroon, being sent to Moscow by human traffickers, and finding a new home in Wales. Rich in tone, subject and emotion, Charles’ poetry moves between the present and the past, between Africa and Europe, and between despair and hope. It discovers that historical injustices now play out in new forms, and that family tensions are as strong as the love within a family. Despite the difficulties Charles has faced, Homelands contains poems of fondness, warmth and humour and, as he returns to Cameroon to confront old ghosts, forgiveness. 

When it Rains, I Think of You
Farzana,
and if you will return
alive or dead from that awful place,
the Al-Jawiywah prison,
meeting point for migrants and traffickers.
I think of you there,
where today, a quarrel brews:
to entertain themselves
the guards throw one toothbrush and paste
and watch inmates fight for it.
A mad woman paces up,
then down, an old man sits and stares.
Farzana is pregnant, skeletal,
she wants to leave this
makeshift jail where migrants
starve and soldiers
make merry over rum with traffickers.
When it rains I think of you,
Farzana,
and if you will return.

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On the 27th May Eric will be reading from Homelands as part of the Hay Festival Schools Programme. Tickets for the Hay Festival main programme go on sale today at 12pm.

Friday Poem – ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile.

This cover shows a closeup painting of someone cutting reeds. The text reads: Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer

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.

Four Poets in a Bookshop

In the land of two rivers and hanging gardens,
four poets meet in a bookshop. No one can know.
Portrait of Saddam watches; they hide under the cloak
of Arabic lexicon. They share with one breath
meanings that turn the Master’s key
to worlds where Adam was taught the names.

Trees, reborn as pages, witness the names
of four and those gathered to reach the Gardens,
as they escape their locked chests without key.
They are four men who know.
Reading between lines of apocalypse, each strained breath
foretells of beasts with their daggers and cloak

scarring minds and hearts of men by Baathist cloak.
Present are bygone days of Karbala’s names
which poets dare to mention under their breath.
Alive and well with the Lord of the Gardens.
Willing to exchange this world for the next, four know
that informants sell to the cruellest bidder for neighbours’ key.

Saddam’s spies claw to learn of persons key
and clothe their families in mourning cloak.
Three-quarters give eyes, tongues and nails. They know
they must not, to treachery, yield any names.
Silent skin, dipped in acid, bastes in hanging gardens
bearing to keep hidden secrets beyond dissolved breath.

No haste nor waste for ordained beat and breath
nor desire for the iron key
to dust’s throne; they dream of other gardens.
Longing only to reunite with the People of the Cloak
and the Most Compassionate through His Names.
Those clinging to ebbing sands of time do not yet know

The bookshop bears witness to what few mortals know.
Its shelves and books inhale each whispered breath
and all that poetry and scripture, names.
Kerosene warms the last poet. He clutches the bookshop’s key,
drinks black tea sugar cannot sweeten and wears a black cloak.
Alone; his companions have already reached the Garden.

Many years after a shroud is his cloak and cancer takes his breath,
the names of seekers are still hidden. Their key is kept buried in the earth
upon which gardens grow, and reed beds and shrines know how to Read.

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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.