Friday Poem – ‘Severn Bore’ by Catherine Fisher

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Severn Bore’ by Catherine Fisher which first appeared in her 1988 collection Immrama, and later in our regional pamphlet Poems from The Borders.

Poems from The Borders is part of Seren’s pamphlet series celebrating the spirit of place. Featured poems range from “the spine of the A470”, through Monmouthshire, over the dramatic Brecon Beacons, and also through the Black Mountains towards Hay-on-Wye, towns in Herefordshire and Radnorshire and along rivers, the Wye and Severn.​

 

 

 

 

 

A prolific, popular and prize-winning author of fantasy fiction, Catherine began her career as a poet, and returned to poetry earlier this year with her collection The Bramble King. Her first collection since 1999, it is full of darkly resonant tales ingenious parables, curiously haunted rooms and palaces, and beautifully observed images of the natural world.

The Bramble King is available on the Seren website: £9.99

 

Poems from The Borders is available on the Seren website: £5

Immrama is available on the Seren website: £3.95

Next Wednesday (28 August), Catherine will be at The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye alongside our poetry editor Amy Wack to read from Poems from The Borders. They will be joined by Christopher Meredith, Maggie Harris, Rhiannon Hooson, Emma van Woerkom, Charlie Wilkinson, Nicholas Murray, Nicholas Whitehead and Bob Walton. Find out more here.

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Friday Poem – ‘Taken for Pearls’ by Tony Curtis

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Taken for Pearls’ by Tony Curtis which appears in our regional pamphlet Poems from Pembrokeshire.

Last week Tony read poems from the pamphlet alongside Amy Wack at the Llangwm Literature Festival as part of the Poems from Pembrokeshire tour. The next stop is the Tenby Museum on Wednesday 21 August where Tony and Amy will be joined by several other poets for another afternoon of readings.

Poems from Pembrokeshire is part of Seren’s pamphlet series celebrating the spirit of place. An area of supreme but also disquieting beauty, Pembrokeshire has been the home to saints and pirates, the cradle of Tudor Kings and subject to oil spills and annual invasions of summer visitors. The undeniable loveliness of its off-shore islands: Ramsey, Grassholm, and Caldey, contrasts with the often harsh life of settlers, of monks and sea-fishing folk of the past, such as the stoic ‘Boatmen’ of Tenby.

 

 

Poems from Pembrokeshire is available on the Seren website: £5

Did you know? All of our regional pamphlets come with an envelope and a post card making them the perfect gift – keep them for yourself or send to a loved one. View the full range here

Can’t make the reading of Poems from Pembrokeshire at the Tenby Museum? Amy Wack will also be at the Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye on Wednesday 28 August reading from Poems from The Borders. Find out more here.

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Friday Poem – ‘Caldey Island’ by David Hodges

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Caldey Island’ by David Hodges which appears in our regional pamphlet Poems from Pembrokeshire. We hope everyone stays safe as we brace ourselves for stormy weather.

This month, our poetry editor Amy Wack is taking Poems from Pembrokeshire on tour. You can catch readings from the pamphlet at several venues over the next few weeks. The next event is at 12:30pm today at Llangwm Literary Festival in the Big Marquee. We will also be at Tenby Museum on Wednesday 21st August.

Poems from Pembrokeshire is part of Seren’s pamphlet series celebrating the spirit of place. An area of supreme but also disquieting beauty, Pembrokeshire has been the home to saints and pirates, the cradle of Tudor Kings and subject to oil spills and annual invasions of summer visitors. The undeniable loveliness of its off-shore islands: Ramsey, Grassholm, and Caldey, contrasts with the often harsh life of settlers, of monks and sea-fishing folk of the past, such as the stoic ‘Boatmen’ of Tenby.

 

 

Poems from Pembrokeshire is available on the Seren website: £5

Did you know? All of our regional pamphlets come with an envelope and a post card making them the perfect gift – keep them for yourself or send to a loved one. View the full range here

Can’t make a reading from Poems from Pembrokeshire? Amy Wack will also be at the Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye on Wednesday 28 August for readings from Poems from The Borders. Find out more here.

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Friday Poem – ‘Care’ by Claire Williamson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Care’ by Claire Williamson which recently received special mention in the  Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019), with the judges calling it ‘A beautiful image of fragility, of vulnerability.’

Visiting the Minotaur Claire Williamson

Claire’s collection Visiting the Minotaur was published by Seren in 2018. In this inventive and intensely felt collection, the poet enters a labyrinth of her own complicated family history, a history beset with secrets and lies, in order to come to terms with her own identity.  She borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, and of city life, in order to fashion her artful meditations on experience and mortality.

 

Visiting the Minotaur is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Stowaway I (He Dreamed of Byzantium)’ by Richard Gwyn

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Stowaway I (He Dreamed of Byzantium)’ by Richard Gwyn which appears in his collection Stowaway: A Levantine Adventure. 

Richard Gwyn is the laureate of ‘Reckless Travel’, one of the poems in his richly imagined collection, Stowaway: A Levantine Adventure. The protagonist is a nameless anti-Ulysses figure who wanders through the eastern Mediterranean. Yet these journeys are composed of both memory and dream, they hold out alluring visions of the region: Venice, Istanbul, Greece, Egypt, Palestine but also recall bloody histories and the darker side of rootlessness, echoing the voices of both refugee and war victim.

 

 

 

Stowaway: A Levantine Adventure is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Don’t forget this week is our half-price Summer Sale which means you can get 50% off all of our amazing titles until midnight on Sunday 28th July*! Get browsing before it’s too late! www.serenbooks.com

*Excludes forthcoming titles and new releases | subject to availability

 

Friday Poem – ‘A Watchful Astronomy’ by Paul Deaton

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘A Watchful Astronomy’ by Paul Deaton from his collection of the same name, which was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

A Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton is a thoughtful poetry collection by a well-regarded author who has published his work in national magazines like The Spectator, London Magazine and the PN Review. It has a distinctive flavour. The author is a realist and a formalist, preferring simple, accurate language and use of formal meter. This makes for unusually clear and accessible work. A powerful underlying current of emotion also drives these poems and is contained and restrained by the more austere formal qualities.

 

 

 

 

 A Watchful Astronomy is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Buzz Pollination’ by Polly Atkin

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Buzz Pollination’ by Polly Atkin which appears in her debut collection Basic Nest Architecture

Last week, it was announced that Basic Nest Architecture is on the 2019 longlist for the Michael Murphy Prize. (Read more here.)

Polly Atkin’s debut poetry collection, Basic Nest Architecture, is complex, vivid and moving. It opens with poems inspired by her home in the Lake District, and the landscape and famous Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Keats, who have walked there and written about the fells and lakes. Nature is a guiding presence, but the author’s personal story, of enduring a little-known and sometimes debilitating illness, is also the backdrop to this striking poetry. Formally, this work is more akin to the metaphysical poets in its fervent use of metaphor, in its multiple layers of meaning and in its quest for answers to the most pressing questions of mortality.

 

 

Basic Nest Architecture is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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‘Erato’: An Interview with Deryn Rees-Jones

Deryn Rees-Jones is the author of four previous collections of poetry, shortlisted variously for the Forward (first collection), TS Eliot and Roland Mathias prizes. Last month, she returned with her new collection Erato, which is a Poetry Book Society Summer Recommendation, but where does she look to for inspiration and how do these themes come through in her work? In this interview,  we talk to her about the new book and find out more about the themes, artists and imagery that inspire her.

 

Song comes through in many of the poems in Erato. In ‘Líadain and Cuirithir’, a poem about tragic love between two 7th century Irish poets, even the woods are singing: “When we sang, the woods sang back”. Do you consciously seek inspiration from the outdoor world?

Throughout Erato, I am thinking through longstanding questions I have about the role of the lyric poem, so often criticised because of its potential for individualism, introspection, and solipsism. ‘Líadain and Cuirithir’ is a lyric which attempts to enjoy its own musical beauty. But – and this is the important thing — I also erase it, score it through — because I’m signalling early on in the book my uncertainty about writing about the complexities of a relationship in an elegiac, romanticised way.  Those erasures and errors continue to be explored as the book expands on its thinking through a series of repetitions. So yes, song is a central part of the book. And I’m trying out what that sense of correspondence between the self and the natural world might be.

As the book opens out I think about all sorts of songs—and test out my feelings and thoughts about and through them. There’s bird song, the little song of the sonnet, the seductive song of the siren, which is also in the modern world, a different sound of danger and distress than the song of the sirens when Odysseus binds himself to the mast of his ship so that he can hear them but not be lured to his death. There is for me, now, in the current political climate, a sense that I need to question, more than ever, what I am doing, with language, in my engagement with the world. The phrase ‘Look Up’ appears on several occasions. With poetry – and I think poetry is an inherently social act — comes responsibility. A long answer to your question! But yes, I do take deep pleasure in the natural world, but always with an awareness that the world exists in a complex web of interdependences.

The poems often juxtapose beautiful images with sombre ones of loss. Can dark moments contain their own moments of inner beauty?

How do we make the privacy of the lyric engage with, be ethical, and encompass the world? Terrible things are happening, and every day on the news or on my twitter feed, I, all of us, become sometimes, for a moment, aware of them. Uprootedness, war, climate emergency… There is always a chance for empathy, for action. But often, we do nothing. One small way I have attempted to deal with all this knowledge of pain and difficulty has been to experiment with the formal ‘beauty’ of poetic structures.  So there are a lot of prose-like pieces which I have tried to structure like a sonnet. They carry something of the sonnet’s ‘little song’ but also need to find a new way of carrying them. So form and ‘beauty’ become thrown into question as they are pulled to a point of impossibility and transform into something else.

“The water and reflection ask / no question of themselves” in ‘Great Crested Grebes’. Do you think that too much introspection can be a barrier to creativity?

We all need to think and feel as much as we can, don’t we? So much in our lives demands that we think and live within often damaging and coercive and reductive systems. Or learn not to feel at all. I feel lucky that the society I live in still feels safe, and relatively free. But what has happened over the course of the last four or five years is a reminder of how quickly things we have taken for granted, can change. Creativity should not be a luxury.

The poems in the Courtship section of Erato are a riot of colour, sound and actions seen through the lives of birds. How do you make your selections of which birds and which attributes to use?

Because of my name, which means bird,  birds are deeply written into a sense of my own identity. Some of the birds in the book hold particular personal resonances; some I went looking for in books and online. I also have in mind birds as creatures which move between worlds of the living and the dead. The wren of Burying the Wren was both here and not here. Sirens in Greek mythology are also half-woman, half bird….

We were compelled to take a deep breath when reading this in the poem ‘Walk’: “I remembered my son’s look. It’s a kind of scary beauty, mum, he’d said one day but I could no longer recall why. / I was scared now / and took a deep breath. It felt like a wounding. I said, But even in the darkness, you know you are alive.” What techniques do you use to let a poem breathe in order to sound alive?

Each poem happens differently. Increasingly poems seem to get harder to write. But Erato is a book that is less concerned with poems as individual objects and more concerned with the sweep and trajectory of a book as a vehicle for thinking something through. I experimented with that in my earlier book Quiver which also explored ideas through the creation of a narrative structure. I would say that I am increasingly interested in using the book form to create an imaginative landscape for thinking. Once I finished Erato I realised that really it is part of a bigger sequence. There’s a piece in Erato, ’Fires‘, which tries to explore the link between trauma and creativity. Later this year I am publishing a little lyric essay/ poetic fragment called ‘Fires’ with Shoestring Press that explores the idea of creativity further. For better or worse, I already have the next book after this mapped out in my head!  So I am thinking of Erato as the first part of a trilogy that explores, even in terrible times, a vital, hopeful universe.

What are you most particularly hoping to find when you look beneath the foliage, the plumes and the clothing, for material to create a poem from?

Just as each poem happens in a different way so, too, each poem has its own task. The important moment for me is in bringing a book together, and asking all those elements which are fizzing away, making their own plans, repeating and transforming themselves, to have a conversation so that they become part of a more meaningful whole.

Your connection to the visual arts, and artists such a Paula Rego and Francesca Woodman, are themes that run through many of your poems and collections. What is it about the visual arts that inspires you and which are your biggest influences?

Critical and creative work often for me go hand in hand. Sometimes I am making conscious connections, sometimes not, and what goes on unconsciously excites me, of course. In Burying the Wren I wrote a sequence to Rego’s incredible and moving dog women pictures as a way of trying to understand them, and also as a way of trying to understand, or at least put words to, my own feelings after the death of my husband. Rego’s pictures address agency, pain, grief but importantly, too, they are pictures of metamorphosis, scratched out with huge energy, in pastel on canvas. I have spent the last two years working intensively on a critical book Paula Rego: The Art of Story, which will be published later this year, and getting to know the trajectory of Rego’s work over the last sixty years so intimately has been a huge pleasure. She has taught me something, I hope, about how to develop imaginative structures, and has prompted me to think about the relationship between the personal and political, the moment, and the historical.  Rego creates a prism of meaning through image, and story, the personal and the fabular. I think this gave me a way of thinking about giving form to complexities of experience in time. Like Rego, like many women artists, Woodman is also interested in representing the frequently objectified female body in a complex way. The body is central to Erato too  – the memory of a beloved’s body, the bodies of saints, the bodies of the dead, observed bodies, dolls’ bodies, the political body…

When reading the poems in Erato we often found tears in our eyes. If they fell on the not yet gestated wildflower seeds in ‘Gardens’, what flowers would you hope they would grow into?

It’s important to me that people are moved by the book. And I am aware that on one level I am telling a very personal story.  I wanted that to be simple and accessible, and around that things are woven in.  ‘Gardens’ is a poem about wishes, about transformations. I would really like to think that the whole book, now it has been published,  is something generative, that is not mine, but which, in making a connection between writer and reader, takes the reader somewhere else.

 

Want to hear more? Deryn is appearing alongside Tess Gallagher and Nessa O’Mahoney at Books Upstairs in Dublin later this month. If you’re local to the area why not pop along? More details can be found here

 

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Afon Rhymni’ by Robert Walton

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Afon Rhymni’ by Robert Walton which appears in his collection Sax Burglar Blues as well as our Poems from Cardiff pamphlet

The poems in Sax Burglar Blues range from vivid memories of childhood, such as ‘Twm Siôn Cati’ where a teacher ‘wiry-haired, fierce-eyed’ brings a fictional villain to life, banging out rhythms with her shoe on the floor of a Cardiff classroom, to memories of a rock-and-roll influenced youth on the back of the Dusty Springfield night bus, or an archetypal narrative of getting kicked out of a band just before they hit the big time. (‘Three Out of Four Original Members’).

 

 

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

Poems from Cardiff is available on the Seren website: £5

Did you know? All of our regional pamphlets come with an envelope and a post card making them the perfect gift – keep them for yourself or send to a loved one. View the full range here

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Friday Poem – ‘Limousin, Lascaux’ by Jane Lovell

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Limousin, Lascaux’ by Jane Lovell, which appears in her pamphlet This Tilting Earth, winner of the 2018 Mslexia and Poetry Book Society Women’s Pamphlet Prize.

In This Tilting Earth, J​​ane Lovell’s poems are both beautiful and disturbing. A deep feeling for the natural world is aligned with an acute lyric sensibility, as well as a profound ethical awareness of our responsibility for the planet and the devastation of its landscapes and vulnerable species.

‘Jane Lovell’s poems are crafted with a jeweller’s precision. They make visceral connections with the wild in a language all of her own.’ –James Roberts​

This Tilting Earth is available from the Seren website: £5. 

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