Friday Poem – ‘When in Recovery’ by Emily Blewitt

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘When in Recovery’ by Emily Blewitt from her collection This is Not a Rescue.

This cover shows a painting of a cat sitting front on but looking away from the viewer. The text reads: This Is Not A Rescue. Emily Blewitt.

In This Is Not A Rescue we are introduced to a poet whose voice is fresh and striking, who writes both forcefully and tenderly about refusing to be rescued, rescuing oneself, and rescuing others. This book is about finding love and keeping it, negotiating difficult family and personal struggles, and looking at the world with a lively, intelligent and sardonic eye.

When in Recovery
Get out of bed. Feed the cat.
Add a level teaspoon of sugar to builder’s tea and stir clockwise.
Resist the urge to stick your knife in the toaster.
Be reckless enough to descend hills at a decent pace
but pick your mountains wisely. Get out of breath.
Focus on words, wasting them. Take citalopram –
four syllables, once a day, behind the tongue.
Understand that there are days you watch yourself
as though you are a balloon held aloft your body
by a slip of string you fear will break.
Grow your hair. Buy exotic oils at discount stores
and comb them through. Think in colour. Sit in the salon and explain
no blue is blue enough now. Try red – pillar-box, satanic red.
Enjoy the sharp press of the needle, its single tear of blood
when you pierce your nostril. Put a diamond in it so it winks.
Accept that sun-worship is good, the Vitamin D produces serotonin
and sensation. When you cry, howl at the moon.
Wear your rituals lightly. At the end of each day, step out of them
as though they’re expensive silk lingerie.

This is Not a Rescue is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Friday Poem – ‘Some Therapists’ by Bryony Littlefair

As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Some Therapists’ by Bryony Littlefair from her debut collection Escape Room.

This cover shows a collage depicting a woman in a 1950s style dress standing next to an easel showing the torso of a smartly-dressed man standing in front of a burning building. A large fork of lightning strikes the sky behind them. The text reads: Escape Room. Bryony Littlefair.

Bryony Littlefair’s debut collection Escape Room explores the possibilities of freedom, goodness, meaning and connection under late capitalism. Can we escape the imperatives of money, gender and human fallibility to freely construct our own identities – should we even try This complexity is balanced with a resolute joy, humour and irony. If you’ve ever grappled with ‘a desire you could not understand / like wanting to touch dark, wet paint’, had an identity crisis at a corporate away day, or just not known what to do with your Sunday morning, the Escape Room is open for you.

Some therapists
1. One believed in karma.
2. Another would take a drag on their cigarette and say fuck it, here’s what I think you should do.
3. Number three took payment in the form of origami animals I had to fold myself.
4. Refused to laugh at my jokes, but sometimes a giggle escaped anyway. I started living for those lapses in composure.
5. Made me speak to them from the next room, so I’d have to shout.
6. Believed in God.
7. Would tell me what they were doing that evening – baking a ginger loaf, going to a wine bar with their cousin.
8. Would say I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m so sorry for your loss, over and over – when the last person I loved who died was my Grandad and that was three years ago. It was a peaceful death and he was 91. I’d say all this and they’d just look at me with wet, earnest eyes. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how much pain you must be in.
9. Read all my poems tenderly, forensically.
10. Read none. Showed no interest whatsoever.
11. Took payment in the form of poems.
12. Had a pen-pot on the desk when I arrived. Twenty minutes in, swapped it for a candle. Forty minutes in, swapped the candle for a bunch of flowers.
13. Spoke only in nonsensical, reassuring idioms: Perhaps we could give him the benefit of the snout. Let’s call it a play. Hang in bear. You live and burn.
14. Spoke only in song lyrics, and by the time I realised this we’d already been working together for six months. We can’t return, we can only look behind, they’d say gently, or You don’t have to try so hard, and my eyes would well up.
15. Believed 9-11 was an inside job. They never said this, but I could tell.
16. How can I be happy? I begged. That’s not the question you really need to ask they said carefully. But it is! I swear it is! I cried, slapping the table.
17. Silently moved their chair around, so they were sitting next to me.
18. Leant forward and said What is it you’re not telling me?
19. Paid me. I keep thinking about going back.
20. Had a rule about eye contact. Look at me, and I’ll tell you about it.

Escape Room is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Friday Poem – ‘Valet’ by Dai George

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Valet’ by Dai George from his collection Karaoke King.

The cover of Karaoke King shows a drawing of a teenage boy wearing a red and brown stripped vest and white shirt. His glasses are crooked and he is wearing a crumpled yellow crown.

Dai George’s confident second collection Karaoke King, addresses the contentious nature of the times. Always deeply thoughtful but also alternately ebullient, angry, curious, ashamed, the poet moves through urban and digital spaces feeling both uneasy and exhilarated. There is a feeling of history shifting, as a younger generation confronts its ethical obligations, its sense of complicity and disappointment. Ecological crisis hovers in the background. Karaoke King also contains numerous reflections on popular culture, culminating in ‘A History of Jamaican Music’, a sequence at the heart of the volume speaking to urgent contemporary questions of ownership and privilege, pain and celebration. 

I remember pleasure. He was
never the rake with a gaudy rose
poking from his buttonhole
but the silent, unassuming boy
who took my coat and let me pass
unencumbered to the many rooms
beyond his station. I looked for him today
in the clubhouse that he used to tend.
I searched in panic, door to door,
finding crews of plump and leisured men
who said, Pour yourself a drink and sit.
I tried. I stretched. But clad in wool
and weighed with it, I couldn’t reach
the shelf that held their stout carafes.
The card games and the laughter
all went on without me, and my coat
stayed buttoned to the top.
My arms were heavy. I was very hot.

Karaoke King is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Listen to the Karaoke King playlist, which pulls together songs that tie in with poems from Karaoke King, on Spotify.

Friday Poem – ‘The Crux’ by Vanessa Lampert

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Crux’ by Vanessa Lampert from her debut collection Say it With Me.

This cover shows an abstract painting made up of hues of pink, vibrant red, ochre and green. The text reads: Say It With Me. Vanessa Lampert.

Say It With Me, Vanessa Lampert’s debut poetry collection, is a call to unite. These wry, candid poems playfully record the foibles and fables of domestic life. Portraits concerning memory and family juxtapose poignant poems of parenthood, loss and the body in triumph and decline. Through perceptive, vivid storytelling, Lampert lays bare human truths that are curious, funny and moving.

The Crux
Through layers of Christmas
you come back to haunt us,
the sink’s greasy burden
unmanned by your absence,
the turkey more lunged at
than carved. How many years
since you ended it, eleven?
My mind’s eye has you restless
as you were. Muscular and lean
as a much younger man
thanks to all that running,
which, as it turned out
was away. You left us to guess
what hell it was
that hunted you. That’s the crux
of what’s haunting us now.

Say it With Me is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Girl Golem’ by Rachael Clyne

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Girl Golem’ by Rachael Clyne from her new collection You’ll Never Be Anyone Else.

This cover shows a colourful painting of a person lying on a chair, perhaps in a therapist’s office, talking to another figure who sits on a chair beside them. The text reads: You’ll Never Be Anyone Else. Rachael Clyne.

You’ll Never Be Anyone Else offers a unique story of survival and empowerment told in spite of experiences of violence and prejudice. A confident exploration of identity, self-acceptance and experiences of ageing, Clyne uses playful wit, and colourful imagery to explore Jewish and lesbian identity through various stages of life. Clyne is a distinctive new voice with a powerful message about being true to yourself.

Girl Golem
The night they blew life into her, she clung
bat-like to the womb-wall. A girl golem,
a late bonus, before the final egg dropped.
She divided, multiplied, her hand-buds bloomed;
her tail vanished into its coccyx and the lub-dub
of her existence was bigger than her nascent head.
She was made as a keep-watch,
in case new nasties tried to take them away.
The family called her tchotchkele, their little cnadle,
said she helped to make up for lost numbers –
as if she could compensate for millions.
With x-ray eyes, she saw she was trapped
in a home for the deaf and blind, watched them
blunder into each other’s neuroses. Her task,
to hold up their world, be their assimilation ticket,
find a nice boy and mazel tov – grandchildren!
But she was a hotchpotch golem, a schmutter garment
that would never fit, trying to find answers
without a handbook. When she turned eighteen,
she walked away, went in search of her own kind,
tore their god from her mouth.

Golem: man made from clay and Kabbalistic spells, by rabbis to protect Jews from persecution. Truth: תֶמֶא†was written on his forehead and God’s name on his tongue.

Tchotchkele (diminutive of tchotchke): a trinket, a cute child. Mazel tov: good luck. Cnadle: a dumpling. Schmutter: a rag.

You’ll Never Be Anyone Else is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Watch Rachael reading the title poem from You’ll Never Be Anyone Else on our Youtube channel:

Friday Poem – ‘My Welsh Wool Coat’ by Amy Wack

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘My Welsh Wool Coat’ by Amy Wack from the anthology Where the Birds Sing Our Names. Edited by Tony Curtis, money raised from sales of the book go to Welsh children’s hospice  Tŷ Hafan based in Sully, South Wales.

This cover shows a painting of a mother sitting by the sea holding her baby. She is dressed in blue and is feeding herself with the child cradles in her arms. The text reads: Where the Birds Sing Our Names. An anthology for Ty Hafan. Edited by Tony Curtis.

Where the Birds Sing Our Names is an anthology created to raise money for Tŷ Hafan, a charity which provides care and support for children with life-limiting conditions, and their families, across Wales. Contributors include four National Poets – Gillian Clarke, Jackie Kay, Michael Longley and Gwyneth Lewis, as well as some of the best-known writers in the UK and beyond – from Max Boyce and Lord Rowan Williams to the young singer-songwriter Kizzy Crawford.

“This anthology enriches the reader. It is a book to be savoured and enjoyed – the celebration of each wonderful moment from conception through a toddler’s first steps and all the family dynamics of life: the simplest of encounters, of depth and beauty.” – Baroness Finlay of Llandaff.

Amy Wack
is the colour of sunrise over Castle Hill
in a town called ‘little fort of the fishes’,
my Welsh wool coat, with its too-short sleeves,
its dense weave of water-blues, the pinks of the sun
that grips the brink of the horizon, trying to rise.
You can hear the chink of coins in its pockets
and the mournful cries of gulls as they exit cliff-nests
to ride the thermals that spiral over the harbour.
Its heft deflects the chilblain cold that creeps
in mists up the blue cobbles of Crackwell street.
It is a coat much coveted in the metropolis,
where people actually lean over in the bus
to touch its heady texture, to coo at its colours.
I hide a bit of flotsam in a pocket, a chip of
cockle shell, a faded wedge of willow plate.
Do I keep the coat, or does it keep me?
I’m just the lucky skeleton that gets to hang
Its glories on my bones for a few winters after which
it will go to my daughter who will own it better
being already fluent in its native tongue.

Where The Birds Sing Our Names is available directly from Tŷ Hafan in their shops or online. All proceeds from sales of the book go directly to the charity, no other fees are deducted.

On Saturday 22nd April at 3:30pm, contributors to the anthology Tony Curtis, Rhian Edwards, Jonathan Edwards and Christopher Meredith will be reading at Abergavenny Writing Festival. The event is free and copies of the book will be on sale. Find out more and register here.

Left to right: Tony Curtis, Rhian Edwards, Jonathan Edwards and Christopher Meredith.

Friday Poem – ‘Magdalen’ by Damian Walford Davies

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Magdalen’ by Damian Walford Davies from his collection Judas.

This cover shows a cartoon illustration of a shaggy red wolf, drawn with its head thrown back and its back leg flung in the air. The text reads: Judas, Damian Walford Davies

In short-lined, intensely suggestive dramatic monologues, Damian Walford Davies vividly summons moments of fear and swagger, doubt and passion, despair and nonchalance as outlaw Judas finds himself haunted by his chequered and extraordinary past. Drawing on conflicting representations of Judas spanning twenty centuries, this chain of poems sets out to challenge orthodoxies and easy pieties. Judas offers an imaginative map of ancient enmities – and dares to hint at resolutions – in the form of a dramatic autobiography of the man whose most famous act (they say) was a kiss in the dark.

She was a piece
of work: deft
where they were brute,
against their oafishness.
She pulsed on frequencies
beyond their range.
He tuned himself
to her, but feared
his body’s
rough reply.
I’d prickle
hours before she came
in range – kept
my distance,
knowing she’d be tart,
a bitter medlar
on the tongue.

Judas is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘In Spring’ by Rhiannon Hooson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘In Spring’ by Rhiannon Hooson from her collection The Other City. Rhiannon’s new collection Goliat was published in 2022.

This cover shows a painting of two towering walls casting long shadows down onto the ground, dwarfing the tiny figure walking into the light on the other side. The text reads: The Other City. Rhiannon Hooson.

Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year, The Other City is full of sharply focused, beautifully resonant and deeply felt poems. The poet charts a course through real and imagined landscapes, where actions are done and undone, and the everyday made unfamiliar. Drawing on the personal and political histories of the Welsh countryside where she grew up, as well as more enigmatic mythologies, the poems map a journey through both the familiar and the foreign, giving us glimpses of unsettling spaces, where light falls “like silk pegged out to rot across the snow”.

In Spring
There are leaves like hands opening
and the old queen in her rotten palanquin
teetering along the road, stones
in the black ground opening like eyes
you open your mouth to sing
the road bursts into blossom
ticks fall from the backs of horses
nests from the eaves.
In attic rooms fanfared with creaking ropes
poets hanging quietly sift into insects,
find cracks, escape
and burrow into the bronze shock
of the sky. Those pinkly newborn children
uncurl on their pillows and speak new words
to their mothers, new soft words
from their soft palates
and soak up sun on all the windowsills
like fat hairless cats, watching.
What gods come, come stalking on all fours,
lean, and hungry, and afraid.

The Other City is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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On Tuesday 11th April, hear Rhiannon reading from her new collection Goliat in the Seren Showcase at Waterstones Cardiff. Tickets £6. Starts at 7pm. Book via the Waterstones website.

This cover shows a photograph of a ghost-like figure, standing in a field at dusk with a sheet draped over its head. The text reads: Goliat. Rhiannon Hooson.

An intelligent and beautiful book, Goliat offers absorbing stories of a precarious world on the brink of climate emergency. Employing startling imagery and a deep sense of history, these poems explore the irreplaceable beauty of a wild world, and the terrible damage that humans might do to each other and the earth.

Friday Poem – ‘For Natalia’ by Eric Ngalle Charles

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘For Natalia’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his debut collection Homelands.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy standing in front of a wooden wall. He is wearing a large black hat, blue robe around his waist and is holding a bunch of reeds.

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. 

For Natalia
I was not destined to leave my bones on
the snow-filled terrains of Vladivostok.
This, I knew for sure, the treaty was already
signed between my maker and I,
although a stubbornness detained me.
I knew my maker would not leave me half-
way, in that lonely existence, swinging
through the doors of insanity, a continual
decent through hell, and her environs,
the snow-filled terrains of Vladivostok.
I hear it again in Old Russian Ballads,
that filled me with hope so I could not give up.
‘Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может’ *
I loved you, this love can be again. It carried
my spirit home, when I was eating leftovers
from my mother’s dirty pots. I have known love:
when we kissed, I felt your face in my hands.
I was not destined to leave my bones on
the snow-filled terrains of Vladivostok.
Memories are my hiding place, dreams
of hell and heaven intertwine, from here,
I saw the green fields of my distant home.
‘Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может’
I loved you, this love can be again.
* Alexander Pushkin

Homelands is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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Listen to Eric Ngalle Charles discussing Homelands on The Seren Poetry Podcast.

You can catch up with all of series one by searching ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app. Click like, follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear!

Friday Poem: ‘Curating a space for anachronistic design’ by Nerys Williams

In anticipation of Mother’s Day and because today is St Patrick’s Day, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Curating a space for anachronistic design’ by Welsh/Irish poet Nerys Williams from her new collection Republic.

This cover shows a colourful print of a woman dressed in a black hoodie with large bunny ears on the hood. She has dripping dark blue rings around her eyes and stands out against an acid yellow background. The text reads: Republic. Nerys Williams.

In her explosive new poetry collection Republic Nerys Williams opens a window on life in rural west Wales during the 1980s and 90s. English and Welsh-language post-punk bands, politics, feminism and family life are thrown together on the page as she questions what makes a republic?

32. Curating a space for anachronistic design
We are mindful of that space where objects retain their usefulness, not yet dated. But no longer telling the current story of our consumption. Until one summer they might be discovered again. Bakelite transmissions PARIS/ BREMEN/ LUXEMBOURG/ DLF/ WDR, the mono cassette player offering better noise that your laptop. A found boxed card, in lurid psychedelic colours celebrating your birth, a letter slips out. In translation:
“Congratulations on your precious gift of a daughter. I am so delighted that you are getting better and healing, I hope that you return home soon. We will come and see you soon, we ask after you frequently. Your mother tells me she is very happy the birth went well. We miss seeing you at the chapel on Sunday and our incidental chats. We had the rehearsal for the Gymanfa Ganu here yesterday and the numbers were low considering three chapels were meeting, however there was considerable amount of eating in the vestry. The weather is still rather mixed, we’ve just started our cut of hay, but it remains to be collected. You are very lucky to have the summer as your season of motherhood, you’ll be able to show your girl the world. I will sign off now and hope that we will have a good chat soon. P.S. and kisses to the baby” (your name misspelt).
Cards that are kept, establish an archive, alerting us to something larger than ourselves. One birth impacts a community, a language. Why cry over the viscose, threads of writing which represent an overflow of feeling? Puffy-eyed you think of those words “a most precious daughter” given by one having none.

Republic is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us at Goldstone Books in Carmarthen tonight (17th March) to hear Nerys Williams in conversation with Menna Elfyn at the launch of Republic. All welcome. Find the full details and register via Eventbrite.

Book Launch. Republic. Nerys Williams. Friday 17th March from 6pm. Goldstone Books, 10 Hall Street, Carmarthen, SA31 1PH. Join us at Goldstone Books for the launch of Republic by Nerys Williams where she'll be chatting to Menna Elfyn.