Friday Poem – ‘This Is The Drawer’ by Rhian Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘This Is The Drawer’ by Rhian Edwards from her new collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter which is published on Monday 1st June.

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.

“…fast-talking, wise-cracking and worldly wise” – Zoë Brigley

The Estate Agent’s Daughter is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us for the virtual launch of The Estate Agent’s Daughter on Tuesday 16th June at 7:30pm live via the online platform Zoom. Email sarahjohnson@serenbooks.com for the link details. 

Friday Poem – ‘Skype’ by Martyn Crucefix

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Skype’ by Martyn Crucefix from his collection The Lovely Disciplines.

We were fortunate enough to hear Martyn read this poem during our Stay-at-Home Series event yesterday evening.

Martyn Crucefix The Lovely DisciplinesDisplaying his characteristic flair, craft and intelligence, Crucefix’s poems often begin with the visible, the tangible, the ordinary, yet through each act of attentiveness and the delicate fluidity of the language they re-discover the extraordinary in the everyday.

‘…highly wrought, ambitious, thoughtful – and very good.’ – The Sunday Times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lovely Disciplines is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us for the final event of the Seren Stay-at-Home Series this evening from 7:30pm! David Llewellyn, author of the Polari Prize shortlisted novel A Simple Scale, will be in conversation with Nemonie Craven Roderick. Actor Samuel West is also joining us to read excerpts from the book. Get tickets on our website here.

Guest Post: Tony Curtis marks International Conscientious Objectors Day

Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day. Celebrated on the 15th May every year, it is a day to remember those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill, both in the past and today. There have been a number of notable COs within art and literature in Wales and in this guest post Tony Curtis reflects on them.

Concerning Some Conchies: A brief survey of some notable COs in Welsh art and letters

On May 15th this year we commemorate International Conscientious Objectors Day. In my 2007 book Wales at War: Essays on Literature and Art  I found myself writing a chapter on pacifism and conscientious objectors in Wales. I was ill-prepared, but had been let down by a fellow academic and the book was past its projected publication deadline. There have been more useful sources published since then and I have more reasons to re-visit the subject having found out about my father’s court-martial in 1943. I try to deal with this in the poem ‘Pro Patria’ (From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems, Seren, 2016) but I am still to be convinced that his leaving the army and brief imprisonment can be explained by the CO story some members of my family clung to.

Whatever happened, the whole thing’s been
washed away – personal feelings, the loss of face,
a Field General Court Martial
before they packed you off to Lincoln Prison
and a cell alongside the ne’er do wells,
Quakers and spivs, malingerers, wastes of space.

What is certain is that I had several writer and artist friends who really had been COs and had suffered the consequences. Two of the earliest and most valued supporters and influences on my early writing career were Glyn Jones (1905-95) and Roland Mathias (1915-2007). In 1940 Glyn had registered his objection to the war, despite the fact that, as a teacher, he would have been unlikely to be conscripted immediately anyway. He was sacked from his teaching job in Cardiff, but later found another post. Glyn’s reasons for protesting were rooted in his Christian belief. His position is an interesting contrast to that of his friend Dylan Thomas, who sent letter after letter to Glyn and others in a desperate attempt to avoid conscription. Glyn’s close friend, the artist John Elwyn (1916-97) was also a CO. In the middle of his studies at the Royal College of Art, in 1940 he objected and was directed to farm work in what was then the village of Lisvane, north of Cardiff. His paintings of Ceredigion are luminous and celebratory, as in this fitting cover to Glyn’s Selected Poems.

More determined and honest in his position than Dylan was their contemporary Roland Mathias, the poet, critic and founding editor of The Anglo-Welsh Review, who was jailed twice for his objections. Roland’s father had served as an army chaplain in the First World War and had retired before the Second with the rank of Colonel. However, Roland’s mother was a firm and unyielding pacifist who had no sympathy for army life and profoundly influenced Roland. He was adamant; the wing forward for St Helens RFC, “One scarcely expects to find a pacifist in a rugby pack”, as a glowing match report observed, absolutely refused any wartime activity that might have been seen to condone the fighting.

On the occasion of his second term of imprisonment, with hard labour, his pupils at the Blue Coat School in Reading raised the money to secure his release. For he had suffered:

Seven-square days that bleach and crack
Between the wells and balconies
And concrete exercise…

The significant Welsh language poet Waldo Williams (1904-71) wrote of the horrors of the Swansea Blitz in ‘Y Tangnefeddwyr’.  He was from a Baptist upbringing, though later a Quaker, embodied the two main strands of conscientious objection in Wales – religion and politics – as he was also a Labour Party member in the Thirties. Waldo maintained his position throughout his life; he lost his teaching job in the war, and he later refused to pay taxes to support the Korean War. He too was jailed on two occasions as a protest against conscription and National Service: “The sick world’s balm shall be brotherhood alone.” Williams was undoubtedly influenced by the poetry and politics of the older Pembrokeshire poet T.E. Nicholas.

T.E. Nicholas (1879-1971) ‘Niclas y Glais’, was a pacifist through both world wars. He and his son Islwyn were jailed on ludicrous charges of fascism in 1940. A committed Christian and Communist, a non-conformist minster who later trained as a dentist, Nicholas wrote his admired Prison Sonnets after spells in Swansea and Brixton and these were published during the war. He had also preached consistently against the Great War and would surely have been imprisoned then if he had not been an ordained minister.

In the last decade of his life I became friends with the writer and artist Jonah Jones (1919-2004) whose remarkable life has been celebrated in the Seren books An Artist’s Life and Dear Mona: Letters from a Conscientious Objector (edited by son Peter Jones). Fascinated by John Pett’s illustrations to Dylan Thomas poems in issues of Wales magazine, Jonah followed his fellow Conchie into the army as an unarmed medic in the Parachute Regiment.  He described the exhilaration and terror of jumping: “…when I jump, once I’m in the slipstream, I just ride it like a witch riding her broom.” After jumps over occupied Europe in support of the Allied offensive Jonah arrived at the Belsen concentration camp. After witnessing those horrors he said he knew his objection had been wrong.

Dear Mona Jonah Jones

The artist, collector and critic Arthur Giardelli (1911-2009), as a teacher in Folkestone, was evacuated to the south Wales valleys and there, after his sacking as a CO, was instrumental in setting up the Dowlais Settlement. After the war, Arthur moved to Pendine, then into south Pembrokeshire; he contributed greatly to the practice and teaching of art in Wales for the next sixty years, particularly in his innovative paper and shell constructions and his work for the 56 Group. His re-location to Wales, as that of the refugee Polish Jew Josef Herman, was one of the significantly positive consequences of the dislocation that war can bring.

Emyr Humphreys is one hundred and one years old this year. The pre-eminent novelist of the twentieth century in Wales, his work is predicated on a non-conformist faith which meant that he registered as a CO in the Second World War and, in common with Jonah Jones, worked on the land. He later undertook relief work with displaced persons in Italy and Egypt. For over sixty years his books, broadcasting work and criticism have reflected a commitment to Wales that is unparalleled.

Therefore prepare the stage for a decent action
Present the right alignment for a crime
International crisis is a personal situation
Prison, wall, bandage and the lime.

(‘Courage’)

Conscientious Objection in Wales may be traced from D. Gwenallt Jones (1899-1968) the Welsh Nationalist and Christian poet, who was one of the most notable COs in the Great War. Conscripted in 1917, he objected and was sent to Wormwood Scrubs and then a work unit at Dartmoor. It may be argued that this tradition and those principles informed and guided later protest movements. The arson carried out at Penrhos, at the proposed site of a bombing school by Saunders Lewis, D.J. Williams and Lewis Valentine at Penrhos in 1936 and later the Tryweryn actions and protests of 1965, are all part of the narrative of resistance in Wales to British policies.

So too the C.N.D. protests in Wales which included the occasion when R.S. Thomas and others sat down in the road in front of the council offices in Carmarthen town where a nuclear bunker was said to have been built. The Greenham Common fence camps of 1981-2000 which began with the march from Cardiff to Berkshire by the Women for Life on Earth group would also be a significant example of those principles of peaceful protest. The artist Ifor Davies (b. 1935) continues to explore this legacy of protest.

There is a tradition of religious and socialist action which in the literatures and art of our country have been an important element in our challenge of self-identification. Today there is an opportunity again to reflect on COs from Wales and their continuing influence.

Tony Curtis

 

Tony Curtis is a poet, critic, essayist and expert on Welsh Art. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including his latest: From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems. He has also written volumes of critical work on poets and artists and edited popular anthologies of poetry. He is Emeritus Professor of Poetry at the University of South Wales, where he established and was Director of the MPhil in Writing for many years. He has been elected to the Royal Society of Literature and has toured widely reading his poetry to international audiences.

From the Fortunate Isles: New and Selected Poems is available on the Seren website: £12.99

Friday Poem – ‘Two Clouds’ by Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Two Clouds’ by Ben Wilkinson from his debut collection Way More Than Luck.

Ben will be reading for us as part of the Seren Stay-at-Home Series tonight at 7:30pm. Tickets are only £5 and are available here*.

Way More Than Luck Ben WilkinsonWay More Than Luck is the vivid debut collection of well-known poet and critic Ben Wilkinson. At its heart is a series of poems inspired by a lifelong devotion to Liverpool Football Club. We meet former players, coaches and re-live moments of both stoic despair and wild joy, where vivid themes are adroitly enacted in poetic forms.

“…an absorbing read that we are way more than lucky to have.” – Ian Duhig

Way More Than Luck is available on the Seren website: £9.99

*All ticket holders for the Seren Stay-at-Home Series also get an exclusive 30% discount code to use on the Seren website.

See the full Seren Stay-at-Home Series programme here.

Friday Poem – ‘Clear’ by Elizabeth Parker

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Clear’ by Elizabeth Parker from her debut collection In Her Shambles. We would like to wish Elizabeth and her family congratulations on the birth of their new baby boy Danny.

Spiky, provocative, declamatory, these energetic poems sweep the reader along through their narratives. In Her Shambles introduces us to a poet who uses language with verve and zest. Her subjects range from a poem where family members are embodied by their own rivers, to carefully observed set-pieces inspired by relationships, from burgeoning first loves to break-ups.

“a radiantly-written and vigorous collection by a rising star of British poetry.” – David Morley

In Her Shambles is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Don’t miss the Seren Stay-at-Home Series taking place online between Tuesday 12th and Friday 22nd May. View the programme and buy tickets here

Guest Post: Peter Finch – Walking in a Lockdown

This morning, to celebrate National Walking Month, we have a guest post from avid walker and author of Walking Cardiff Peter Finch. He tells us what walking in a lockdown looks like for him when separated from his fellow wanderer John Briggs and how it is affecting work on their next project.

Walking in a Lockdown

Out, up the hill, it’s always the same hill.  Weave into the road to avoid the next guy.  Smile.  Sometimes they smile back.  Climb.  Runners pass, headphoned, sneaking up behind silently and then zooming on in a rush of huff and sweat.  Advice I’ve read tells me that being laterally near a runner isn’t too bad.  It’s getting caught in the slipstream you need to avoid.  How do I police this?  I’m thinking of adopting a Friar Tuck walking pole.  Thrash it about.  Make myself utterly anti-social but certainly safe.

On the way back down, with the on a clear day splendid views of the city’s high-rise and the sea beyond, I try to imagine myself elsewhere.   Walking the Valleys again. The follow on project to Walking Cardiff.  Writing such a book during lockdown, getting there by Google but pretending it’s real, is akin to studying Macbeth through Coles Notes and never reading the actual text.  Not that we are without some touch of genuine experience.  Both John Briggs, my fellow Valleys wanderer, and I have walked Valley landscape and township extensively together in planned excursion.  We’ve also done this individually in swift half days to scope a place out -a couple of hours rambling Ponty looking for traces of Dr William Price and Iolo Morgannwg and a few more in Ron Berry’s Blaen Cwm checking out the entrance to the Rhondda tunnel and the end of the world streets Charlie Burton painted so well.

We’ve walked these places historically – mine often recalled through fog – a reading with Mike Jenkins at the Imp in Merthyr, as a child accompanying my father to work in Ystrad Mynach,  to one of Harri Webb’s legendary parties at Garth Newydd.  John’s have usually been done through actual photographs.  He’s sent me a great thirty-year spread of black and white coal pits taken across the whole Valley landscape, a detailed set of Merthyr Tydfil done one Christmas in 2014, and then, his piece de résistance, shots taken on a Literary Tour (which, under the auspices of Academi, I organised but, for unfathomable reasons now, did not go on) in the company of Daniel Williams and Nigel Jenkins to look for traces of Idris Davies in the valley top town of Rhymney.

 

Rhymney was the place we were right in the middle of exploring when the virus struck and our ability to walk freely was rudely curtailed.  I’d walked around the centre on my own – found the Idris Davies plaque on the house where he died, seen the Michael Disley statue of the miner and the steelworker back to back over one of Pete Seeger’s Bells of Rhymney and had a cup of tea and a piece of doorstep toast in the café with no windows on the High Street.  Looking later at John’s pics, taken in 2011, that statue looks bright and new.  It looked stained and neglected when I passed.

John had one well up on me.  He’d also visited the actual Davies grave in Rhymney Cemetery and stood listening to Nigel’s sonorous voice recite extracts from Gwalia Deserta.  Idris Davies, the people’s poet, the miner who could rhyme and make memorable our collective fears and aspirations.  His Maggie Fach and 1926 I’d help turn into poster poems, famous throughout Welsh bedsits for a whole generation, back in the 70s.  It was good to trail in his wake.

South of Rhymney station was a place where neither John nor I had yet ventured.  Here was land once occupied by Bute’s great Egyptian-styled Union ironworks but now vacant and worn.  On it  stood the operation of K J Services Ltd.  This presented the world with the greatest assemblage of broken, bust and otherwise abandoned mechanical diggers and JCBs anyone could imagine. Running for miles.  Visible from space.  There’s a YouTube tour, I discovered, and an overhead walkthrough available on Google Earth.  That’s all we have for now as the virus chases our tails.  When it’s dead John and I will visit in person.   For all this virtual stuff, Zoom meetings, Skype chats, Facetimes, Houseparty romps and desk research until my eyes ache you just cannot do without first person.  Don’t let anyone say different.

Peter Finch

28/04/2020

Photographs taken by John Briggs.

 

Walking Cardiff is available on the Seren website £14.99

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An Interview with André Mangeot

Resonant, complex, rich in heft and texture, these are mature poems that grapple with serious themes. Beautifully crafted, and partly inspired by the poet’s love of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia, they address the natural world, its endangerment and other pressing global issues from multiple perspectives, and with great lyrical power.

‘A thought-provoking book for turbulent times.’
– Matthew Caley

André Mangeot’s new collection Blood Rain confronts the degradation of the planet and individual lives and choices with a steely lyrical grace. In this interview, he discusses the relationship between nature and poetry and our own connection to the natural world.

Blood Rain features poems set in a variety of geographic and historic locations with several of them focusing on Welsh landscapes. What is the importance of these poems within the collection and what is your connection to them?

It’s often said that landscape is a character in itself and it’s true that location is often my starting-point. This is probably most evident in my books of short stories, True North and A Little Javanese, where almost all are set in different countries and an evocative urban or rural landscape is as vital in bringing the story to life as authentic protagonists. In Blood Rain, with one of its key themes being challenges to the planet, including the natural world, there are a number of poems set in locations that I know and value (North Wales, the Lake District, North Devon) – and habitats which are threatened in one way or another.  But ‘setting’ is equally important for poems set further afield or in other times (the trenches in WW1, occupied Europe in WWII, Romania under Ceaușescu) that touch on another form of ever-present threat – our propensity for violence and conflict.

Nature is a theme that runs deeply through the collection. What is the connection between nature and your poetry and what does poetry bring to your experience of nature?

I’ve always felt more comfortable at a distance from cities and the urban environment – though for much of the time they’re unavoidable, of course. And for now I do live in a city, so the contrast between noise/pollution/crowds and most rural settings makes time in the latter all the more special and vivid. Nature clearly works on the senses, on the unconscious, before any poem begins to emerge and evolve.  Thereafter, crafting a poem forces one to focus ever more closely on detail – both what’s being examined and for word-choices, imagery, form etc.

The poems in Blood Rain are often concerned with ideas of balance, particularly a sense of ‘counterpoise’- giving and taking between humans and nature. What role do exchange, and economy of nature and things play in the poems?

Ideally, any natural exchange between man and nature would be reciprocal and unthreatening. But we as a species have so clearly overstepped the mark – due to a frightening combination of arrogance, ignorance and greed, aided by globalisation – that almost everything is now scarily out of kilter. Levels of comparative wealth and poverty across the globe; degree and frequency of extreme/destructive weather patterns; competition for fertile and habitable land. It’s almost as if, because man has ridden roughshod over natural laws for so long, nature is now fighting back, reasserting itself, proving who has ultimate control.

What do the shifts between nature, war, and family mean to you? Does the quoted ‘warlikeness’ carry throughout the poems, even those not concerned with war itself?

Everything we know is connected, part of a larger, possibly infinite eco-system: each individual to their immediate family and community, the nation, wider world, the cosmos etc.  The natural world is no different: amoebas, plankton, myriads of insects are just the base of a survival chain essential for millions of species – including mankind.  In the natural world we’re used to considering the fight for survival as commonplace; now, perhaps for the first time, reality is dawning that we as a species are in the fight too, and that no law precludes our own extinction.  As far as ‘warlikeness’ goes as a human characteristic, I don’t want to overstate it, but I can see the same kind of mirroring of relationship conflicts within families (three or four poems in the book address mine with my late father, for example) with how resentments and misunderstandings on a national or global scale can escalate into something far more serious.

The title poem refers to the natural phenomena of ‘blood rain’ as ‘an augury of rust’. How would you describe the relationship between poetry and omens or symbols in the natural world?

Our response to poetry, literature – indeed, many things we encounter daily – is largely determined by past experience and the particular memories and sensations these things conjure up, positive or negative.  So this inbuilt, often unconscious association will determine different responses to the same word, phrase or image from one person to the next.  To me this is what’s so exciting about sending a new piece of work out into the world: not simply the act of connecting with others but the certainty that no two people will respond to a poem or sequence the same; each will bring their own experience, tastes and prejudices to it.  Some will find symbols or omens, but almost for sure in different places and forms.  But to return specifically to nature – full of wonder and terror in equal measure – all I’d say is that I’ve tried to keep this ambivalence constantly in mind.

What message do you hope readers will take away from reading the collection? Do you feel this message has become even more poignant amidst the situation we currently find ourselves in?

I didn’t set out to deliver any particular message, and would be hesitant about any collection that did. Blood Rain is just one person’s response to/meditation on current times that are clearly troubling and uncertain for many.  Covid-19 arrived after this sequence was written and published, but has simply underlined the global connection between us, and is a stark reminder of our vulnerability, no different to any other species.

 

Blood Rain is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Iaith / llaeth’ by Katherine Stansfield

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Iaith / llaeth’ by Katherine Stansfield from her new collection We Could Be Anywhere By Now.

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.

‘multi-layered and full of surprising transitions’ – Patrick McGuiness

We Could Be Anywhere By Now is available on the Seren website: £9.99

You can now watch videos of Katherine reading from hew new collection on our Youtube channel! Here she is reading her poem ‘FOG’. 

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Guest Post: Cath Drake – Inside the shaking city

Cath Drake’s debut poetry collection The Shaking City is due to be published on the 14th April. In today’s guest post, she reflects on its unexpected comfort given the situation we find ourselves in.

Inside the shaking city

“… a guide to staying clear-eyed, combative and caring in unsettled times.”
Philip Gross

My debut poetry collection The Shaking City is due for publication in a fortnight’s time. I could never have dreamed how this endorsement from Philip Gross on the cover, and indeed the book itself, would suddenly take on such relevance in the time of Coronavirus.

While I was finishing writing it, the environmental crisis became increasingly urgent. And just as it is being printed, the global pandemic has also descended on our lives. Now everything is interpreted by the utter transformation and precarity of life in lockdown.

We are all in the ‘shaking city’ together. We all were before but now it’s more obvious. We’ve had to radically change in the face of the pandemic.  We still need to radically change in order to address the environmental crisis, and indeed to survive as a species.

My book explores endurance to change, personal and global – the ‘shaking’ is an energy that holds both the extremes of discomfort and opportunity.

Each poem in the ‘Shaky School Album’ sequence contain ‘shaking’ at a point of change – a release, a realisation, a time when you face the unknown and come out the other side. It can be unnerving and exhilarating.

Some poems explore shaking in the unearthing of trauma, personal and societal. It can take courage and forbearance to face this kind of shaking, essential for positive change, and not to become enveloped by it.

The stories and characters in the book find solace in ways that are helpful or less helpful, often in unusual places or unexpected ways. Both are worth voicing, in the very least to be able to have compassion for all the ways we find comfort.

There are poems about misfits who turn out to be more in touch with their own sense of ‘shaking’ or aliveness in the cracks and corners of society than those following the norm. I wanted to explore mundane and imaginative worlds in order to get closer to what no longer makes sense to me – how our way of life increasingly undervalues community and the natural world.

 ‘This joyful, exuberant, wildly imaginative collection exhorts us all to unmoor our minds, to ‘live’ among the strange and shining.’
– Kate Potts

There is joy in seeing the world anew, in seeing each incredible infinite detail. I believe an environmental lens is vital to wellbeing and survival. I’ve been flying that flag since I was a teenager and when working as an environmental writer, journalist and broadcaster for many years in Australia. It has been very dispiriting seeing this care slip so easily down our list of priorities in my lifetime (although these last couple of years it’s moved back up the agenda, at least before the pandemic.)

The absurdity of not putting our natural world first has always distressed and astonished me and in the book I turn to an Australian folkloric Bunyip to help express this for me.

Another theme in the collection is the difficulty of being so far from home living over the other side of the world. Right now, in lockdown, we feel physically distanced wherever we are. Most of us feel this yearning on a daily basis. I hope it is at least partly, yearning with gratitude – the moments I’ve been able to spend with friends from home are deeply precious memories.

Our city is shaking. Even if it takes all our ability, even if we are particularly vulnerable, can we stay alive to it and come out the other side making better sense of our fragile world? I hope my book can help in some small way to find new ways of seeing in this difficult time.

 

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 works a wide set of diverse spells upon the reader through her adept use of tone, technique, plot and form. She is a welcome new voice for contemporary poetry.

 

The Shaking City is available to pre-order on the Seren website: £9.99

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Guest Post – Katrina Naomi: One week in

Today we have a guest post from poet Katrina Naomi who shares some of the things she has been doing to keep positive during this strange time.

One week in

It’s been a week since I had to abandon a holiday at my sister’s to come back home to Cornwall. Like most people, I’m still trying to get my head around what’s happening, and the situation shifts every day. I have a collection, Wild Persistence, coming out with Seren on 1 June, although the date for this might change.

Everything is changing, everything is uncertain. It’s the uncertainty that I – and many others – am finding so hard.

A few days back, I don’t mind admitting I had a major wobble. I was tearful when I wrote first thing and I found myself crying while making soup at lunchtime. It was the day when the first (or maybe second or third, it’s hard to keep track) restrictions came in. I was worried about money – all my income comes from poetry – and I was missing seeing friends. All the losses started to pile up.

Walking usually helps me find some sort of balance. I went out for a walk with my partner that afternoon. We walked in woods and fields near our home in Penzance, I sat by a stream, listened to jackdaws and watched two heifers jostle with each other. I sat for about 10, maybe 15 minutes, and I felt better, not brilliant, but better. We came home and I decided to paint the walls – it was that or climb them. I’ve done a lot of painting since – the stairs, the mouldy bits in the kitchen and bathroom. I’ve enjoyed having another focus and felt more positive – and reminded myself that I have my health and partner and so many other wonderful things in my life.

In a more positive frame of mind, I’ve been developing some sort of routine for my days. I’ve been telling myself that uncertainty is a useful thing for poetry. I never sit down to write a poem having any idea where it’s going to go, I have to allow the poem to happen and trust where my subconscious, odd ideas, bits of film, overhead conversations, and pen, take me. Of course, not every poem goes anywhere and that’s also fine. I’m trying to develop this more open attitude towards life and where it’s going to take me – and take all of us – in the week and months to come. But a routine still feels helpful and here’s what I’ve set up for myself. It can change, it might have to change, depending on how things go:

I’ve been reading poetry and writing first thing. The resulting poems are dire but I don’t mind. I’m just glad to be writing. Then I walk for a couple of hours. This week, we’ve had a really low tide, so I’ve been walking from Penzance harbour towards Marazion on the sand, all the way. Yesterday I walked with a good friend, keeping our distance, we had to shout to each other in the wind – it’s often windy in West Cornwall. After lunch, I’ve been doing emails, checking proofs and – before things tightened down – going on another walk around teatime, usually around the harbour and through the near-deserted town. I come home and do some yoga, eat and read. In the evenings, I’ve been talking to friends on the phone, reading novels and dancing to the radio in the freshly-painted kitchen. Thank you to my local library and Radio 6 Music.

Katrina Naomi

Katrina Naomi’s first collection The Way the Crocodile Taught Me is available on our website: £9.99

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