Friday Poem – ‘I was born within the confines’ by Gabriel Chávez Casazola (translated by Richard Gwyn)

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘I was born within the confines’ by Gabriel Chávez Casazola (Bolivia) translated by Richard Gwyn for the anthology The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

The Other Tiger by Richard Gwyn

The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America is an anthology of Spanish language contemporary poetry from the Americas. Produced bilingually, with Spanish and English versions on facing pages, it is a welcome addition to the canon of translation, focusing on poets born since 1945.  It includes work from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and El Salvador.

The Other Tiger is available on the Seren website: £14.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Just About Now’ by Judy Brown

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Just About Now’ by Judy Brown from her collection Crowd Sensations.

Judy is joining us at virtual First Thursday next week to read alongside Katrina Naomi. Find the full details here.

Elterwater Rain Crowd Sensations Judy BrownCrowd Sensations, Judy Brown’s second collection, was shortlisted for the Ledbury Forte Prize. She is a poet of dazzling contrasts, of thoughtful paradox, intimate confidences and precise evocations. Her titles and first lines both draw you right into a poem and then quite often surprise you with a narrative that you hadn’t expected. Her work is fired as much by intelligence and philosophical speculation, as it is by the emotion stirred up by experience and relationships.

Crowd Sensations is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Four Books to Celebrate International Jazz Day

Today is International Jazz Day, a worldwide celebration of jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. Here are four Seren titles you can celebrate with.

On the Beach with Chet Baker by Robert Seatter

“Presence and absence, some sort of together” (‘On the Beach with Chet Baker’). These are the three places that Robert Seatter’s second book of poems explores, with deftness, insight and artistry. They move from places of stasis and memory, through the uneasy proximities of love captured in the moody jazz trumpet of the title poem, and out to the uncharted spaces that loss and death can create.

“…emotional engagement in abundance”.  –Planet

 

Out of Nowhere by Roger Granelli

White British guitarist Frank Magnani arrives in fifties New York to break into the smoky world of jazz. Coming home from the austerity of post-war Europe to a land of plenty he finds there’s plenty to learn. His education is not confined to music alone, he also finds himself in a world where ego is everything, the musicians are black, and the drink and drugs are the fuel of creativity. Caught up in the violence of the city, Magnani flees on a journey through the southern provinces and his own mental state too. His personal odyssey is complete when he returns to the club scene of New York in a dramatic climax to his career and this atmospheric novel.

 

Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton

Sax Burglar Blues by Robert Walton is packed with memory, incident, observation, opinion, humour, outrage and elegy. Subjects include: woodlice, jazz, teachers, grandparents, a canary who runs for President, Sisley’s lovely painting of the Gower, the iconoclastic poet John Tripp, a night bus named after Dusty Springfield, a Dad who loves Cardiff City, the annoying closure of bookshops and much more.

​‘Dip into Walton’s jazzed-up version of the world and you will inevitably surface from the pages in a brighter hue.’ – Wales Arts Review

 

The Roots of Rock by Peter Finch

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back Peter Finch follows the trail of twentieth century popular music from a 1950s valve radio playing in a suburban Cardiff terrace to the reality of the music among the bars of Ireland, the skyscrapers of New York, the plains of Tennessee, the flatlands of Mississippi and the mountains of North Carolina. The Roots of Rock mixes musical autobiography with an exploration of the physical places from which this music comes. It is a demonstration of the power of music to create a world for the listener that is simultaneously of and beyond the place in which it is heard.

 

Find these and many more great titles on the Seren website

Don’t forget you can get 20% off when you sign up to be a member of our book club. 

Friday Poem – ‘Spring’ by Kate Bingham

With St David’s Day on Sunday our Friday Poem this week is ‘Spring’ by Kate Bingham from her collection Infragreen.

infragreen

Perceptive, persuasive and intricately made, the poems of Kate Bingham’s third collection, Infragreen, take the reader on a startling and unfamiliar journey through everyday experiences and phenomena. Her keen eye, reflectiveness and quiet wit endow her subjects with a shimmering freshness.

Infragreen is full of sensuous, imaginative and beautifully accomplished work. It succeeds in leading the consciousness beyond its deadened rounds.’ – The Poetry Review

Infragreen is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘The Winchman on Oscar Charlie’ by Sheenagh Pugh

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Winchman on Oscar Charlie’ by Sheenagh Pugh from her collection Afternoons Go Nowhere.

A fascination for history, both as a source of human drama and a field for artful speculation, characterises this collection of poems by Sheenagh Pugh. In Afternoons Go Nowhere the past seems more relevant to the present than ever, human nature never entirely predictable and often non-sensical, the natural world seeming full of a paradoxical beauty. Complex but with clear themes and lucid, musical language, Sheenagh Pugh’s tenth collection will delight discriminating readers.

Afternoons Go Nowhere is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘The Fabulists’ by André Mangeot

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Fabulists’ by André Mangeot from his new collection Blood Rain. André is appearing twice at the Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival on Saturday 15th February to read from his collection as part of the New Poetry Showcase and Poems for the Planet.

Resonant, complex, rich in heft and texture, these are mature poems that grapple with serious themes. Beautifully crafted, and partly inspired by his 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

Blood Rain is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Our Mothers’ Bodies’ by Alexandra Ford

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Our Mothers’ Bodies’ by Alexandra Ford. Alexandra’s debut novel What Remains at the End was published last month.

In the aftermath of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavia’s ethnic Germans, the Danube Swabians, were expelled by Tito’s Partisan regime. A further sixty-thousand were killed. Seventy years later Marie Kholer travels to Europe to learn the truth about her grandparents’ flight to America. A story of war and suffering, of loss and the search for connection and identity, it is an intriguing debut novel from Alexandra Ford.

 

What Remains at the End is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Don’t miss the launch of What Remains at the End, taking place on Saturday 23rd November at the The Hurst, The John Osbourne Arvon Centre. There will be books, wine and cake! See the full details here

‘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 – ‘Boom!’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Boom!’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, the title poem from her collection of the same name, and appears in the anthology Writing Motherhood.

A celebration of parenthood, the poems chronicle all the ups and downs of raising a family, from the rapturous moments, such as ‘Wakening’ where the baby is observed: ‘the seedling eyes stirred by sunlight’. To the tragi-comic ‘Nights’ full of ‘small elbows in the face’ and ‘assailed by colds and colic’ and the darker fears and depressions that can afflict parents.

As we comtemplate the feelings of wonder and love evoked by ‘Boom!’ We dedicate the weekly poem to Seren poets who have recently become new mothers: Kim Moore (May 24th) and Emily Blewitt (May 31st).

 

 

BOOM! is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Writing Motherhood is available on the Seren website: £12.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Luminosity’ by Rhiannon Hooson

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Luminosity’ by Rhiannon Hooson, which appears in her collection The Other City, and Poems from the Borders pamphlet.

Rhiannon Hooson is a gifted young poet born in mid-Wales and currently living in the Welsh Marches. The Other City, her debut collection of poems, was shortlisted for the Roland Mathias Prize.

Sharply focused, beautifully resonant, deeply felt,  some poems reference and re-make narratives from classical Greek myth, some rework elements of Welsh history, ancient and modern.

‘Luminosity’ contemplates Alfred Watkins’ moment of inspiration in Herefordshire, when he proposed the existence of ley lines.

 

The Other City is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Poems from the Borders is available from the Seren website: £5.00

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