Friday Poem – ‘Archaeology’, Robert Minhinnick

Archaeology Friday Poem Robert Minhinnick

September has arrived, but our Friday Poem looks back to August’s Legend of the Month: Robert Minhinnick. ‘Archaology’ is from his sixth collection, Hey Fatman.

Hey Fatman is full of the rich, sometimes strange, always telling, detail that is to be expected from one of Britain’s most compelling poets. The book opens with poems set in and around Minhinnick’s native South Wales, and includes a sequence based on the history of an ancestral house, Dunraven. We then move on to work inspired by the poet’s travels in South America and the U.S.A. The whole volume presents us with a series of vivid portraits, and our featured poem, with its subject who ‘ran shouting/ From his house with his hair on fire’, is no exception.


Robert Minhinnick Archaeology Friday Poem

















Hey Fatman is available from the Seren website: £5.95

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Friday Poem – ‘The Battle of Gwen Strad’, Taliesin, translated by Tony Conran

Tony Conran’s unrivalled anthology of Welsh poetry through the ages, Welsh Verse, has just returned to print. This week our Friday Poem is Conran’s translation of ‘The Battle of Gwen Strad’, by sixth century poet, Taliesin.

Welsh Verse Tony ConranWelsh Verse is a milestone of translation, containing poetry from the sixth century to the late twentieth century. Virtually every significant poet (or poem: there are several Anonymous entries over the centuries) is present, and every poetic form: the epics of Taliesin and Aneurin, the poets of the medieval princes, Tudor poets, Non-conformist poets, hymn-writers, Romantics, Social Realists and political Nationalists. Welsh Verse also includes an Introduction full of insight into the history of poetry in the Welsh language, and into the challenges of translating it, particularly over so many centuries and styles.
Taliesin is often referred to, in legend and in medieval Welsh poetry, as ‘Taliesin Ben Beirdd’ (‘Taliesin, Chief of Bards’). ‘The Battle of Gwen Strad’, along with several of his other poems, sings the praises of King Urien.

Taliesin poem



















*Presumably before the Anglo-Saxons took Catraeth (Catterick) – see under Aneirin. Urien was Taliesin’s patron, king of Rheged in Cumbria and S.W. Scotland. The Eden is a river in Cumbria.


Welsh Verse is available from the Seren website: £12.99.

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Friday Poem – ‘For a Foot’, Kathryn Gray

Friday Poem For a Foot Kathryn Gray

This week our Friday poem is ‘For a Foot’ by Kathryn Gray, taken from her 2004 debut collection, The Never-Never

Kathryn Gray The Never-NeverPropelling us from the rain-lashed back-streets and housing estates of Wales, to London, California and beyond, the poems of The Never-Never offer us unique tales of friendship, love and loss, of exile and the distant promise of home. Gray’s accessible style in which she combines playful and serious, allusive and direct with an intellectual wit, makes for an extremely readable collection.
In ‘For a Foot’, the speaker reminisces about a one-legged figure, fierce and ferocious, and the prosthesis that hid their lost limb, obscuring ‘What happens at the bare knuckle/ of life’.


For a Foot Kathryn Gray












The Never-Never is available from the Seren website: £7.99.

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Legend of the Month: Robert Minhinnick

Robert Minhinnick Legend of the Month

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Robert Minhinnick – and as a special treat, all his books are 30% off.

Robert Minhinnick, born near Neath in 1952, has published numerous poetry books, collections of essays, novels, and short stories. His book To Babel and Back – a series of essays from America, Iraq and Wales – won the Wales Book of the Year Award in 2006. His first poetry collection was published more than thirty years ago, and he has won the Forward Poetry Prize twice. He has also received an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry and in 1998 he won a Cholmondeley Award.
He founded Friends of the Earth Cymru in 1984 and has worked as a writer in residence in Canada, travelling back there regularly to give readings. He was Editor of Poetry Wales magazine from 1997 until 2008.
Until the end of the month, you can enjoy 30% off all Robert Minhinnick’s books. Find out more about the poetry, fiction and essays available below.

limestone man robert minhinnickLimestone Man
RRP £9.99
NOW £6.99
Minhinnick’s latest novel is a meditation on age and opportunity, and introduces us to Richard Parry: a painter who cannot paint, a writer who doesn’t write. Parry’s obsession is Lulu, that ‘orphan off the street’, his aboriginal  ‘green child’. But on returning from Australia to his hometown he finds it has become notorious for the suicides of young people. As Parry tries to connect past and present he is haunted by dreams of Australia and of his youth. Yet is Parry all he seems?

Island of Lightning
RRP £9.99
NOW £6.99
The author travels from his home in south Wales to Argentina, China, Finland, Iraq, Tuscany and Piemonte, Malta, New York, Zagreb, Lithuania and the lightning island of Malta. In conventional travel essays and leaps of imaginative narrative his subjects include the annual Elvis convention in Porthcawl, Neolithic sculptures, poets playing football, the body of a saint and the definition of cool. His themes are big ones: the relationship of man and landscape, man and time, man and nature, immigration and war, in one sense ultimately humankind itself.

The Keys of Babylon
RRP 8.99
NOW £6.29
This Wales Book of the Year-shortlisted and Edge Hill-longlisted collection of 15 linked stories gives voices to migrants around the globe. The Keys of Babylon is both a fictional record of, and an exploration into their lives, and the characters reflect a comprehensive mix of hope, success, failure, fear, indifference and passion as their stories intertwine to create the final narrative.

Sea Holly
RRP £7.99
NOW £5.59
Sea Holly is Robert Minhinnick’s stuning debut novel, a story of drifting, burnt-out lives, shadowed by the mysterious disappearance of a vivacious young girl.
“John Vine? He has it all. Home, family, career. You can’t knock that. But he has this worm inside him, this dissatisfaction… A boy of twenty, that’s OK, he’s going to dream. But a man of fifty? With a young piece who thinks he’s not half bad?…believe me that’s when everything’s going to come loose.That’s when it’s going to get dangerous.”
Sea Holly was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize.

To Babel and Back
RRP £7.99
NOW £5.59
Join Robert Minhinnick on a journey across a radioactive planet. Researching the use of depleted uranium in modern weapons, the writer follows a deadly trail from the uranium mines of the USA into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Here, he is led into the temples of a deserted Babylon and to what his guides insist is the site of the Tower of Babel. Interspersed with these ‘radioactive writings’, which seem part documentary, part dream, are essays on a host of different places.

RRP £6.95
NOW £4.86
In these essays the writer travels from the impoverished of Albania to the scorched suburbia of Silicon Valley. On the way he encounters a foreign country called England, twenty thousand frozen lakes, and a desert of dinosaur bones. The people of Badlands include Coleridge and Ryan Giggs, Colonel Sanders and Freud, plus a host of minor deities from the numbing world of celebrity. Urban and rural, tragic and absurd, Badlands is a real place. But where the borders of Badlands begin, or finish, is difficult to say.

Green Agenda
RRP £7.95
NOW £5.56
In the 1970s, it was ignorance, in the 1980s, enthusiasm, and from the 1990s environmental issues were greeted with a peculiar fatalism. Green Agenda, the first popular volume of its type to be published in Wales, confronts head on our ideas of what constitutes ’the environment’ and how we perceive it. These essays acknowledge the danger of allowing environmental concern to flourish within a green ghetto, the perils of over-speculation, the banality of ’issues’.

Watching the Fire Eater Robert MinhinnickWatching the Fire-eater
RRP 8.99
NOW £6.29
Watching the Fire-eater covers variety of subjects: third world poverty and the internationalism of alcohol, rugby through the eyes of a vegetarian, nuclear power, sunbathing and a thanksgiving dinner for the demise of Margaret Thatcher. But at the core of this essay collection is a vivid series of attempts to strip away the exhausted mythologies of the writer’s own country and the increasingly-packaged places he visits. Watching the Fire-eater was the Wales Book of the Year Award winner, 1993.

Hey Fatman
RRP £5.95
NOW £4.16
Hey Fatman by Robert Minhinnick is full of the rich, sometimes strange, always telling, detail that we have come to expect from one of Britain’s most compelling poets. The book opens with poems set in and around his home country of south Wales, and includes a sequence based on the history of an ancestral house, Dunraven. We then move on to work inspired by the poet’s travels in South America and the U.S.A. This includes the title poem ’Hey Fatman’, a splendid baroque essay on the characters gathered in a Rio beach bar.


Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

Friday Poem — ‘Self-Portrait with Monkey’, Pascale Petit

This week our Friday Poem is ‘Self-Portrait with Monkey’ by Pascale Petit, taken from her 2010 poetry collection, What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo.

What the Water Gave Me Frida Kahlo Pascale PetitThe poems of What the Water Gave Me are narrated through the voice of the twentieth-century Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. The collection features a diverse range of biographical verse poems: some are interpretations of Kahlo’s work; others are inspired by the painter but also draw on aspects of Petit’s own experience as a visual artist, where she can be seen to create art with words. Through her vivid style, which evokes a closeness to nature and an understanding of pain and redemption, Petit offers us a valuable insight into Kahlo’s life.
‘Self-Portrait with Monkey’ is inspired by Kahlo’s 1938 oil painting of the same name: the iconic Mexican artist sits with a monkey draped around her shoulder and ribbons in her hair, framed by a background of leaves.


Frida Kahlo poem Pascale Petit










What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo is available from the Seren website: £8.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.




Feline favourites for International Cat Day

International Cat Day books Feline Favourites

International cat day is the purr-fect time to celebrate man’s true best friends: cats. Here are a few of our favourite feline-centric books.

This Is Not A Rescue Emily BlewittThis Is Not A Rescue, Emily Blewitt (£9.99)
The author’s much-loved tortoiseshell cat is at the centre of this sharply satirical and entertaining book of poetry, bursting into poems with powerful personality. ‘We Broke Up’, the poem begins: ‘Because my cat/ screamed her passion on our lawn’. In ‘Dear Emily’ the feline voice asks:

Will you fall the way that cats do,
arch your spine in a defiant, graceful twist
and land on your feet?

Artist Karin Jurick’s painting of her own cat, ‘Bitz’, makes up the beautiful cover.

Jayne Joso My Falling Down HouseMy Falling Down House, Jayne Joso (£9.99)
When young salaryman Takeo Tanaka loses his home, his girlfriend and his job all in quick succession, he finds himself completely alone – apart from the company of a stray cat:

A cat had joined me on my journey from the station. He was black and handsome looking, and I guessed he was still quite young – I remember how the heat kept everything weighted, our moves made in a sun and dust slow motion.

His fears and failing health keep him inside the house through four testing seasons, and he is driven to the edge of insanity, with only a cello and the black cat to connect him to the world. Joso has written a moving exploration of identity – a must-read.

Pascale Petit, FauverieFauverie, Pascale Petit (£9.99)
The Fauverie of this book is the big cat house in the Jardin des Plantes zoo, home to Aramis the black jaguar, who haunts the Paris of this poetry collection: a city savage as the Amazon.

Transforming childhood horrors to ultimately mourn a lost parent, Fauverie redeems the darker forces of human nature whilst celebrating the ferocity and grace of endangered species. Five poems from Fauverie won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize, and the manuscript in progress was awarded an Arts Council England Grant.

The Other Tiger by Richard GwynThe Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America, Richard Gwyn (£14.99)
The title is a nod to Borges’ poem, in which: ‘I go on pursuing through the hours/ Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.’ This anthology of Spanish language poetry from the Americas consists of 97 poets from 16 countries, born over five decades. It includes work from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and El Salvador.

Richard Gwyn has arranged the poems thematically – Where We Live; Memory, Childhood, Family; the Natural World; Politics, Journey and Exile; Love, Sex and the Body – to cut across nationality and the generations, illustrating the things poets have in common, and how they differ, across continents.


Find more great poetry, fiction and non-fiction on our website.

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Friday Poem – ‘Crisscross’, Lynne Hjelmgaard

Friday Poem Crisscross Lynne Hjelmgaard

This week our Friday Poem is ‘Crisscross’ by Lynne Hjelmgaard, taken from her most recent poetry collection, A Boat Called Annalise.

A Boat Called AnnaliseThe poems of A Boat Called Annalise recall a journey this much-travelled author took on a sailboat to the Caribbean and back to Europe with her husband. First we experience the tentative first months at sea, the author finding her ‘sea-legs’. As the book moves on, we find the author navigating not only the turbulent seascape, but also grief, healing, and nostalgia for the halcyon days of her marriage.
In ‘Crisscross’ we are post-voyage, and the mood is one of reflection. The author and her husband seem in stark contrast: one having gratefully retreated from the sea, and the other at a loss without its strangely comforting wildness.


Crisscross Lynne Hjelmgaard A Boat Called Annalise















A Boat Called Annalise is available from the Seren website: £9.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us




Friday Poem – ‘The Lovely Disciplines’, Martyn Crucefix

Friday Poem The Lovely Disciplines Martyn Crucefix

This week our Friday Poem is the title poem from Martyn Crucefix’s brand new collection, The Lovely Disciplines, which came out just yesterday.

Martyn Crucefix The Lovely DisciplinesDisplaying his characteristic flair, craft and intelligence, Crucefix’s new 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.
The book is split into three sections, and ‘The Lovely Disciplines’ appears in section two, which is not just the centre but the emotional heart of this new collection. It features a number of tender poems that recollect moments with ageing parents: a father, losing his memory, gets lost driving a familiar route, with such loss prefiguring wider and deeper losses to come; a childhood home is suddenly shorn of its reassuring familiarity. Here, aged figures in a hospital ward lean away from the lives they once knew, whilst loved ones ‘rest useless hands’ and wait, for a release.


The Lovely Disciplines Friday Poem



























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

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us


July Book Giveaway: win a copy of The Women of Versailles

July Giveaway The Women of Versailles

You’ll need to hurry, because there are only a few days left for you to enter our monthly giveaway – and this month, the prize is a copy of Kate Brown’s ‘extraordinarily timeless’ debut novel, The Women of Versailles.

To enter, simply sign up to the Seren newsletter before 1st August:

Book Giveaway The Women of Versailles

About The Women of Versailles:
The Women of Versailles Kate Brown
Princess Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, is at odds with the etiquette of the French court. Adélaïde envies her brother, is bored with her sister and, when Madame de Pompadour, a bourgeoise, comes to court as her father’s mistress, she is smitten, with dangerous results. Adélaïde pushes against the confines of the court, blind to the difference between a mistress and princess, with tragic results. Forty-four years later, under the looming shadow of the revolution, what has happened to the hopes of a young girl and the doomed regime in which she grew up?

‘Dark and rich, The Women of Versailles is filled with political intrigue, sexual awakening, and the roots of revolution.’ – Peggy Riley


We will pick a winner at random from all our email subscribers on 1st August. Make sure you have signed up to Seren News before then to be in with a chance of winning!

Why not give your friends a chance to win too, by recommending that they sign up to our newsletter before the end of the month using this link?




Summer Sale Bestsellers

bestsellers summer sale

There’s still time to take advantage of our big summer sale, which ends midnight tonight. But what should you buy?

All our books are half price, and that includes a gloriously diverse range of books – everything from novels and short stories to poetry, biography and travel books – so we can’t blame you if you are struggling to choose what to read next. To help you decide, take a look at our sale bestsellers below.



This Is Not A Rescue Emily Blewitt1. This Is Not A Rescue, Emily Blewitt
£9.99  £4.99
Top of the charts is young Welsh poet Emily Blewitt’s striking debut collection.
In This Is Not A Rescue, vibrant love lyrics contrast with poems confronting trauma and violence. Lighter themes include an homage to Jane Austen and an irreverent portrait of a Star Wars character.
‘Here is a riotous, cacophonous and wonderful book. Here is an important new voice in British poetry.’
– Jonathan Edwards, author of My Family and Other Superheroes.

Basic Nest Architecture Polly Atkin2. Basic Nest Architecture, Polly Atkin
£9.99  £4.99
Coming in a close second is Polly Atkin’s first collection, which follows her Mslexia Prize-winning pamphlet, Shadow Dispatches. Atkin has already built up a loyal readership for her complex, intelligent, densely metaphorical lyrics, often inspired by the beauties of the Lake District where she has made her home for a decade. The remarkable poems in Basic Nest Architecture are a testament to her persistence and artistry: as well as being profoundly personal, they reach out to the modern world in all it’s complexity and diversity.

Heat Signature Siobhan Campbell3. Heat Signature, Siobhan Campbell
£9.99  £4.99
There is a beautiful ruthlessness to the poetry of Siobhán Campbell, and it comes as no surprise that her latest collection, Heat Signature, is proving so popular in the sale. These are poems of moral tension, of provocation, but they are also artful: full of marvellously terse textures, of clashing consonants, subtle rhymes and insistent rhythms.
The blend of dark comedy, tragedy and politics is entirely typical of Campbell’s complex, thoughtful and profoundly entertaining poetry.

What the Water Gave Me Frida Kahlo Pascale Petit4. What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo, Pascale Petit
£8.99  £4.49
‘Pascale’s poems are as fresh as paint, and make you look all over again at Frida and her brilliant and tragic life.’ – Jackie Kay, The Observer
What the Water Gave Me contains fifty-two poems in the voice of the iconic Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo. More than just a verse biography, this collection explores how Kahlo transformed trauma into art after the artist’s near-fatal bus accident. Petit, with her vivid style, her feel for nature and her understanding of pain and redemption, fully inhabits Kahlo’s world. Each poem is an evocation of “how art works on the pain spectrum”, laced with splashes of ferocious colour.



Ritual, 1969 by Jo Mazelis1. Ritual, 1969, Jo Mazelis
£8.99  £4.49
Jo Mazelis’ darkly beautiful short story collection is your favourite fiction book so far. These subtle, unflinching stories explore the unsettling borderland between reality and the supernatural. Ranging from early twentieth-century France to 1960s South Wales and contemporary Europe, we are introduced, with singular vision and poetic language, to characters caught up in events and feelings they do not fully understand or control.

six pounds eight ounces Rhian Elizabeth2. Six Pounds Eight Ounces, Rhian Elizabeth
£8.99  £4.49
In second place is Rhian Elizabeth’s tragicomic tale of growing up in the South Wales valleys.
Hannah King is a liar, so everyone says. That means her stories of growing up in the Rhondda must be treated with caution. Rhian Elizabeth opens Hannah’s notebook up on her own little world of crazy friends and crazy family, and a crazy school with crazy teachers who aren’t always what they seem. From dolls and sherbet lemons, to a bright student who drops out of school in favour of drink, drugs and glam rock up on an estate which feels like another planet, Hannah, it seems, has always been trouble.

3. Larkinland, Jonathan Tulloch
£9.99  £4.99
Jonathan Tulloch’s remarkable new novel isn’t officially released until 27 July, but that hasn’t stopped it being one of our most popular books in the sale.
A pitch-perfect realisation of Philip Larkin’s poetic world, Larkinland follows the moving misadventures of would-be poet Arthur Merryweather, revealing the loneliness, commonplaces, fears, lusts and hope we all must face. Drawing on meetings with the women in Larkin’s life, Larkinland casts startlingly fresh light on one of Hull’s greatest ever poets.

4. Ibrahim & Reenie, David Lewellyn
£8.99  £4.49
David Lewellyn’s impressive and daringly human book comes in fourth on the fiction list.
Ibrahim is a young Muslim ex-student with a tough few years behind him, and Reenie, a seventy-five year old cockney, has her life’s luggage in a shopping trolley, complete with an orange tent and a cockatiel. Meeting by chance in Newport, the odd couple discover they are both walking from Cardiff to London, and not for charity. Ibrahim & Reenie follows their journey and the unexpected relationship that builds between them.



Dark Land, Dark Skies, Martin Griffiths1. Dark Land, Dark Skies, Martin Griffiths
£12.99  £6.49
Proving popular in our non-fiction list is Martin Griffiths’ Celtic re-interpretation of the night sky. Dark Land, Dark Skies is an exploration of how ancient Welsh peoples may have used their legends and beliefs to understand the stars above:  Leo, for instance, becoming a fearsome boar, and Pegasus (coupled to Andromeda on his back) representing the goddess Epona riding her white horse. This is a fascinating book, suitable for both amateur and professional stargazers.

2. Mametz, Aled Hughes
£14.99  £7.49
Aled Hughes’ extraordinary photographs are an artistic commemoration of the Battle of Mametz Wood, the most significant battle in World War I for Welsh troops. Over 4,000 soldiers of the 38th Welsh Division were killed or wounded there in July 1916, and Hughes’ photographs show the lingering evidence of this devastating event: images of actual trees from the war (some ‘embracing’ artillery shells), battlefield detritus, military mementoes, and images of places of modern pilgrimage and remembrance. It’s not hard to see why so many of you have chosen to buy this remarkable book.

Wild Places by Iolo Williams3. Wild Places, Iolo Williams
£19.99  £9.99
We hope all those of you with fresh new copies of Iolo Williams’ Wild Places don’t keep them pristine for long – this book is for exploring Wales’ wilderness with, rain or shine, and is compact enough to take with you on all your journeys. Informative and lavishly illustrated, Wild Places will reveal rarities like the Snowdon lily and the Snowdonia hawkweed, show you where hares box and otters swim, where to spot dolphins and salmon, and where to see Wales’ great variety of hawks and other birds of prey.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-Cooke4. Writing Motherhood, ed. Carolyn Jess-Cooke
£12.99  £6.49
Last but certainly not least is the Writing Motherhood anthology, a deeply moving and inspiring selection of poems, interviews and essays by female creatives. Why are still asking female writers with children how they find time to write? This book challenges preconceptions about motherhood as a creative hindrance, portraying the exquisite moments of motherhood as often enriching artistic practice instead.
‘Essential reading for anyone who is a mother, or who had a mother, and is interested in how motherhood and creativity intertwine.’ – Helen Cadbury


The half price sale ends at midnight. Take a look at all we have to offer on the Seren website.

Half price summer sale Seren