Friday Poem – ‘City’ by Peter Finch

This week our Friday Poem is ‘City’ by Peter Finch from his 2020 collection The Machineries of Joy.

The Machineries of Joy is the vibrant, uproarious, pointed & wildly entertaining new collection from renowned Cardiff-based performance poet, Peter Finch. Known for his inventive and multi-faceted formal strategies & his best-selling psycho-geographical peregrinations around Wales and the USA, he gives us the world in all its contemporary complexity.

The Machineries of Joy is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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

Last year Peter joined us for an event as part of the Seren Stay-at-Home Series. Rewatch it in full on our Youtube channel:

Friday Poem – ‘Return to Cardiff’, Dannie Abse

Dannie Abse Return to Cardiff

The National Eisteddfod is coming to Cardiff, and with just a few hours to go, we couldn’t think of a better Friday Poem to feature than Dannie Abse’s ‘Return to Cardiff’.

Wales, and Cardiff in particular, haunted the imagination of the great Dannie Abse. In Welsh Retrospective he writes movingly about the Cardiff of his childhood, home of his beloved Bluebirds football team, and also about the small village of Ogmore-by-Sea, location of early holidays and for many years his home in Wales. Selected from the whole of Dannie Abse’s writing career, the book includes such well known and well-loved poems as ’In the Theatre’ and our featured poem today, ’Return to Cardiff’, alongside many previously uncollected poems. Welsh Retrospective gives fascinating insights into Dannie Abse’s Wales and his versatility as a poet.


Friday Poem Return to Cardiff Dannie Abse



















Listen to Dannie Abse performing this remarkable poem at Seren’s First Thursday event, December 2009:


Welsh Retrospective is available from the Seren website: £8.99

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



Opening Night at the Seren/Cornerstone Poetry Festival

Seren/Cornerstone poetry festival Cardiff

Good morning poetry lovers! Today’s the day we launch our inaugural poetry festival in the beautiful Cornerstone building on Charles Street, Cardiff.

So what can you look forward to, and how can you get tickets? All the important information is below…

Cornerstone Seren poetry festival
Festival venue: The Cornerstone building, Charles Street, Cardiff, CF10 2GA

Jonathan Edwards poet7:00pm: Jonathan Edwards, Welcome Buffet
Jonathan Edwards will open the festival with the Welcome Buffet event – listen to readings from Edwards’ Costa Prize-winning collection My Family and Other Superheroes plus new material while you enjoy a selection of food from the on-site Pantry Café.
£7 – For tickets contact Lucy King: 07445 816617
(booking recommended)


The Glass Aisle Paul Henry Brian Briggs8:30pm: ‘The Glass Aisle’: Paul Henry & Brian Briggs
Poet Paul Henry and singer/songwriter Brian Briggs perform their remarkable poetry & music collaboration at 8:30pm, with songs inspired by a stretch of the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal. This event also launches Henry’s book of the same name.
£10 – For tickets contact Lucy King: 07445 816617
(booking recommended)


The full festival brochure, with details of all the weekend’s events, is available to view & download on the festival website:

Online ticketing has now ended but tickets can still be pre-booked over the phone. Contact Lucy King: 07445 816617

Tickets will also be available to buy on the door, but to guarantee your place pre-booking is advised (in particular for the food events)


Find a free Seren book this World Book Day

Seren books World Book Day 2017

Today we are celebrating all things literary for World Book Day, now in its 20th year. We want the world to discover our fantastic authors, and to help a few of you do just that, we’ve left a selection of our books all over Cardiff for lucky people to find and keep.

If you’re out in Cardiff today, stop for a coffee in one of the lovely independent cafés and you might well find a Seren book hiding somewhere near you! Take it, enjoy it, and pass it on to someone new to enjoy afterwards to spread the World Book Day love.

Seren books World Book Day book drop
Can you guess which books we’ve hidden? Poetry, fiction, non-fiction – there’s a real mix out there, just waiting to be found.


Happy World Book Day, and happy book hunting…


Author Appearances at the Seren Christmas Pop-Up Shop

chapter pop-up shop author appearances

The Seren pop-up bookshop is returning to Chapter, Cardiff, for its third year. You’ll find us in Chapter’s entrance hall, Friday 9th to Monday 12th December.

Come and have a browse of our books, take advantage of free Christmas gift wrapping, and chat with Seren staff about publishing, writing, reading – and your love of books. We look forward to seeing you!

When: 9-12 December, 10am–8pm
Where: Chapter Arts Centre, 40 Market Road, Cardiff, CF5 1QE

Seren authors will also be stopping by, so why not come along and grab a special signed Christmas gift or two?



Peter Finch will be joining us on Saturday. A poet, author and critic, Peter is author of the hugely popular Real Cardiff trilogy, and series editor for the Real Series. He has published numerous poetry collections, including perennial bestseller Zen Cymru, and his Selected Later Poems. His latest book, The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back, explores the evolution of rock and popular music, and is the perfect gift for the music lover in your life.

David Foster-Morgan will be coming to the pop-up shop on Sunday. David has been widely published in a number of journals including Poetry Wales, Envoi, Smiths Knoll and The Interpreter’s House, and was recently shortlisted in the Times Literary Supplement Poetry Competition. Masculine Happiness is his innovative debut collection, and signed copies will be available if you come along at 12.


We look forward to seeing you at the Seren Christmas pop-up shop!


Gloriously gothic book launch: Bethany W. Pope in Cardiff

Gloriously gothic book launch Bethany W Pope Cardiff

Join us for a night of gothic romance as Bethany W. Pope reads from Masque, her rich and psychological re-telling of Gaston Leroux’s classic, The Phantom of the Opera.

The event is at the new Octavo’s Book Cafe & Wine Bar in Cardif Bay, Wednesday 22 June, 5:00-7:00pm, and is free for all to attend.
Bring your friends, have a glass of something decadent, and listen to the story unfold.

Bethany W. Pope launch Cardiff

Tell us you’ll be there! Click ‘going’ on the Facebook event page or RSVP by email to:

About Masque:
Masque is a richly gothic retelling of Gaston Leroux’s phantom of the opera story by debut novelist Bethany W Pope. Centre stage is promising young singer Christine, who, despite being devoted to her art, attracts the attention of both the Phantom (Erik), and rich Parisian theatre owner Raoul.

The intensely ambitious Christine finds herself caught between the twin evils of the Phantom’s murderous pursuit of artistic perfection and Raoul’s ‘romantic’ vision of her as a bourgeois wife. Her own desire to follow her operatic career becomes her guiding light, but none of the three leading characters can control the directions in which their passions lead them, while the beautiful masked skull of the opera house itself looms large over their respective fates. The resulting mix of love, rage, art and murderous intent, is explosive.

Love, lust, adventure, romance, and the monstrous nature of unfulfilled creativity await you here.

Everyone wears a mask. Look beneath it, if you dare.



The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back: Listen Online

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back

Peter Finch’s latest book The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back charts the evolution of rock and 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. For each chapter there is a playlist of suggested records to listen to whilst reading, to bring alive Peter’s many sharp-witted stories. To give you a taste of Peter’s world of music, we’ll be creating playlists for each chapter which you can listen to on our Youtube Channel. The first of these is now available, so take a listen below…

Chapter 1: Howlin’ Wolf in City Road

This entertaining book is part musical autobiography, part travel literature and also an exploration of how music can create a world for the listener that is simultaneously of and beyond the place in which is is heard.

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and BackFinch gives us sharp-eyed accounts of gigs from Champion Jack Dupree to the Garth Mountain Boys, muses on the importance of the Dansette record player, ponders why Elvis never came to Wales (except multiply in Porthcawl’s legendary Elvis Festival), visits musical shrines and theme parks – Dollywood, Grand Ole Opry, Graceland, Stax, rides along with singing cowboys and recalls his attempt to form a band, The Blueswailers. Add in music in Ireland and Wales (and in Welsh), the Bible Belt, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Etta James, Ray Charles, Bert Jansch, Taylor Swift, Alan Stivell, Chet Atkins, the Appalachian Mountains and Pigeon Forge and Finch’s world of music is as broad as the last six decades allows.

We hope you enjoyed the playlist above. You can buy the book on our website.

An Interview with Mary-Ann Constantine


We had a chat with Mary-Ann Constantine about her debut novel, Star-Shot, which is out today!

Mary-Ann Constantine studies Romantic period literature, with an emphasis on Wales and Brittany, at Aberystwyth University and has published widely in these fields since 1996. Her short stories have appeared over a number of years in New Welsh Review and Planet and her first collection, The Breathing, was published by Planet in 2008. Her second collection, All the Souls, was published by Seren in 2013. Star-Shot is her first novel.


Part fable, part mystery, Star-Shot is a stylish debut novel set in and around Cardiff’s National Museum in a time that is almost, but not quite, our own. As their paths cross in a circumscribed world of benches, parks and galleries, a handful of characters reveal their stories of obsession, loss and recovery, creating a fragile network of relationships which will help to resist the inexorable channels of silence eating into the city. 

A brittle young woman sits on a bench in Gorsedd park, conscious of the powerful building behind her; a tall man carries a box full of a strange organic substance up the entrance steps; a young father explains the formation of stars to his tiny son.  As university researchers try to map and understand  the destructive silence snaking around them, it becomes clear that the linked lives of these and other marginal characters offer ways of countering its effects. Poignant and humorous, Star-Shot is an exploration of how objects and images can focus our grief and desire; it is also a meditation on the regenerative power of garden ponds, and the cosmic significance of frogs.

Was it your intention from the beginning to write a story in which Cardiff’s National Museum plays such a huge part, or did the museum gradually seep into the story while you were writing?

I think it was there as a physical presence from the beginning. The image I couldn’t get out of my head was the first one, of the girl on the bench with a building behind her. Once I realized which building it was, I knew it would be a central character.

Magical realism is a very divisive term. Would you describe your work as magical realism and, if so, what is it that draws you to the genre?

Why is it divisive? Like ‘sci-fi’? Not proper literature? I like stories where odd things happen; and I like fiction that doesn’t completely opt for one side or the other along a border you could loosely call realism. I’ve always liked the work of the Portuguese writer José Saramago and the Italian writer Italo Calvino. They introduce ‘impossibilities’ into everyday life and then – sometimes ruthlessly, far more ruthlessly than I could ever do – see them through. You can read the impossible elements allegorically, metaphorically, but they have to be convincing in the world of the novel or story itself.  

Throughout Star-Shot we follow several different characters. Were any of them particularly difficult, or particularly easy, to write?

I have no idea why this happened, but they all just appeared, one at a time, and started talking to each other; and I took an instant liking to them. I’ve not written anything this long before (and yes, I know, it’s pretty short for a novel), but the only other sustained narrative involving a clutch of characters was ‘The Collectors’ in All the Souls, and I had to fight them the whole time – I found them all, in their different ways, unpleasant or failing in some way. This lot (and they really aren’t based on people I know, either, which makes the whole thing even stranger) seemed extremely sympathetic. Even the Professor figure and Luke, both of whom started off as slightly caricatured secondary characters, turned out to have hidden depths. I was worried that the absence of what my kids call ‘bad guys’ might make the story rather insipid. Hope not.    

Which skills that you learned from writing short fiction helped you to write longer fiction, and which skills, if any, were more of a hindrance?

I found it a very different process. Stories work round a central image or kernel – and that was what I assumed the girl-on-the-bench-and-building was for a long time. I had the final scene clear in my head too. I was surprised when the distance between them turned out to be not a few hundred words but several thousand. The scenes kept unrolling, short and cinematic. Once I knew who was in them it was a matter of listening in to conversations, and the writing came much more easily than usual.

Finally, what’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

Tricky; I tend to get absorbed in whatever I’m reading at the time – and I hate ‘best’. But I think possibly the hugely powerful, dark and weird Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson; and two crystal-clear collections by Tove Jansson, The Winter Book and The Summer Book. Perhaps the most important book, though, was Naomi Klein’s discussion of climate change, This Changes Everything.

Don’t forget to enter our competition for a chance to win a signed copy of Star-Shot!

Order Star-Shot from our website.

‘Real Cardiff Three’

Published 26th November 2009 by Peter Finch.

Since Peter Finch began his capital trilogy in 2002, Cardiff has changed enormously. In Real Cardiff Three Finch checks out the new, from Torchwood to St David’s 2, while continuing his authorial dig, revealing the places and people who make the city what it is.

En route he looks across Cardiff from its tallest buildings, seeks out subterranean passages, spends a day at Ely race course, storms Treoda Castle (if only he could find it), discovers the secret life of Whitchurch hospital and takes his geiger counter to atomic Cardiff. Full of pathos and comedy, nostalgia and blistering contemporary commentary, this volume is sure to become as popular as Real Cardiff and Real Cardiff Two.

‘Real’ Series Editor: Peter Finch

‘Real Cardiff Two: The Greater City’

Published 14th November 2004 by Peter Finch.

In the sequel to the hugely popular Real Cardiff, Peter Finch explores the city further, hunts for the legendary peripherique and discovers rubbish dumps, walled housing estates and dead-end lanes. He walks the coast around Penarth Head and on to Lavernock to find the terminal beach at Sully. With poet Grahame Davies he hunts for the mythical river Canna and uncovers what makes Cardiff Pontcanna media-land tick. With Architect Jonathan Adams he trails where the walls of Cardiff once ran, looking for time vaults and gaps in the city’s space-time continuum.

How did Penarth’s Billy Banks get their name? Why are there so many pubs in Pontcanna? Is it Victoria Park or Canton? Who knows? Not Finch’s mother, that’s for sure. With John Briggs he walks the route of the Glamorgan Canal, mourning the city’s loss. Russell Goodway agrees with him. But he’s lost too, now. In Roath, the real capital of Wales, he finds the Goosler, lost tennis courts and the old road to Cardiff Gate. In the Bay he looks at what went before the new Wales Millennium Centre and what might have been.

Out at Creigiau he finds cromlechau and extant past in a city full of trees and slopes. The Welsh Office is surrounded with salt to keep the demons out. John Tripp has his wake at the Gower in Cathays. There’s a folk-club in the Locomotive along Broadway. Queen Street Station has passages you can’t get to where the Taff Valley Railway still steams.

There are other secrets running inside the overbuilt city. Finch tells us what they are. In Real Cardiff #2 Finch no longer has his nose pressed against the glass. This time he’s inside.

‘Real’ Series Editor: Peter Finch