Friday Poem – ‘Plasticine Love Hearts’ by Janette Ayachi

As it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Plasticine Love Hearts’ by Janette Ayachi from the anthology Writing Motherhood.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Through a unique combination of interviews, poems, and essays, Writing Motherhood, edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke, interrogates contemporary representations of motherhood in media and literature. It asks why so many novels dealing with serious women’s issues are packaged in pink covers with wellies and tea cups, and demonstrates how the exquisite moments of motherhood often enrich artistic practice rather than hinder it. Writing Motherhood is a vital exploration of the complexities of contemporary sexual politics, publishing, artistic creation, and 21st Century parenting.

Janette Ayachi
You curved into me like a child
that has never learnt to walk,
a scuttle into my chest
as I folded over you
like a Russian doll.
The first day
I left you there
I came back
to find you crying
nestled on the nursery
teacher’s lap like a newborn
regressing, an upside down egg chart.
You were late for their world
as I practised detachment
from tiny chairs and tiny
children asked me
to zip-up jackets
tie laces, tell stories
whilst you learnt
the letters in your name
made plasticine love-hearts
became the keeper of the chicken coup
sifting your fur-less hands over its feathers
feeding it corn and water with curious precision.
Today I am not there
watching you and the time
ticks slowly, my heart now scuttles
in my chest as I align trust and bravery
from its layers like a Russian doll internally displaced
into individual shapes, regiment in its own body-hollow echo
waiting for the bell to siren its puzzle-march to complete single form.
We step back into each other the same way people jump
onto moving trains, a leap toward shelter,
your nails darkened by the hearts
you carved and cloned for me in my absence.

This weekend Writing Motherhood is just £6.49 in our half-price Spring Sale! Enjoy 50% off titles across our website this weekend only. Sale ends midnight Monday 28th March 2022.

Friday Poem – ‘Eva’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Eva’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke from her new collection We Have to Leave the Earth.

This cover shows a photo of a balled up piece of blue fishing-twine lying against a pale pink and blue background.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s most recent collection We Have to Leave the Earth deftly interweaves the personal and the political. Climate change is confronted in a sequence about the Arctic; poems that are vividly descriptive of an extreme landscape, sensitive to the effects of global warming. A second sequence, The House of Rest, is a history in 9 poems of Josephine Butler, (1828-1906) a pioneering feminist activist. There are also tender poems about family.


Then you were here
real as a wound.

They placed you in my arms
with such care I thought you a parcel of feathers

that might fly away.
I stroked your face –

your eyes were midnight blue.
Time bended to you,

language re-strung its instruments
to sound your name.

Visitors admired your lace-
ears, your peony fists, but they

could not see you as I did –
you slid from your skin

just as you had slipped out of me
and became a shard

of morning light, turning
cobwebs to crystal thread,

the windowsill a gold bar,
dew on hedges constellations

of delicacy. I knew then
this love was alchemy.

Our bond is not made of that loose
wet rope they cut

but of instruments that show
the unseen and sound the silent,

the heart’s infinite missions
harnessed in flight.

We Have to Leave the Earth is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us online for Virtual First Thursday on 2nd December from 7:30pm GMT where Carolyn will be reading from We Have to Leave the Earth alongside Jeremy Dixon. Tickets are £2 plus Eventbrite admin fee. Buy yours here

Friday Poem – ‘What We Found in the Arctic, or, the Geopolitics of New Natural Resources Uncovered by Melted Ice’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘What We Found in the Arctic, or, the Geopolitics of New Natural Resources Uncovered by Melted Ice’ by Carolyn Jess-Cooke from her new collection We Have To Leave The Earth.

This cover shows a photo of a ball of tangled fishing twine resting against a pink and blue background.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s new poetry collection is both keenly political and deeply personal. The opening poem ‘now’ features a seemingly peaceful domestic scene of a family lounging at home as the starting point for meditation on history, time, mortality and the fate of the planet. There are hints of a struggle with depression stemming from a difficult childhood. There is a cherished child diagnosed with autism. There are two sequences: Songs for the Arctic, inspired by field work done for the Arctic at the Thought Foundation, poems that are vividly descriptive of an extreme landscape, aware of the fraught history of exploration and sensitive to the way changes in the pack ice are the most significant indicators of man-made global warming. The other sequence, The House of Rest, is a history in nine poems of Josephine Butler (1828-1906), who pioneered feminist activism, and helped to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act 1869, which facilitated sexual violence in the name of disease prevention. Jess-Cooke is unafraid of dark material but is also ultimately hopeful and full of creative strategies to meet challenging times. 

What We Found in the Arctic, or, the Geopolitics of New Natural Resources Uncovered by Melted Ice
Mme and M. Dumoulin, missing since 1942
Rubber ducks
A Russian flag pronged on the seafloor
Three Incan children, sacrificed
Bird fossils from the Cretaceous period
Prehistoric skis
Saami, Nenets, Khanty, Evenk, Chukchi, Aleut, Yupik, Dolgan, and Inuit
Natural Gas
1700 species of plants
Record levels of microplastics
A hunter from 3000 B.C.
A horse from the Iron Age, with perfectly preserved manure
Territorial claims for the Arctic Continental Shelf
Polar bears, starving
Disputations concerning territorial waters
45,000 Russian troops
3,400 Russian military vehicles
41 Russian ships
15 Russian submarines
110 Russian planes
The albedo effect, claimed by no one

We Have To Leave The Earth is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Join us online for the virtual launch of We Have To Leave The Earth on Tuesday 16th November from 7pm. Carolyn will be reading from the collection alongside guest readers Liz Berry and Jen Hadfield. Register for free via Eventbrite here

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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A literary Mother’s Day Gift: the Writing Motherhood anthology

Writing Motherhood 30% off Mother's Day

Today we welcome the arrival of Writing Motherhood, a creative anthology of poetry, interviews and essays by established writers, edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-CookeThe perfect literary gift for Mother’s Day, Writing Motherhood explores the relationship between creativity and motherhood, with contributions from writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, Sharon Olds and Hollie McNish. Until Sunday 26 March, you can buy Mum her copy at 30% off, direct from the Seren website.

‘This is a truly inspiring collection, all the more so for its wit and its grit, its poetry and its honesty; here we have women producing ‘good art’ despite – and often  because of – ‘the pram in the hall.’ – Shelley Day

Read a free excerpt from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s Introduction, below.


There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.
– Cyril Connolly

This book presents a selection of the most important contemporary
writing by women on the tensions between motherhood
and writing.
Cyril Connolly wrote about the ‘pram in the hall’ in his 1938
book Enemies of Promise, yet his caveat is directed at men (he took
it as given that women create babies, not art). Nonetheless, the
quote is still in use to capture those devastating effects brought to
artistic creation by a new baby. I’m not alone when I admit the
arrival of my first child felt like stepping inside a whirlwind. I had
plenty to worry about – SIDS, whether she was gaining enough
weight, whether we could afford maternity leave, etc. – but I do
remember that among my worries was a serious concern that I
might never be able to write again. My brain felt completely
scrambled. I could barely construct a text message for weeks,
months. Time was disjointed. It seemed to take an inordinate
amount of time to do even the smallest task. I remember thinking,
over and over, why did nobody tell me how hard this is? After the birth
of my son, however, writing proved effective in pushing back the
darkness of postnatal depression, and also inspired a new direction
in my creative practice; I had always thought I would only
ever write poetry, but the problem-solving, immersive elements of
narrative proved much more potent in batting back depression.
After the births of our third and fourth children, let’s just say that
I became a bit more creative in how I managed my time.

In 2014, Arts Council England funded my Writing Motherhood
project to tour literary festivals in the UK to discuss the impact of
motherhood on women’s writing. I had read a number of reports
and articles that claimed the key to literary success was childlessness,
or for a woman to have just one child, or at least to bear in
mind that each child ‘costs’ a female writer four books. None of
these reports aimed their caveats at men. I became curious – and
not a little dismayed – by the idealization of motherhood, and by
the casual sexism that was prevalent and unchallenged in discourses
about motherhood. I set up the Writing Motherhood
project because I wanted to empower mothers and to encourage
them to talk about their experiences. Although the assumption
about mothers and writing was that we just didn’t have the time
or inclination (we’re all too busy dealing with that pram in the
hallway!), I perceived that other forces were at work, prohibiting
women’s writing from making it into the public sphere and/or
being perceived as good literature.



A few highlights from the kalaidescope of female experience featured here are Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s interview with Sharon Olds (where she discusses her famous rejection by a US literary magazine for writing about her children), excerpts from Hollie McNish’s motherhood diary, and Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful portrait of being and having a daughter. This is a poignant and beautiful book celebrating motherhood, recognising it not as the ‘enemy of good art’, but often as its inspiration.

Writing Motherhood 30% off Mother's Day

Writing Motherhood: 30% off until Mother’s Day (26 March). Order your copy now


Friday Poem – ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Motherhood’, Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Boom! Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week our Friday Poem comes from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s poetry collection Boom!.

Boom! Carolyn Jess-CookeBoom! is a brilliant contribution to the evolving archive of women’s experience, and its poems range from free-verse riffs on essential moments of joy and blame, to artful sonnets on the physical act of childbirth, to meditative and discursive pieces on the way that love for a child suffuses your being. The collection serves as an exploration into the profound impact motherhood can have upon creativity. Carolyn has continued to explore the relationship between motherhood and creativity as editor of Writing Motherhood, an anthology of poetry, interviews and essays, which is publishing 09 March, and is available for pre-order from our website (£12.99).






















Boom! is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Accent’, Carolyn Jess-Cooke

This week’s Friday Poem is taken from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s debut collection, Inroads.  

The opening piece, ‘Accent’ where ‘stowaway inflections and locally-produced slang/have passports of their own’ is a praise poem for the versatility and joy of language, “The way sound chases itself in tunnels and halls, the way senses fold  memory…”.After this playful start, a difficult childhood is evoked through metaphor in poems like ‘Music Lesson’,‘One Thousand Painful Pieces’ and ‘Bitten’, all the more heartbreaking for being indirect.














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Friday Poem – Different Water

Boom! Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Happy Friday one and all. This week’s Friday Poem is an exploration of the significance and power of motherhood, taken from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s collection, Boom!, as a little early celebration of Mother’s Day this coming Sunday.

Boom! Carolyn Jess-Cooke‘Becoming a mother changed me in every single way,’ says the author, ‘my first child – born in October 2006 – just about knocked me sideways. There were many reasons for this, but here’s the biggest one: I could not believe how public and political the (hugely personal) experience of motherhood was.’

Jess-Cooke found, as many parents do, that the juggling act required to raise young children and continue a professional and creative life, is both exhausting and fulfilling. Viewing motherhood from a multiplicity of artful angles, the author says, ‘Coupled with all this was the love I had for my children. It completely and utterly blew me away, how much I could love another human being.’

Different Water

When a girl becomes a mother there is no fanfare.
No government re-elections, no erupting volcanoes.
The baby mops up the praise. But quietly
there are earthquakes, realigning planets.
When you ask to hold her newborn you are
addressing someone who just became a tiger,
so be careful.When she soothes the child that has
shrieked for three hours she is the Matador,
sunlit with relief. Sometimes, at around 2am,
she is the only woman ever to have given birth.
At the supermarket she is a calm strong oak
dragging a thrashing child past the strawberries.
At the school gates she’s autumn weeping leaves
of every hue for the loss of summer. Often
she spies the girl she once was and thinks, wimp.
Like grass trees after fire, like crops in new weather,
like a river clasping different water, there is
no fanfare when a girl becomes a mother.

Buy your copy here.