Poetry for Valentine’s Day

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with poetry collections that explore many different kinds of love. Don’t forget to sign up to our book club for 20% off all books you buy directly from us.

The Brittle Sea: New and Selected Poems by Paul Henry

This cover shows an absract painting by Anthony Goble. It give the appearance of sea with a red boat, a brick church and a moon like face amongst the waves.

With a musician’s ear and an artist’s eye, Paul Henry’s poems of love and fatherhood, informed by the Welsh-speaking community of his childhood, bridge both the rural and urban experience. The Brittle Sea reacquaints readers with Henry’s vast gallery of characters, from the boy having his hair cut in ‘Daylight Robbery’ to the ghosts of his long, Newport poem, ‘Between Two Bridges.’ The new poems section includes the popular ‘Steel’, inspired by the Welsh national rugby team; others which revisit some of ‘The Visitors’ from The Milk Thief; and a moving elegy for the painter Anthony Goble.

Heat Signature by Siobhán Campbell

This cover shows an abstract painting of red flowers that look like flames.

Heat Signature is the intelligent, provocative new collection of poems from Siobhán Campbell. An Irish poet, Campbell has inherited a rich vocabulary, the necessary ‘slant’ point of view, and a store of lively anecdote. This is a poetry that resists rapture and/or easy solutions, it rather glories in difficulty: the cussed, intractable nature of humanity, of a natural world beset with swarming bees, weeds and feral horses. There is a beautiful balance throughout between the forthright and the ironical. Heat Signature continues her fascination with her homeland in all its incarnations, both ancient and modern. These poems challenge preconceived notions as they resist cliché.

Masculine Happiness by David Foster-Morgan

This cover had a predominantly green and black background with a painting of a young man wearing a red and black striped top on the right hand side.

Masculine Happiness is a provocative yet subtle collection which explores the author’s ambivalence towards models of masculinity handed out to us by the media and modern society. Complex, ironic, layered, fashioned with an acute and subtle intelligence, these poems are as likely to reference Elvis as Borges. There is also a considerable amount of humour here, along with astute satire and insightful character poems. Foster-Morgan’s work repays the careful attention of thoughtful readers.

You by John Haynes

This cover has a pale yellow background. A close up photo of a Nigerian woman's face sits in the middle. She is wearing a checked head scarf and wide round glasses.

You is a book-length poem by the late poet John Haynes. The ‘You’ of the title is the narrator’s partner and wife of many years. The book is not just a celebration of, and meditation on, personal love and devotion, but a record of how such love moves out of a family and is refracted out into the community and the wider world. The tensions inherent in this are compounded by the cross-cultural nature of the union. The narrator is a white British man and his wife was born and raised in Nigeria. Exploring a partnership based on culturally quite different – and in some aspects painfully incompatible –conceptions of ‘love’, the poem  is knit together by philosophical themes of ‘I’ and ‘you’ seen from many perspectives. Shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize.

Other Women’s Kitchens by Alison Binney

This cover shows a colourful abstract painting of a kitchen inhabited by shadowy figures.

Other Women’s Kitchens by Alison Binney’s introduces us to a gifted new voice who writes with flair and feeling about coming out and coming of age as a gay woman in 21st century Britain. Winner of the Mslexia pamphlet prize for poetry, the collection explores the challenges of discovering and owning a lesbian identity in the 1980s and 1990s and the joy of finding both love and increased confidence in that identity as an adult. An adroit admixture of the heart-wrenching and the humorous, the book features shaped and ‘found’ pieces, traditional narrative and compact prose poems. Beautifully entertaining, pointedly political and often very funny, Other Women’s Kitchens is essential reading.

Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones

This cover shows a blurred black and white image of a woman dancing with her arms out to the sides.

Taking its title from the muse of lyric poetry, Rees-Jones’s fifth collection Erato questions how we know and write about the beauty and the horrors of the world. Documentary-style autobiographical narratives are set alongside lyric fragments and poetic sequences as the repetitions of trauma and the errors and erasures of memory are explored. This is a book full of flames and scars, landscapes and animals; at its heart is a desire for the transformative music that runs beneath words, and an understanding of the bodies we inhabit when we love. Shortlisted for the T.S Eliot Prize.

A Second Whisper by Lynne Hjelmgaard

This cover shows an abstract painting made up of blue, grey and splashes of yellow with two figures in the foreground.

A Second Whisper is a thoughtful and sensitive collection that reflects the changing identities of a woman: in motherhood, in widowhood, in friendship and grief. There are elegies to the loss in 2014 of her mentor and partner, the poet Dannie Abse which are a tribute to their deep friendship. There are also poems to her late husband who died in 2006 and for their children and for relationships from the author’s past in New York City and Denmark. The poems are both elegiac and celebratory: they move and change tone as the author travels to the past and negotiates through the geography of grief and feelings of displacement in London, and finally opens to her new life in the present.

Browse a wide range of fantastic poetry collections on our Poetry pages, or visit Coming Soon to pre-order books coming out in 2022.

Friday Poem – ‘Bowerbirds’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Bowerbirds’ by Deryn Rees-Jones from her collection Erato which was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year.

This cover shows a blurred black and white image of someone dancing.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

Bowerbirds
Start now with the smallest things,
a pile of blackened acorns, glinting beetle wings,
the green fruit and purple flowers of the potato bush.
He trails a path of halts and hesitations
like stations of the cross,
turns colour in his mind, perspective.
Snail shells or the blue of berries?
(Is that a bud of jasmine in his beak?)
His bower, I see, is thatched with orchid stems,
moss laid like a lawn at the entrance to his bivouac,
orange leaves like a pool of restless koi.
This stuff he collects as a small boy might,
adrift on a prayer of football cards and dinosaurs.
All settles as he eyes her. And here now,
like a seal on his heart, a bed of blooms
pulled from a bush.
How carefully he’s considered her.
This pink, he thinks, of roses.

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Looking for Christmas gift inspiration? Browse our Christmas Gift Guide for literary ideas for the whole family.

Reading for Remembrance – Armistice Day 2021

Every year, we observe two minutes silence at 11am, on the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the moment The Armistice began in 1918. Today, as we once again take time to remember the sacrifices made by servicemen and women in the armed forces, we’re sharing some of the commemorative titles we’ve published during the last 40 years. Lest we forget.

Men Who Played The Game by Mike Rees

Men Who Played the Game

The Great War and the resulting unimaginable loss of life had a profound effect on servicemen and those at home, perhaps never more so than in the case of sportsmen, who fought ‘battles’ on the pitch or in the ring according to rules devised for fair play. Men Who Played the Game by historian Mike Rees explores the development and importance of sport in Britain and the Empire leading up to the outbreak of the First World War, and the part played by sportsmen in the conflict. The book opens with revealing chapters on how various sports – the fans, the governing bodies and the sportsmen themselves – reacted to the outbreak of war. This book is an invaluable guide to the relationship of sport and war, to the state of sporting Britain, and a moving testimony to the fate of so many sportsmen.

Robert Graves: War Poems edited by Charles Mundye

Robert Graves War Poems Charles Mundye

Robert Graves: War Poems draws together all of Robert Graves’s poems about the Great War. It consists of his first two major published volumes: Over the Brazier (1916) and Fairies and Fusiliers (1917) as well as the previously unpublished 1918 manuscript, ‘The Patchwork Flag’. Critical and contextual introductions by editor Charles Mundye provide biographical and historical context, locating and ranking Graves amongst the other soldier poets of the First World War: Sassoon, Owen, Thomas, Rosenberg et al. 

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John Pikoulis

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John Pikoulis

Alun Lewis (1915-1944) was the most prominent writer of World War Two, in poetry and short fiction.  He was born in the industrial valleys of south Wales and grew up during the deep poverty of the Depression. Set against this background and war, Alun, Gweno & Freda is an account of Lewis’s life and his writing, through the particular prism of his relationships with his wife, Gweno, and with Freda Aykroyd, an expatriate in India whose house provided respite for British officers on leave. The book argues that Lewis’s charged relationships with these two women were the key to both his writing and his mental health. It also explores the circumstances surrounding Lewis’ death by a single shot from his own gun and contributes to the ongoing debate about whether this was an accident or suicide.

And You, Helen by Deryn Rees-Jones and Charlotte Hodes

This specially commissioned collaboration between poet Deryn Rees-Jones and artist Charlotte Hodes explores the life of Helen Thomas, wife of the poet Edward Thomas who was killed at the battle of Arras in 1917. Rees-Jones’s sequence takes Thomas’s only poem addressed directly to his wife, ‘And you, Helen’ as its starting point, and imagines Helen after Edward’s death. Complemented by a meditative essay on the complexities of the relationship between the poet and his family, and on war, grief, marriage and bereavement more generally, this is a critical exploration through a personal lens.

Poet to Poet edited by Judy Kendall

This scholarly volume offers insight into the highly influential writer and poet Edward Thomas, through his correspondence with Walter de la Mare: 318 letters from between 1906 and 1917. Poet to Poet offers a moving epistolary account of the developing personal and poetic relationship of both poets, with biographical revelations, and increased understanding of their influence on each other and key points relating to their poetic processes.

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Friday Poem – ‘I know Exactly the Sort of Woman I’d Like to Fall in Love With’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This Sunday (8th March) is International Women’s Day so this week we bring you the poem ‘I know Exactly the Sort of Woman I’d Like to Fall in Love With’ by Deryn Rees-Jones which is featured the Women’s Work anthology but was first published in Deryn’s debut collection The Memory Tray.

women's work 2016

With over 250 contributors, this generous selection of poetry by women with an emphasis on twentieth-century poetry in English features poets from all over the world. Arranged by thematic chapters that touch on various aspects of modern life, it aims to be a touchstone of women’s thoughts and experiences; to be entertaining and relevant as well as inclusive and representative of some of the best poetry published now.

 

Women’s Work is available on the Seren website: £14.99

Deryn’s most recent collection Erato was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Lyrebird’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Lyrebird’ by Deryn Rees-Jones from her T. S. Eliot Shortlisted collection Erato.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Deryn Rees-Jones shares her poetry advice

It was announced earlier today that Deryn Rees-Jones’ new collection Erato has been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2019. It therefore felt only fitting that this week’s poetry advice blog came from her.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

 

What first drew you to poetry?

As a child in primary school we were expected to write at least a poem a week. Each poem then had to be illustrated. I took these tasks very seriously and wonder if my interest in the relationship between text and image stems from there.

Where do you look to for inspiration?

The origins of that word inspiration are interesting, aren’t they, that idea of inhalation, but one that originated in the idea of bringing something divine into the human body. I have recently been working on an exhibition with the artist Charlotte Hodes. She has made a sequence of four images, now engraved on glass, with my captions – heat, heart, in-breath, unfurls. Glass is one of those transformative materials, which I have become fascinated by. I’m thinking about it a great deal, and in my mind it also connects with something that has also preoccupied me in the past — snow. I’m interested more generally in heat, in the idea of fire as a metaphor for the creative process. Those captions on glass, which evolved from our shared working and thinking, are a shorthand for ideas I have explored a little more relentlessy in Erato. I continue this thinking about creativity in a book length lyric essay – Fires — that will be published in November with Shoestring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What poets or writers inspire you?

My work as an editor at Pavilion is a huge privilege, seeing books as they develop, working with closely with poets. I learn a lot from seeing that process, and from the close reading that demands. Current poetry books I am reading – Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, Mei-mei Berssenbruge’s Hello, the Roses. I read a lot of books about psychoanalysis as a theory but also as a practice, and I have also just started reading two quite different but enjoyable and wise books, Mary Midgley’s autobiography The Owl of Minvera, and Rosi Braidotti’s new book, Posthuman Knowledge.

What does poetry mean to you?

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet at the moment about the way poetry sometimes gets claimed as this universal panacea or in some way becomes fetishized. Poetry is a very important and particular process, but it’s deeply connected to other things that its processes allows – thinking in deep ways, feeling, paying attention, engaging with a community of thinkers and readers, being in the world. I honour the process and the pleasures and excitement poetry brings. But I am impatient when poetry somehow becomes separated from those other processes of which it is a part, and then gets reduced to a commodity.

How do you balance writing poetry with working? If you write full time, what made you decide to do so?

I have a full and busy life, and I’m starting to trust a bit more that the method I seem to have developed over the years, of setting other critical writing alongside my creative work, is a useful synergy. I don’t feel the need to separate that process.

Do you have a writing routine? What is it?

I have lots of routines, most of which include the balance of full-time work in the university and childcare. School drop-off and pick up times, walking the dog are all structures built in to the day. I was recently on an extended period of study leave and I tried to work for three intense hours writing every morning in the local café. That time was ringfenced for critical writing and research, but poems inevitably creep in. If you parent small children on your own, life can feel very closed down in terms of the freedom to simply leave the house, take a walk, run out for groceries, have some time alone with friends. That has changed a great deal now and I am valuing the new freedoms but also, as I look back, valuing that enforced quietness and what it asked of me. I don’t have a specific writing routine when it comes to poetry, but the other routines mean there might be space when I need it.

How do you prepare yourself before sitting down to write?

I don’t. It’s more organic than that. You could say that even though I’m not writing, in notebooks, of which I have many, or on screen, that I am writing all the time, because writing is much more than sitting down and putting marks on the page.

What advice would you give to poets looking to get their work published?

Concentrate on the poems, read – what is being published now, but also engage with poems that have come before. Read internationally. Having a sense of what poetry means in cultures that are not your own is really important; understanding a poetic history as well as a context is really important.

Is it important to build a reputation by submitting to competitions, magazines and journals?

For some poets it might be, it’s one route. I’m more interested in that process as a testing ground for readership and the poem than I am in the idea of reputation.

Do you have any tips for submitting poems to publishers or magazines?

Write your best poem in the best way you can. It’s going back to the idea of seeing publication as a testing ground. Not all the poems in a book work on their own, but can be vital when assembling a book. Keep a humble and critical judgement. Leave poems alone for a while. Trust that editors, who are usually poets, have a good sense of what is working or not in a poem.

What methods do you use to overcome feeling disheartened or to keep positive?

We live in an age of soundbites, some of which are directed at least in a superficial way, at improving our mental health. Of course we all have feelings when work is returned or doesn’t appear to have been read after publication. Poets need readers, and it can be painful not to feel heard or relevant or understood, but processing that part of your professional life is also part of life. I’m more interested in the life part  — how to live ethically, and joyfully, than some sense that we can guard against difficulty or pain without seeing that as part of a bigger process.

Do you have any other advice for fellow poets?

I wouldn’t presume!

 

Erato is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Cell’ by Deryn Rees-Jones

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Cell’ by Deryn Rees-Jones which appears in her collection Erato.

It was announced yesterday that Deryn’s poem ‘Firebird’, also from Erato, is amongst those highly commended by the Judges in the Forward Prizes for Poetry. Other highly commended poets include Carol Ann Duffy, Inua Ellams, Hugo Williams, Ann Wroe and Morgan Parker.

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself. What is the difference, she asks in one poem, between a sigh and a song? Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.

 

Erato is is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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‘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: ‘Chinese Lacquer Egg’, Deryn Rees-Jones

Friday Poem Chinese Lacquer Egg Deryn Rees-Jones

We’d like to wish you a very happy Easter, and in celebration our Friday Poem today is ‘Chinese Lacquer Egg’ by Deryn Rees-Jones.

Deryn Rees-Jones What It's Like To Be Alive Selected Poems‘Chinese Lacquer Egg’ first featured in TS Eliot Prize-shortlisted Burying the Wren, and more recently in What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems. ‘Something is beginning’, it starts: there is a change, in outlook as well as nature. With intense lyricism the poet calls on the Roethkean ‘small things’ of the universe – birds, flowers, eggs – mysterious, and magical as well as ordinary.
What It’s Like to Be Alive features poems from Burying the Wren and four other collections, showcasing the arc of development in her writing over twenty-five years as she visits and revisits the concerns that are the mainstay of her writing: memory, love, desire, and heartbreak in all its manifestations.

 

A Chinese Lacquer Egg

Something is beginning. We feel it in the raw edges
of our dreams, our bodies hostage to light, to weather.
It is filling us with the weight of summer
which floats like helium through our wintered bones.
We wonder at it all, surprised by warmth, a sudden downpour –
the ruffled line of birdsong, a forgotten bulb
forcing its way through sodden earth towards the sun.
Or this Chinese lacquer egg, which appeared one morning
in my outstretched palm. Beyond the sound
of aeroplane or train, as we drift asleep, hands cupped
to the pillow, it shares its oval mysteries. Listen!
Between breath and silence it is showing itself.
In these shortened nights it is not unlike rapture,
an unworded prayer its indelible hum.

 

 

What It’s Like to Be Alive is available from the Seren website: £12.99
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Friday Poem – ‘Making Out’, Deryn Rees-Jones

friday poem making out deryn rees-jones

This week our Friday Poem is ‘Making Out’ by Deryn Rees-Jones, which originally appeared in her second collection, Signs Round a Dead Body, and also features in her generous new What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems.

Both collections (along with Deryn’s other books The Memory Tray, QuiverAnd You, Helen and Burying the Wren) are half price until midnight on Sunday, 9th October as part of our National Poetry Day sale.

Deryn Rees-Jones What It's Like To Be Alive Selected PoemsWhat It’s Like to Be Alive marks a mid-career milestone in the life of this highly-acclaimed writer. From the poems written in her teens and early twenties included in her exciting debut The Memory Tray to her most recent exploration of time and grief, we see the arc of development in her writing over twenty-five years as she visits and revisits the concerns that are the mainstay of her writing: memory, love, desire, and heartbreak in all its manifestations. The following poem originally featured in Signs Round a Dead Body, Deryn’s second collection.

Making Out

Now it was airports that she needed –
to sit there going nowhere
counting aeroplanes like sheep,

with Concorde like an archaeopteryx or angel
and Egypt, Russia, the Azores and Lithuania
spinning in her head. She’d sit there

writing letters that she knew she wouldn’t send,
telling him about the dull, red moon, the way
the landscape then, so pale, unreal,

the fishermen, the midnight seas
had been tattooed like hieroglyphs
in blues and golds

deep into her skin. It was his hands, I think,
she could imagine best
travelling across her. But she thought about the way

he’d kiss her too, the way she’d smile, nod yes
to his demolishing her. The way he’d start
to reassemble, slowly, in the rented bed

her mouth, her throat, her shoulders, breasts,
her knees, her arms, her thighs, her calves, and love etc.

 

Until midnight on Sunday 9 October,What It’s Like to Be Alive: Selected Poems is half price: only £6.49 (RRP £12.99). Buy your copy now to take advantage of this fantastic offer.

 

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