Friday Poem – ‘[ correspondence : another year ]’ by Sammy Weaver

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘[ correspondence : another year ]’ by Sammy Weaver from her pamphlet Angola, America which won the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition.

This cover shows a geometric image of think white lines against black stripes. A gaping white hole is cut from the middle. The text reads: Angola, America. Sammy Weaver.

Angola, America, winner of the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2021, takes its name from a prison in Louisiana in the southern United Sates. In these strikingly original, thoroughly contemporary, and deeply moving poems, we are immersed in the world the inmates must endure. From the first poem, when we witness a home-made tattoo and understand that this scarring and incision is a “map in the connective tissue of pain and loss”, we are drawn into this world in a way that is carefully observed and beautifully empathetic.

[ correspondence : another year ]
the grey static of the dashboard ignites into a ringtone
ignites into a w
oman’s voice pale-polite
as a white picket fence in the still of morning:
hello, this is a free call from ______
an incarcerated individual at louisiana state penitentiary,
this call is not pr
ivate & may be monitored,
you may start the conversation now
& the line ignites into song as you sing to me
happy birthday & because birth is death in reverse
i imag
ine blowing a candle out backwards, sucking
the orange talons into the prison of my lungs,
the w
ax congealing up the wick, the match lying
down in its box, the rush of our bodies diminishing
inside the bodies of our mothers

Angola, America is available on the Seren website: £6.00

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Join us online from 7:30pm on Thursday 2nd February to hear Sammy Weaver reading from Angola, America alongside Kathryn Bevis at Seren Virtual First Thursday. Tickets are £2 (plus Eventbrite admin fee).

Friday Poem – ‘The Winter Park’ by Paul Henry

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘The Winter Park’ by Paul Henry from his collection As If To Sing.

This cover shows an abstract painting by the artist Antony Goble. A woman with blue skin dominates the image in a vibrant orange dress. She is balancing an urn on her head and holds a red crow in her hand. The text reads: As If To Sing, Paul Henry.

The power of song, to sustain the human spirit, resonates through As if to Sing. A trapped caver crawls back through songs to the sea; Welsh soldiers pack their hearts into a song on the eve of battle, ‘for safe-keeping’; a child crossing a bridge sings ‘a song with no beginning or end’… Rich in the musical lyricism admired by readers and fellow poets, As if to Sing is an essential addition to this Paul Henry’s compelling body of work.

“A poet at the top of his game.” – Radio Wales Review Show

The Winter Park
Ten years now, since I left
and the space between us widens
so we’re ghostly when we meet
and yes, the heart hardens.
Our old life rarely haunts
but can still surprise.
This stone birdbath’s font
for instance, suddenly ablaze
with a ritual. The boys sail twigs
in its brightness as you wait
on a bench for me, to come back
from the bookshop across the street –
your weekly gift, these minutes
alone, that pass into years,
a small park’s blinding light,
and you not waiting here.

As If To Sing is available on the Seren website £9.99

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Watch Paul Henry reading from As If To Sing and performing songs from ‘The Glass Aisle’ on our AM Channel.

Friday Poem – ‘Consider’ by Angela Graham

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Consider’ by Angela Graham from her collection Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere.

Sanctuary is – urgent. The pandemic has made people crave it; political crises are denying it to millions; the earth is no longer our haven. In Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere, Angela Graham and five other writers from Wales and Northern Ireland, addresses the many meanings of sanctuary from the inside. How we can save the earth, ourselves and others? How valid is the concept of a ‘holy’ place these days? Are any values still sacrosanct? We all deserve peace and security but can these be achieved without exploitation?

With Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson

Consider
Why do you still call me ‘refugee’?
Do you want me to be forever fleeing?
I have fled. Now I am here,
trying to keep both feet on the ground
and find my balance.
Sometimes I feel I have two hearts.
One, the first-created
− taut as a drum-skin in my chest −
trembles at far-off shifts of energy
in the fault-lines of the home I left.
The other has grown itself around the first
as lymph spreads on the surface of a wound;
as albumen, fragile, tremulous,
helps a new life mesh itself together
somehow.
I was a refugee. Now I am here
where I have to do so much explaining,
where I have to live so much on your terms
and I am growing this second heart
as bravely as I can.
Where I came from will always be
where I come from
and now I come from
− and so let me be −
here.

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Watch Angela Graham reading her poem ‘Home’ on our Youtube channel:

Friday Poem – ‘This Year’ by Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘This Year’ by Ben Wilkinson from his collection Same Difference.

This cover shows an abstract painting made up of dark blues and greys with a face-like smudge in the centre. A splash of red, green and yellow flecks go up the left hand side. The text reads: Same Difference. Ben Wilkinson.

Carefully crafted, and charged with contemporary language, the poems in Same Difference play with poetic voice and the dramatic monologue, keeping us on our toes and asking just who is doing the talking. Throughout, Ben Wilkinson ‘steps into the shoes’ of French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-96), reframing his voice for modern readers. Brimming with everyone from cage fighters and boy racers to cancer patients and whales in captivity, Same Difference is gritty, darkly ironic and often moving – a collection for our times.

This Year
If we could gift each other moments
I’d wrap up that bauble sun we felt
warm our backs to the tip of Mam Tor.
I’d box the two hours spent tracing
the tinselled reservoir, no two miles
the same as we ran and ran, trails
deserted, no sound but our own
good hearts and honest footfall. I’d
ribbon that first jog up Ringinglow,
this city held as if the snow globe
we’d shake. And I’d nestle under
the tree those loops of a floodlit track,
a reminder that what’s done is done,
and of dark-bright moments still to come.

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Friday Poem – ‘Flamingo’ by Kathryn Bevis

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Flamingo’ by Kathryn Bevis from her pamphlet of the same name. If you missed the online launch for Flamingo, you can watch it back now on our Youtube channel.

This cover shows a surreal still life painting of four flamingos poking their heads out of a blue and white patterned vase. The text reads: Flamingo, Kathryn Bevis.

Kathryn Bevis’s critically-acclaimed debut pamphlet Flamingo introduces us to a troupe of wild, unique, and captivating poems. Life and our own embodiment are brought sharply into focus as we encounter a variety of subjects including work, survival, love, and mortality. Formally inventive, these hopeful and sometimes surreal poems are not afraid to confront complex or difficult emotions. Cancer is posed as a ring-tailed lemur, capering through the sufferer’s body, and the title poem imagines death as a flamboyant transformation where the speaker shapeshifts into the afterlife. Each poem is a discovery and a joy.

Flamingo
My love, when I die, I’ll turn flamingo:
fall asleep, face tucked in on the pillow
of myself. Even as you cry, I’ll be stepping
from the bed, feeling plush, pink tulle tutuing
from my hips. My legs will telescope, grow
thin and rosy. I’ll sense my feet web, feel
a new itch to stamp and stir, to suck up
larvae from the bottom of the lagoon.
In this afterworld, some days I’ll fix
one foot in mud, find infinite repose:
the poise of a yogi in prayer. Others,
I’ll gorge myself, filter feed on brine shrimp
from the salty shadows. The other birds
and I will grunt and growl over the choicest
cuts like church women bickering
over rosettes for jam at a country show.
My love, do you know that the dead all flock
together? We meet at the saline lake, dance
our shuffle-legged shimmy, flick our heads
like tango partners, flag and flap our
scarlet scalloped wings, heads bopping, nodding
to the beat. Do you see? After the illness,
after the grief, the pain — as you will do,
sweetheart — the dead must learn to love again.

Flamingo is available on the Seren website for £6.00

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Watch the recording of the online launch for Flamingo back on our Youtube channel now. Kathryn is joined by guest readers Vicky Morris and Jonathan Edwards.

Friday Poem – ‘Hide and Seek’ by Hannah Hodgson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Hide and Seek’ by Hannah Hodgson from her debut collection 163 Days which was recently longlisted for the Barbellion Prize.

This cover shows a photo of artist Sue Austin floating underwater in her wheelchair over a bed of yellow coral. The text reads: 163 Days. Hannah Hodgson.

In her debut collection 163 Days Hannah Hodgson uses a panoply of medical, legal, and personal vocabularies to explore what illness, death and dying does to a person as both patient and witness. In her long poem ‘163 Days’, her longest period of hospitalisation to date, she probes various truths which clash like a tray of dropped instruments in a silent operating theatre. The mundanity of hospital life is marbled by a changing landscape of mood, hope and loss. A gap yawns between the person she is, and the person in her medical notes. In ‘Aftercare’, Hannah navigates the worlds of both nightclubs and hospice care as she embarks on a new version of her life as a disabled adult. An important collection, in which Hodgson’s true voice takes poetry into difficult places.

Hide and Seek
My mother learns I’m in trouble when a nurse says Resus
like it rhymes with Dr Seuss. Re-seuss. He turns
the monitor away from me. My body writing
a tell-all-book, the hospital needs
to protect me from. I can feel my heart
blinking on that screen, flickering as my cursor.
The machine keeps alerting the staff towards
my apparent death. I’m too shallow
to be captured. The doctor spends fifteen minutes
trying to get a cannular into one of the branches
inside my arm. How many times does a blood pressure cuff
need to confirm my consciousness?
How many times do I need to tell my mother
which of my documents to burn?

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Friday Poem – ‘White Poem’ by SL Grange

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘White Poem’ by SL Grange from their pamphlet bodies and other haunted houses which won the inaugural Poetry Wales Pamphlet Competition. The Poetry Wales Wales Poetry Award is currently open for entries for single poems until the 12th January 2023.

This cover shows a black and white photo of the top of someones arm. they are pulling pack their t-shirt sleeve to reveal a ribbon tattoo which reads bodies and other haunted houses.

Speaking from and for LGBTQIA+ communities, SL Grange gives a voice to lost transcestors, celebrates acts of resistance, sings a gender-fluid love song, and hosts a tender-angry conversation with the ghosts of the personal and political histories that inhabit us. In true haunted house tradition, the non-human and the supernatural are also given rooms of their own; personal demons are summoned, we are entangled with our wilder sides. Witchcraft, seance and prophecy are invoked and brought up against sharp slices of reality. Described by judges as ‘strong and self-assured’, ‘sheer gorgeous’, and ‘a dark and brooding collection that combines the visceral nature of the body with the ephemeral and supernatural’, bodies, and other haunted houses is a beautifully crafted exploration of identity which queers time as well as self.

White poem
This is a poem that throws everything else to the dogs
This is a poem that buys tinned tuna
Coffee
Green beans out of season
And finds the excess to be lyrical
Full of portent
This poem only cares about
Walking varnished nails
Across skin like cream
And looks out of the window
Tear ducts moistening
To see a Pepper’s ghost of itself
Staring back, deeply moved
This poem has found The One
And dances with them
Under filament lightbulbs
One hand upon their lover’s shoulder
The other on their lover’s neck
Starting to squeeze

bodies and other haunted houses is available from on the Seren website: £5.00

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Friday Poem – ‘How to renovate a Morris Minor’ by Jonathan Edwards

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘How to renovate a Morris Minor’ by Jonathan Edwards from his Costa Prize-winning collection My Family and Other Superheroes. Jonathan recently won the Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2022 with his poem ‘My Grandfather’s Car’.

This cover shows a painting of a schoolboy falling backwards. The view point is looking up at him front on, as if from the ground. The text reads My Family and Other Superheroes. Jonathan Edwards. Winner of the 2014 Costa Poetry Award.

My Family and Other Superheroes features a motley crew of characters. Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun and a recalcitrant hippo – all leap from these pages and jostle for position, alongside valleys mams, dads and bamps, described with great warmth. Other poems focus on the crammed terraces and abandoned high streets where a working-class and Welsh nationalist politics is hammered out. This is a post-industrial valleys upbringing re-imagined through the prism of pop culture and surrealism.

How to Renovate a Morris Minor
That’s him, in the camouflage green overalls,
hiding under the car all day from my mother.
What is he but a pair of feet, my father,
muttering prayers to God and the sump gasket,
wearing oil drips, enough zips for all
his secrets? On his back, he pokes a spanner
up at a nut, as if unscrewing heaven;
grease-fingers make a crime scene of the kitchen.
He gives the stars in his bucket to the bonnet
and when he sees his face in it then it
is smiling. His foot on the accelerator
makes the world go, his right arm at the auction
can’t say No and when the day is over,
that’s him, that’s him – he’s snoring on the sofa,
Practical Classics open on his lap –
his eyes dart under their lids as he sleeps,
like Jaguars he’s racing in his dreams.

My Family and Other Superheroes is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Jonathan’s second collection Gen is also available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘We are coming’ by Kim Moore

Earlier this week, Kim Moore was announced the winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2022. This week’s Friday Poem is ‘We are coming’ from her wining collection All The Men I Never Married. You can hear Kim chatting in-depth about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a collage of a male figure made up of tiny images of nature. The figure is surrounded by butterflies which stand out against the black background. The text reads All The Men I Never Married, Kim Moore. Winner of the Forward Prize.

Pointedly feminist, challenging and keenly aware of the contradictions and complexities of desire, All The Men I Never Married is Kim Moore’s award-winning and critically acclaimed second collection. The 48 numbered poems take us through a gallery of exes and significant others where we encounter rage, pain, guilt, and love. She turns the spotlight on interactions between men and women, revealing easy misogyny, everyday sexism and uncomfortable truths about the challenges women face on a daily basis.

We are coming under cover of darkness,
with our strawberry marks, our familiars,
our third nipples, our ill-mannered bodies,
our childhoods spent hobbled like horses
where we were told to keep our legs closed,
where we sat in the light of a window and posed
and waited for the makers of the world
to tell us again how a woman is made.
We are arriving from the narrow places,
from the spaces we were given, with our curses
and our spells and our solitude, with our potions
we swallow to shrink us small as insects
or stretch us into giants, for yes, there are giants
amongst us, we must warn you. There will be riots,
we’re carrying all that we know about silence
as we return from the forests and towers,
unmaking ourselves, stepping from the pages
of books, from the eye of the camera, from the cages
we built for each other, the frames of paintings,
from every place we were lost and afraid in.
We stand at the base of our own spines
and watch tree turn to bone and climb
each vertebra to crawl back into our minds,
we’ve been out of our minds all this time,
our bodies saying no, we were not born for this,
dragging the snare and the wire behind us.

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Listen to our in-depth interview with Kim about All The Men I Never Married in episode 9 which is available now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

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Friday Poem – ‘1986’ by Eric Ngalle Charles

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘1986’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his debut collection Homelands. You can hear Eric chatting about the book on the The Seren Poetry Podcast which is available now on all podcast platforms.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy standing in front of a wooden wall. He is wearing a large black hat, blue robe around his waist and is holding a bunch of reeds.

In Homelands, his debut collection, Eric Ngalle Charles draws on his early life raised by the matriarchs of Cameroon, being sent to Moscow by human traffickers, and finding a new home in Wales. Rich in tone, subject and emotion, Charles’ poetry moves between the present and the past, between Africa and Europe, and between despair and hope. It discovers that historical injustices now play out in new forms, and that family tensions are as strong as the love within a family. Despite the difficulties Charles has faced, Homelands contains poems of fondness, warmth and humour and, as he returns to Cameroon to confront old ghosts, forgiveness. 

1986
Red Moon over lake Nyos,
doomsday whispers armed with drums,
survivors like ghosts of the apocalypse,
singing choruses of the end times.
Why have the gods forsaken us?
Red Moon over the poisonous lake,
salutations of umbra and penumbra.
Survivors like Old Testament eremite
from yonder, foretelling tales, turning
ghosts, consumed by gaseous light.
Red Moon, dogs in heat, barking.
One lone, dazed survivor. See her:
standing/stuttering/falling/holding
onto nearby railings. Did she invite
disaster by boiling beans overnight?
Red Moon over lake Nyos.
Noises, clamoring. They went to bed
and never woke up. The few, resurrected,
singing choruses of the end times.
Why have the gods forsaken us?

*Lake Nyos disaster, Bamenda, Cameroon, 1986: a limnic eruption on the 24th of August 1986 killed 1,746 people. 

The Seren Poetry Podcast is a new series of in-depth interviews with Seren poets. Episode 8 with Eric Ngalle Charles is available to listen to now.

Simply search ‘The Seren Poetry Podcast’ in your favourite podcast app and follow or subscribe to have all future editions delivered straight to your podcast feed. Available on all platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and Google Podcasts. Don’t forget to leave us a review if you like what you hear.

Homelands is available on the Seren website for £9.99

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