Friday Poem – ‘Somniloquy’ by Paul Henry

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Somniloquy’ by Paul Henry from his new 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. "One of the best lyric poets currently writing" - Hugo Williams

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 poet’s compelling body of work.

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

Somniloquy
Speak into my good ear.
The house is bubble-wrapped
with rain. It’s late.
To better hear your voice
through this worn out device
I lean in closer to the page.
To better hear the sleep talk
tangled in its sheets
I lean in closer to your lips.
Speak into my good ear.
The crackle of dark matter
on its way to this room
clears at last, to better hear
your dream ask, Is it you?
Where have you been?

Listen to Gary Raymond, Paul Chambers and Dr Emily Garside reviewing As If To Sing on the Radio Wales Review Show.

Paul is launching As If To Sing at Book-ish in Crickhowell on Thursday 28th April. Visit their website book-ish.co.uk to buy tickets.

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

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Friday Poem – ‘When it Rains, I Think of You’ by Eric Ngalle Charles

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘When it Rains, I Think of You’ by Eric Ngalle Charles from his new collection Homelands.

This cover shows a painting of a young African boy wearing a blue robe tied around his waist and an oversized black hat standing in front of a building. The text reads: Homelands, Eric Ngalle Charles.

In Homelands 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. 

When it Rains, I Think of You
Farzana,
and if you will return
alive or dead from that awful place,
the Al-Jawiywah prison,
meeting point for migrants and traffickers.
I think of you there,
where today, a quarrel brews:
to entertain themselves
the guards throw one toothbrush and paste
and watch inmates fight for it.
A mad woman paces up,
then down, an old man sits and stares.
Farzana is pregnant, skeletal,
she wants to leave this
makeshift jail where migrants
starve and soldiers
make merry over rum with traffickers.
When it rains I think of you,
Farzana,
and if you will return.

Homelands is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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On the 27th May Eric will be reading from Homelands as part of the Hay Festival Schools Programme. Tickets for the Hay Festival main programme go on sale today at 12pm.

Friday Poem – ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Four Poets in a Bookshop’ by Abeer Ameer from her debut collection Inhale/Exile.

This cover shows a closeup painting of someone cutting reeds. The text reads: Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer

Cardiff-based poet Abeer Ameer writes of her forebears in her first collection, Inhale/Exile. Dedicated to the “holders of these stories”, the book begins with a poem about a storyteller on a rooftop in Najaf, Iraq, follows tales of courage and survival, and ends with a woman cooking food for neighbours on the anniversary of her son’s death.

Four Poets in a Bookshop

In the land of two rivers and hanging gardens,
four poets meet in a bookshop. No one can know.
Portrait of Saddam watches; they hide under the cloak
of Arabic lexicon. They share with one breath
meanings that turn the Master’s key
to worlds where Adam was taught the names.

Trees, reborn as pages, witness the names
of four and those gathered to reach the Gardens,
as they escape their locked chests without key.
They are four men who know.
Reading between lines of apocalypse, each strained breath
foretells of beasts with their daggers and cloak

scarring minds and hearts of men by Baathist cloak.
Present are bygone days of Karbala’s names
which poets dare to mention under their breath.
Alive and well with the Lord of the Gardens.
Willing to exchange this world for the next, four know
that informants sell to the cruellest bidder for neighbours’ key.

Saddam’s spies claw to learn of persons key
and clothe their families in mourning cloak.
Three-quarters give eyes, tongues and nails. They know
they must not, to treachery, yield any names.
Silent skin, dipped in acid, bastes in hanging gardens
bearing to keep hidden secrets beyond dissolved breath.

No haste nor waste for ordained beat and breath
nor desire for the iron key
to dust’s throne; they dream of other gardens.
Longing only to reunite with the People of the Cloak
and the Most Compassionate through His Names.
Those clinging to ebbing sands of time do not yet know

The bookshop bears witness to what few mortals know.
Its shelves and books inhale each whispered breath
and all that poetry and scripture, names.
Kerosene warms the last poet. He clutches the bookshop’s key,
drinks black tea sugar cannot sweeten and wears a black cloak.
Alone; his companions have already reached the Garden.

Many years after a shroud is his cloak and cancer takes his breath,
the names of seekers are still hidden. Their key is kept buried in the earth
upon which gardens grow, and reed beds and shrines know how to Read.

Inhale/Exile is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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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
PLASTICINE LOVE HEARTS
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 – ‘From the Cockpit Window’ by Anne-Marie Fyfe

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘From the Cockpit Window’ by Anne-Marie Fyfe from her collection House of Small Absences.

This cover shows a painting of a girl carrying a dolls house, standing in the garden of big house. The text reads: House of Small Absences, Anne-Marie Fyfe

Anne-Marie Fyfe’s poems have long dwelt on the role that the spaces we inhabit, the places in which we find security, play in our lives: House of Small Absences is an observation window into strange, unsettling spaces—a deserted stage-set, our own personalised ‘museum’, a Piedmont albergo, underground cities, Midtown roof-gardens, convent orchards, houseboats, a foldaway circus, a Romanian sleeper-carriage—the familiar rendered uncanny through the distorting lenses of distance and life’s exigencies, its inevitable lettings-go…

From the Cockpit Window
Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
– Elizabeth Bishop, The Man-Moth
The full moon is being held hostage
tonight. A two-hundred-&-seventy degree vista
and all I make out are roof-garden umbrellas,
latticed fire escapes, jungles of wisteria
straggling around water-tower struts.
Uplighters cast panther shadows
and Egyptian columns against the cloudswirl
that drapes the Chrysler pinnacle.
There’s a low-altitude nosedive, a rattle
of applause on the wing. Our world
is hurtling towards sudden resolution.
Tumbling zeros play needle roulette,
the spirit bubble’s way out of kilter.
Close enough now to smell garbage scows,
charred pretzels, onions, to hear
taxis honking, meters ticking,
the steam whoosh of airshafts.
On my tongue there’s the after-taste of metal fatigue.
Who’ll answer my entryphone? How long
before they empty the closet of shirts
and jackets, their sleeves hanging aimless.

House of Small Absences is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Interviewing’ by Ruth Bidgood

Following the sad passing of Ruth Bidgood, and in celebration of International Women’s Day, this week’s Friday Poem is ‘Interviewing’ from Ruth’s award-winning collection Time Being.

This cover shows a mid-wales valley shrouded in mist beneath a sky tinged pink by the sunrise. The text reads: Ruth Bidgood. Time Being. A Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Ruth Bidgood’s Time Being, winner of the Roland Mathias Prize, is emphatically a collection of location. The history and nature of the poet’s particular region of mid-Wales inspire these poems. Bidgood avoids sentimentality but not sentiment: an observation can engender joy or sorrow or fear uncluttered by irony. These descriptions are sharp and memorable, tending to a cool accuracy. Nature is not always benign, but often inescapably dark and mysterious, lyric and move towards a more epic, multi-faceted form equal to the many experiences of her long life.

Interviewing 

When I was the one with the recorder 
I liked the richness of dark and light
in their reminiscing, the unexpectedness, 
the shocks and laughter, but not 
the drooping voice they used for saying 
“All gone now, all over”, 
or “Water under the bridge, eh?” – 
as if there was something wrong 
with ending on a high note, 
or moving to the present without 
that cloying downbeat refrain. 

So now when she comes, this likeable girl 
with her little gadget, her young hands 
(no slack skin, no gravespots) setting it up, 
I’m my own censor, ignoring 
her questions’ invitation 
to lament, her disappointed eyes 
thirsty for the juice of my tears.

Time Being is available on the Seren website £8.99

Poems from this collection are also featured in A Last Respect, an anthology of poems by the eleven winners of the Roland Mathias Prize.

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Friday Poem – ‘Portrait of the Artist Asleep’ by Ben Wilkinson

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Portrait of the Artist Asleep’ by Ben Wilkinson from his collection Same Difference which was published earlier this week.

This covers shows an abstract painting made up of blues and grey. There are splashed of red and green down the left hand side and a face-like smudge in the centre. The text reads: Same Difference, Ben Wilkinson "Formally dextrous... likes to keep the reader on their toes." The Poetry Review

Same Difference is the formally acute second collection by Ben Wilkinson. Carefully crafted, and charged with contemporary language, the poems play with poetic voice and the dramatic monologue, keeping us on our toes and asking just who is doing the talking. Throughout, he ‘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.

Portrait of the Artist Asleep
after Verlaine
She looks for all the world like some deadbeat angel,
foetal but hopeful, an inch of light haloing
her temple. She’s restless, sure, half mumbling
to herself as the door rocks gently in its frame,
stirred by a breeze the way her waking thoughts
follow whatever her eyes light on, even you.
Truth is, she’ll be up and gone before you know,
back among the world and brilliant with it,
and you, friend, won’t even make a painting
or poem, whichever she turns her hand to next.
You’re no more her muse than the lamp distilled
in the mirror she’ll fix her face in before she leaves.

Same Difference is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Catch Ben reading from Same Difference in person at Bolton Central Library on Tuesday 8th March. Visit boltonenglish.com for more details.

Friday Poem – ‘Steel’ by Paul Henry

To celebrate the Six Nations and St David’s Day on the 1st March, this week’s Friday Poem is ’Steel‘ by Paul Henry from The Brittle Sea: New and Selected Poems.

This cover shows an abstract painting by Antony Goble of a red moon-shaped face amidst a swirling blue seal The text reads: Paul Henry, The Brittle Sea, New and Selected Poems

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.

Steel

(i) 10

Turn like a key
in the game’s lock
and open the score
with a kick –
open a door in the air
onto blue sky.

I dreamt I opened a door
in the sky
and half the world cheered.
I dreamt I surfaced
into a roar.
No sky was like this before.

Dart like a hare
through a hedge at dusk
and open the score
with a try –
open a door
in the earth.

I dreamt I opened a door
in the earth
and rose into light
out of an underworld
where, for years,
I carried their ghosts on my back.

Flash like a link
in a steel chain
like the sun on the sea
or a wave
in the industry
of a rising tide.

I dreamt I surfaced
into a roar.
The seagulls
shrill as whistles
were red and white.
I dreamt my ghosts had taken flight.

The Brittle Sea is available on the Seren website: £9.99

Paul Henry’s forthcoming collection As if To Sing is available to pre-order now on the Seren website. Publishing 11th April 2022.

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Friday Poem – ‘Fatherhood’ by Carrie Etter

This week’s Friday Poem is ‘Fatherhood’ by Carrie Etter from her collection The Weather in Normal.

This cover shows a straight road stretching into the distance beneath a story sky. A single bolt of lightening strikes the ground in the distance. The text reads: The Weather in Normal, Carrie Etter.

Carrie Etter is known for beautifully expressive and formally inventive verse. The Weather in Normal, her fourth collection, explores the changes to her hometown of Normal, Illinois following her parents’ deaths, the sale of the family home, and the effects of climate change on Illinois’ landscape and lives. The author’s restlessly inventive use of multiple tones, shifting line lengths, and fresh turns of phrase are as much a means of conveying complex and paradoxical emotions as they are a determined formal strategy.

Fatherhood
The weather belongs to everyone, so you may say, but in our family, it
was his. It was his study by internet, television, radio, barometer, and
long rides cycling past the cornfields in all their seasons and moods.
He witnessed and reported, and when I moved away, he expanded his
research accordingly, learned my temperature, precipitation, wind speed,
and humidity. He marveled at my extremes – the Northridge earthquake,
a tornado in London. By phone he told me my weather, and sometimes I
listened. Sometimes I spoke of the sun and the rain as though I held one
in either hand.

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Friday Poem – From ‘You’ by John Haynes

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th February, this week’s Friday Poem is taken from the long-poem You by Costa-Award winning poet John Haynes.

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.

that they flew back across the whole Sahara
sleeping on the wing, as you begin
to now, with those small sounds, back to Kagoma –
that house where I met your mother in
her starched tall headtie and her Dutch wax print
and just a little shy to meet your White
Man, but so glad with wrinkles smiling tight –

just as I bend across you, turn the lamp
off, draw the curtains, thinking with what skill
I managed it on that rickety camp
bed, making love with not the faintest squeal
or crunk of springs. Like press-ups, I recall,
rugby-fit then, mouth open while I howled
into the dark not letting out a sound,

or that night, at the dam, when we made love,
remember, there beside the road, half in
the car half out, with confidence enough
to dare the world to drive towards us, then
with full light on, and nights at Number Ten,
insane with flesh, and resurrected new
again each time as neither I nor you.

You is available on the Seren website: £8.99

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