Legend of the Month: Gwyneth Lewis

Legend of the Month Gwyneth Lewis

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight has fallen on Wales’ first ever National Poet, Gwyneth Lewis, shown here in brilliant pastel by artist Lorraine Bewsey, from her series Poet Portraits.

Gwyneth Lewis has published nine books of poetry in Welsh and English, and wrote the six-foot-high words on the front of Cardiff’s iconic Wales Millennium Centre, rumoured to be the largest poem in the world.

Gwyneth is also an award-winning writer of non-fiction and screenplays. Gwyneth’s first non-fiction book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (2002) was shortlisted for the Mind Book of the Year, and her first television screenplay, Y Streic a Fi (‘The Strike and Me’), commissioned by S4C, won the 2015 BAFTA Wales for Best Drama. Gwyneth is also a writer of fiction: The Meat Tree, a space-age re-imagining of the tale of Blodeuwedd, is part of Seren’s New Stories from the Mabinogion series. Her light-hearted novella, Advantages of the Older Man, explores the strange case of a Swansea woman who is apparently possessed by the ghost of Dylan Thomas.

Gwyneth is a librettist and dramatist and has written two chamber operas for children and an oratorio, all commissioned and performed by Welsh National Opera. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a member of the Welsh Academi and a NESTA Fellow. In 2010 she was given a Society of Authors Cholmondeley Award recognizing a body of work and achievement of distinction.


Please enjoy this extract from The Meat Tree – a dangerous tale of desire, DNA, incest and flowers:


Technical Preparation

Synapse Log 28 Jan 2210, 09:00

Inspector of Wrecks
Is that working now, I wonder? I hate these thought recorders. They’re good in very confined spaces, where you don’t want to overhear the idiotic things your colleagues say to their families back on Mars, but I think they’re overrated. The trick is to keep the unconscious out of it as much as possible and pretend that you’re talking to yourself.
Now, I think it’s settling down. Right. Well, we’re just about approaching the Mars Outer Satellite Orbit. Not seeing too much debris around at the moment, they must have had a clean up fairly recently. Last time I was here, you could hardly move for junk. We’ve glimpsed the ship in the distance, and should arrive later this afternoon.
The new girl’s feeling sick but won’t admit it. She thinks I don’t know that she threw up in the heads, but you can’t hide any smells in a spacecraft. If Nona doesn’t stop vomiting, I’ll have to make her take the drugs. Her eyes are red alraedy, she’s dehydrated. I can’t have her out of action, we’re too close to the target vessel. Typical, getting lumbered with a student on my last mission.
Befrore anything starts happening, I’m going to get my expenses software set up…

So Campion’s telling me how he does his mileage first ‘and all else follows’ and I’m about to throw up all over him, but I manage to swallow it. Ironic. My whole life to get to Mars orbit, and now I’m here I feel too awful to take it in.
I did get to look out of a porthole as we passed close to home. Saw a dust storm in Thaumasia, thousands of miles wide. It looked like miso soup when you stir it up. Made me nauseous all over again. So I stopped looking. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to catch floating vomit in a paper bag.
We’re not one day in and I’m already tired of hearing about the Department of Wrecks in the Good Old Days. When flotsam came in from as far as the Sculptor galaxy or the Microscopium Void. When he had a full team and they got to work on really interesting cultures. Not like this speck from God knows where, just me and him – the one man in the service who has absolutely no imagination.
Oh, I think he wants to do a quick equipment check.

Joint Thought Channel 28 Jan 2210, 09:02

Inspector of Wrecks
This is so that we can talk to each other on the vessel without disturbing any of the artifacts. Sometimes alien communication can be diffused by the human voice, so we’ll keep to Joint Thought mode until we know more about what’s going on.

You mean like a mind-meld? God! I didn’t mean to say that.

Inspector of Wrecks
The whole trick of this channel is to avoid personal static. Keep it professional.

Sorry. Of course.

Inspector of Wrecks
It’s a knack. Not a silent version of speaking out loud, but it’s a way of sharing two sets of sense impressions from slightly different angles. It doubles the amount of data we can record. But you’ll have to learn to make a very precise form of running commentary. It’s not your uncensored thoughts, but it’s not formal reporting either. Try doing it on me for a second.

He looks much taller than he did on Mars. And skinnier.

Inspector of Wrecks
That’s close, but you can do better. It’s a question of what’s appropriate. Give me some sensory data, because that’s often much more valuable than your opinions. We Won’t know what we’re seeing, but we need to record the effect its having on us. Try again.

The smell of his soap makes me sick to my stomach, I can’t get away from it.

Inspector of Wrecks
That’s much, much better. Relevant stuff. A little personal, perhaps, but that’s good. We’ll be getting all the objective data from the robots we send in before us.

His comb-over looks like the tendrils of a plant in zero gravity.

Inspector of Wrecks
That’s it, you’re getting it. And don’t worry, you can’t offend me. What I’m looking for is information. Record it, even if it doesn’t seem important at the time. I’m particularly interested in alien emotio-translation technology, we have a lot to learn in that area. This technique is going to be especially important if we have to go into Virtual Reality.

The sleep of leaves!

Inspector of Wrecks
All right! That’s it! That will do for now. Oh, and I’ll change the soap. Didn’t realise it was a problem. You should have said.


The Meat Tree is available from the Seren website: £7.99




Legend of the Month: Owen Sheers

Legend of the Month Owen Sheers

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight has fallen on Owen Sheers, whose stunning poetry and fiction are regular Seren bestsellers.

Owen SheersOwen Sheers is an author, poet and playwright from Wales. His first poetry collection, The Blue Book (Seren, 2000), was shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Prize Best First Collection and ACW Book of the Year 2001. Skirrid Hill (Seren, 2006), his second collection, won a Somerset Maugham Prize and was longlisted for Welsh Book of the Year. Sheers’ debut prose work The Dust Diaries (Faber & Faber), won the Welsh Book of the Year 2005. His first novel, Resistance (Faber & Faber), has been translated into eleven languages.

In 2009 Owen contributed to Seren’s ‘New Stories from the Mabinogion’ series with White Ravens, a contemporary response to the myth of Branwen, Daughter of Llyr. He published The Gospel of Us in 2012 – a novel based on his dramatisation of The Passion for the National Theatre of Wales, set in the streets and clubs of Port Talbot and starring Michael Sheen. Sheers’ latest novel, I Saw A Man (Faber & Faber), was published in June 2015.

We hope you enjoy Owen’s poem ‘Intermission’, from Skirrid Hill, which featured as our Poem of the Month in the Seren Newsletter.

Owen Sheers Intermission Skirrid Hill















Find Owen Sheers’ books on the Seren website.

Discover a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.




Legend of the Month: Robert Minhinnick

Robert Minhinnick Legend of the Month

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Robert Minhinnick – and as a special treat, all his books are 30% off.

Robert Minhinnick, born near Neath in 1952, has published numerous poetry books, collections of essays, novels, and short stories. His book To Babel and Back – a series of essays from America, Iraq and Wales – won the Wales Book of the Year Award in 2006. His first poetry collection was published more than thirty years ago, and he has won the Forward Poetry Prize twice. He has also received an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry and in 1998 he won a Cholmondeley Award.
He founded Friends of the Earth Cymru in 1984 and has worked as a writer in residence in Canada, travelling back there regularly to give readings. He was Editor of Poetry Wales magazine from 1997 until 2008.
Until the end of the month, you can enjoy 30% off all Robert Minhinnick’s books. Find out more about the poetry, fiction and essays available below.

limestone man robert minhinnickLimestone Man
RRP £9.99
NOW £6.99
Minhinnick’s latest novel is a meditation on age and opportunity, and introduces us to Richard Parry: a painter who cannot paint, a writer who doesn’t write. Parry’s obsession is Lulu, that ‘orphan off the street’, his aboriginal  ‘green child’. But on returning from Australia to his hometown he finds it has become notorious for the suicides of young people. As Parry tries to connect past and present he is haunted by dreams of Australia and of his youth. Yet is Parry all he seems?

Island of Lightning
RRP £9.99
NOW £6.99
The author travels from his home in south Wales to Argentina, China, Finland, Iraq, Tuscany and Piemonte, Malta, New York, Zagreb, Lithuania and the lightning island of Malta. In conventional travel essays and leaps of imaginative narrative his subjects include the annual Elvis convention in Porthcawl, Neolithic sculptures, poets playing football, the body of a saint and the definition of cool. His themes are big ones: the relationship of man and landscape, man and time, man and nature, immigration and war, in one sense ultimately humankind itself.

The Keys of Babylon
RRP 8.99
NOW £6.29
This Wales Book of the Year-shortlisted and Edge Hill-longlisted collection of 15 linked stories gives voices to migrants around the globe. The Keys of Babylon is both a fictional record of, and an exploration into their lives, and the characters reflect a comprehensive mix of hope, success, failure, fear, indifference and passion as their stories intertwine to create the final narrative.

Sea Holly
RRP £7.99
NOW £5.59
Sea Holly is Robert Minhinnick’s stuning debut novel, a story of drifting, burnt-out lives, shadowed by the mysterious disappearance of a vivacious young girl.
“John Vine? He has it all. Home, family, career. You can’t knock that. But he has this worm inside him, this dissatisfaction… A boy of twenty, that’s OK, he’s going to dream. But a man of fifty? With a young piece who thinks he’s not half bad?…believe me that’s when everything’s going to come loose.That’s when it’s going to get dangerous.”
Sea Holly was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize.

To Babel and Back
RRP £7.99
NOW £5.59
Join Robert Minhinnick on a journey across a radioactive planet. Researching the use of depleted uranium in modern weapons, the writer follows a deadly trail from the uranium mines of the USA into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Here, he is led into the temples of a deserted Babylon and to what his guides insist is the site of the Tower of Babel. Interspersed with these ‘radioactive writings’, which seem part documentary, part dream, are essays on a host of different places.

RRP £6.95
NOW £4.86
In these essays the writer travels from the impoverished of Albania to the scorched suburbia of Silicon Valley. On the way he encounters a foreign country called England, twenty thousand frozen lakes, and a desert of dinosaur bones. The people of Badlands include Coleridge and Ryan Giggs, Colonel Sanders and Freud, plus a host of minor deities from the numbing world of celebrity. Urban and rural, tragic and absurd, Badlands is a real place. But where the borders of Badlands begin, or finish, is difficult to say.

Green Agenda
RRP £7.95
NOW £5.56
In the 1970s, it was ignorance, in the 1980s, enthusiasm, and from the 1990s environmental issues were greeted with a peculiar fatalism. Green Agenda, the first popular volume of its type to be published in Wales, confronts head on our ideas of what constitutes ’the environment’ and how we perceive it. These essays acknowledge the danger of allowing environmental concern to flourish within a green ghetto, the perils of over-speculation, the banality of ’issues’.

Watching the Fire Eater Robert MinhinnickWatching the Fire-eater
RRP 8.99
NOW £6.29
Watching the Fire-eater covers variety of subjects: third world poverty and the internationalism of alcohol, rugby through the eyes of a vegetarian, nuclear power, sunbathing and a thanksgiving dinner for the demise of Margaret Thatcher. But at the core of this essay collection is a vivid series of attempts to strip away the exhausted mythologies of the writer’s own country and the increasingly-packaged places he visits. Watching the Fire-eater was the Wales Book of the Year Award winner, 1993.

Hey Fatman
RRP £5.95
NOW £4.16
Hey Fatman by Robert Minhinnick is full of the rich, sometimes strange, always telling, detail that we have come to expect from one of Britain’s most compelling poets. The book opens with poems set in and around his home country of south Wales, and includes a sequence based on the history of an ancestral house, Dunraven. We then move on to work inspired by the poet’s travels in South America and the U.S.A. This includes the title poem ’Hey Fatman’, a splendid baroque essay on the characters gathered in a Rio beach bar.


Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

Legend of the Month: Alun Lewis

Legend of the Month Alun Lewis

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Alun Lewis.

Alun Lewis, the remarkable Second World War writer, died aged twenty-eight in Burma during the Second World War, but produced a vast number of poems and short fiction in the years previously.

Born and brought up near Aberdare in south Wales, Lewis read history at Aberystwyth and Manchester. After a brief period teaching and despite pacifist inclinations, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers. He later joined the South Wales Borderers and was posted to India.

Becoming a soldier had a stimulating effect on Lewis’s writing: Raiders’ Dawn, a collection of forty-seven poems, appeared in 1942 and early in 1943, The Last Inspection, a book of short stories, was published, both to considerable critical acclaim. Lewis died in an accident on active service in Burma in 1944. His second volume of poems, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, was published in 1945 and his Indian short stories, together with some letters, in In The Green Tree (1948). Morlais, Lewis’ previously unpublished novel from the 1930s, was published by Seren in July 2015 to mark the centenary of his birth.

Find out more about Alun Lewis’ life and writing in John Pikoulis’ latest biography, Alun, Gweno & Freda, an illuminating account through the particular prism of Lewis’ relationships with his wife Gweno and Freda Aykroyd, an expatriate in India. If you’d like to read Alun Lewis’ poetry, we recommend Alun Lewis: Collected Poems, a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’.


Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

And don’t forget to sign up to our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.




Legend of the Month: Iolo Williams

Legend of the Month Iolo Williams

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Iolo Williams.

Wild Places – Iolo Williams gIolo Williams has just returned to our TV screens with Trefi Gwyllt Iolo on S4C and BBC’s Springwatch, where in Episode 8 he goes head to head with Martin Hughes-Games, pitting two iconic birds (the barn owl and the kestrel) against each other in a challenge to see which is the ultimate hunter. So what better time to have this nature expert as our Legend of the Month?

Previously Iolo has worked as the presenter of seventeen TV shows, in two languages; he is also an author, and a public lecturer. With a degree in Ecology, he has worked in farming, timber and for the RSPB in the field, and as a regional co-ordinator. Williams is the author of five books in Welsh and two in English: Llyfr Adar, Llyfr Natur, Blwyddyn Fan Hyn a Fan Draw, Cynefin Glan Y Môr, Blwyddyn Iolo, Wild about the Wild, and most recently, Wild Places: Wales’ Top 40 Nature Sites (Seren, 2016).

Wild Places is an ode to the beauty and significance of Wales’ nature places and features forty of Iolo’s favourites, scattered all around the country. From mountains to meadows, coastal sites to towering cliffs, his list takes in all the best of what Wales has to offer, and reveals how to get the most out of each site – where to spot dolphins and salmon, where hares box and otters swim, where to see Wales’ great variety of hawks and other birds of prey.
Wild Places is available from our website: £19.99 (20% off when you join our Book Club).

Meet Iolo at our Secrets of Skomer Island event at the Teifi Marshes Centre, where he will join former Skomer warden and author, Rosanne Alexander, to talk about the island’s important landscape and wildlife.  Tickets are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment:
£5 from The Wildlife Trust website
(all ticket proceeds go to the Trust)

Rosanne Alexander Iolo Williams Skomer event


Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.




Legend of the Month: Ruth Bidgood

Legend of the Month Ruth Bidgood

Each month we are shining the spotlight on one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. Our selection for April is the poet Ruth Bidgood.

Ruth Bidgood turns 95 this year, and her poetry career spans over five decades. She was born in Blaendulais, near Neath, educated at Oxford, and worked as a coder in Alexandria, Egypt in World War Two. She has lived in mid-Wales since the mid-sixties.

Legend of the Month Ruth Bidgood

She has published fourteen books of poetry, including The Fluent Moment (Seren, 1996), Singing to Wolves (Seren, 2000), and her New and Selected Poems (Seren, 2004). Her twelfth collection, Time Being (Seren, 2009), won the Roland Mathias Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her most recent collection is Land Music (Cinnamon, 2016). As well as poetry, she has written a prose book about Wales, Parishes of the Buzzard (Goldleaf, 2000), and published many articles in country historical journals.

Matthew Jarvis writes of Bidgood’s achievement: ‘The heart of Ruth Bidgood’s poetry is her varied and intertwined rendition of the mid-Wales area that she has made her home… Artistically, what she has achieved in such material is nothing less than a mid Wales epic.’

Here is ‘Legacy’, from New and Selected Poems, which featured as our Poem of the Month in the April edition of Seren News:

Ruth Bidgood 'Legacy' New and Selected Poems














Find more of Ruth Bidgood’s poetry on the Year of Legends page, alongside books by March’s featured author, Dannie Abse.