Summer sale, half-price spotlight: Alun Lewis

Half price Alun Lewis summer sale

Our Legend of the Month’s extraordinary war poetry, short stories, and biographies (written by John Pikoulis) are all included in the half-price summer sale – and the offer ends this Sunday.

Who was Alun Lewis?
Alun Lewis was born on the 1st July, 1915 in Cwmaman. A pacifist by nature, Lewis nevertheless eventually joined the Royal Engineers as World War Two broke out, and later qualified as a Second Lieutenant despite how unhappy military life made him. In December 1942, he arrived at a new station in Nira, India, and in the same year his poetry collection Raiders’ Dawn was published. It would be the only collection published during his lifetime. Lewis died on 5th March, 1944, in what many maintain to be a tragic accident. After his death came the publication of his second collection of poetry, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), followed by Letters from India (1946) and In the Green Tree (1948). Most recently, Lewis’ lost novel from the 1930s, Morlais, (2015) has been brought into print for the first time, marking the centenary of this great writer’s birth.

See below for our selection of Alun Lewis titles.

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John PikoulisAlun, Gweno & Freda, John Pikoulis
£14.99  £7.49
Alun Lewis maried Gweno Ellis in 1941, but they were almost immediately separated as Lewis prepared for his deployment with the British army’s Royal Engineers. Alun, Gweno & Freda delves into the charged relationships Lewis maintained with Gweno, and with Freda Ackroyd, an expatriate in India, arguing both were key to his writing and his mental health. The circumstances surrounding Lewis’ death by a single shot from his own gun are illuminated, too, contributing to the ongoing debate about whether this was an accident or suicide.

Alun Lewis Collected PoemsAlun Lewis: Collected Poems, ed. Cary Archard
£9.99  £4.99
Lewis’ remarkable body of poetic work is skillfully brought together by editor Cary Archard. The Collected Poems includes the complete texts of his two published books, Raiders’ Dawn (1942) and Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), reprinted in chronological order and retaining the important
original section headings under which Lewis chose to arrange and group his poetry. Lewis’s two collections are a remarkably detailed and full account of the experience of becoming a soldier and going to war. As Archard states, ‘no-one can read this collection of poems, together in one volume for the first time, without being struck by how the singularity of his voice permeates a surprising diversity of forms’.

Morlais Alun LewisMorlais, Alun Lewis
£12.99  £6.49
South Wales. The Depression. Choices for young people are limited yet miner’s son Morlais Jenkins seems destined to follow the educational route out of Glannant, despite his lowly background. When the local colliery owner and his wife offer to adopt Morlais on the death of their son, his parents recognise the opportunity for an even brighter future for Morlais. But what price must each of them pay? As the story unfolds through turbulent times in their mining village, Morlais comes to a new understanding of life as he grows from a young boy into a young man.
Founded on vivid and authentic passages of everyday life, Morlais is an enthralling story of place and people and shows what an exciting talent was lost when Alun Lewis died aged only twenty-eight.

Alun Lewis: A Life, John PikoulisAlun Lewis: A Life, John Pikoulis
£8.95  £4.47
From his childhood days in the depressed valleys of South Wales, Lewis felt he had a vocation to be a writer. Pikoulis traces Lewis’s development from the remarkable schoolboy stories written as an unhappy boarder, through his university education at Aberystwyth and Manchester to his return to the valleys as a teacher. Lewis’s poems and stories, authentic and moving, were popular with both readers and critics, catching the tone of the ’phoney war’ years, and later the disturbing but exciting experience of his war in India. His vivid letters home, which have been compared to Keats’ letters, capture both the atmosphere of war and the essence of Lewis’s character, and Pikoulis draws on them to portray a fascinating man and writer.

 

Half price summer sale Seren

 

 

Lost & Found

Recent years have been fantastic for Wales in the literary world. 2014 saw the centenary of Dylan Thomas, this year we’re celebrating the centenary of Alun Lewis, and next year, 2016, marks the centenary of Roald Dahl.

This year in particular has been a big year for the publishing world as a whole. As well as our centenary celebrations for WW2 writer Alun Lewis, 2015 marks 150 years since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and has even seen the publication of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, 55 years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird.

But Go Set A Watchman isn’t the only “lost” novel to be published this year. This year at Seren we’re publishing Morlais, a novel by Alun Lewis that was thought lost until last year.

Morlais cover

Following in the footsteps of Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley, Morlais is set during the Depression in south Wales, and follows Morlais Jenkins and his struggle when he finds himself caught in the middle of the class divide. From a long line of miners, Morlais finds his talents lean more towards poetry and academia, and when he is adopted by the local colliery owner’s wife after the death of her own son his struggle with his identity begins.

Will you be reading Morlais this year?

Don’t forget to follow our Alun Lewis Twitter and Facebook, and check out the Alun Lewis website!

I Know What You Read Last Summer

Well actually I don’t, but now that summer is just around the corner I can at least tell you what we think you should be reading this summer!

Look out for these upcoming releases on our website.

InfragreenInfragreenrgb
by Kate Bingham

Perceptive, persuasive and intricately made, the poems of Kate Bingham’s third collection, Infragreen, take the reader on a startling and unfamiliar journey through everyday experiences and phenomena. Her keen eye, reflectiveness and quiet wit endow her subjects with a shimmering freshness.

Set within the four walls of home, on the streets of north London and in the Yorkshire countryside, the poems build out from mundane activities such as taking the pill, traveling a daily bus route and scything thistles. In Bingham’s hands, the familiar sights and hypnotic routines that normally lull the brain into unthinking acquiescence are the starting points for finding new richness in the world around us and our participation in it.

The book contains three sections, each infused by a different season and place, but a spirit of serious play presides throughout. Contemporary versions of Hardy and Frost, a collage cut from old favourite Christmas carols, and a refleshing of some of English poetry’s oldest clichés are part of it, but so too is Bingham’s fascination with pattern: the patterning required by some of poetry’s stricter traditional forms, and pattern as content, a subject in itself.

Those who know Bingham’s earlier work will recognize in this collection her playful, often darkly comic, appreciation of the surreal, which features hearts and hands, feet, and even a pair of shoes with minds and agenda of their own. Elsewhere, a milk-bottle breathes, a pocket of air turns into a winged creature, flies serenade the poet whose mortal scent has drawn them into her room. A ballad at the start of the final section tells the story of an artisan paper-maker whose origami creation is so perfect it comes to life, only to be destroyed again by its maker.

But beneath the gently cynical, almost self-deprecating tone lie Infragreen’s darker themes: a base note of environmental and existential anxiety in which teasing self-deprecation can mutate into a desire for disembodiment, and a ruthless wishing away of consciousness and self.

MorlaisMorlais cover
by Alun Lewis

Morlais is Alun Lewis’s unpublished novel from the late 1930s. The Laurentian story of a young boy growing up in the poverty stricken industrial valleys of south Wales, it also reflects Lewis’s own experiences, particularly his search for self-knowledge and his conviction that he would be a writer.

Miner’s son Morlais Jenkins is already being educated away from his background at grammar school when he is adopted, on the death of her own son, by the wife of the local local colliery owner. Morlais’s parents recognize the opportunity for their son to make a better future, but they must all pay a great price. Stifled by middle class life, his adoptive mother recognizes that Morlais will be a poet and encourages him to be neither working class or middle class, but true to his talent.

Full of vivid descriptive passages of life in the fictional mining valley, and centred on the conflicted character of Morlais and the decisions he faces over his two families, his two social backgrounds, and his desire to be a poet, the novel is an enthralling journey through the life of a young boy becoming a young man.

Alun Lewis (1915-1944) was the outstanding writer of World War Two and Morlais, written in his mid twenties, is an early indication of the talented writer he would become just five years later. This edition is accompanied by an Afterword by Lewis’s biographer, John Pikoulis.

coverThe Road to Zagora
by Richard Collins

When Richard Collins was diagnosed with a progressive incurable disease in 2006 he decided to see as much of the world as he could while his condition allowed. The result is The Road to Zagora, a singular travel book which takes in India, Nepal, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Equador and Wales. ‘Mr Parkinson’, as Collins refers to his condition, informs the narrative.

As inveterate walkers Collins and his partner Flic decided to continue to travel ‘close to the land’ post diagnosis, leaving the tourist trails and visiting places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The difficulties of rough terrain, altitude, extremes of climate for a person with Collins’ condition are an ongoing strand of his narrative; occasionally they cannot be overcome and Collins is forced to consider the frailties of the human body in passages of moving contemplation.

The Road to Zagora also includes an element of memoir, as Parkinson’s Disease also causes Collins to reflect on his life, and in particular on his relationship with Flic. There are moments of great charm as their relationship evolves, and also the drama of previous serious illnesses. These recollections of pre-diagnosis life have the wistfulness of hindsight as Collins considers what constitutes a life well lived.

Yet any sentiment or self-pity is denied through Collins’s resolute and independent- mindedness and the quality of writing. In the travel passages the readers experiences the sheer physicality of Collins’ expeditions, along with his novelist’s eye for telling local detail. In the sequences of memoir the writing is humane, compassionate and quite often comic. The Road to Zagora is a memorable journey around the world, and the self.