Friday Poem – ‘How to make a good crisp sandwich’, Katherine Stansfield

Friday Poem How to make a good crisp sandwich

Did you know it’s British Sandwich Week, 20-26 May? Yes – there really is a day (or week) for everything. And in celebration, our Friday Poem is Katherine Stansfield’s ‘How to make a good crisp sandwich’.

playing house katherine stansfieldThis is a poem that really does what it says on the tin: ‘crisps don’t work alone’, the poet warns, then proceeds to carefully list the potential permutations of this most British of sandwiches. ‘Who does this sandwich want to be?’ You may not have asked yourself this question before – so grab the bread, open a pack of crisps, and ponder.
Katherine Stansfield’s poetic debut, Playing House is marked by a concise wit, a distinct voice and an unsettling view of the domestic.
‘Striking imagery, strange leaps of thought, wit and menace aside, the unmistakeable thrill of Katherine Stansfield’s poetry is in the voice. It addresses the world directly, takes it personally, and comes at the reader from constantly unexpected angles, a tangible, physical thing.’ Philip Gross


Friday Poem Katherine Stansfield How to make a good crisp sandwich















Playing House is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Hues’, Elizabeth Parker

Friday Poem Hues Elizabeth Parker

Our Friday poem this week is ‘Hues’ by Elizabeth Parker, from her recently released debut collection, In Her Shambles.

‘Hues’ is a shimmering, lyrical account of a river journey that highlights Parker’s artful skill with language and surrealist imagery.
In Her Shambles is a ‘radiantly-written’ collection from a ‘rising star of British poetry’ (David Morley), filled with poems that are emotionally rich, vibrant and original. From the alternative reimagining of Lavinia from ‘Titus Andronicus’ through to the collection’s opening, ‘Crockery’, where a potential lover is fragmented into reflections, In Her Shambles offers a fascinating, observational account of things seen aslant.


















In Her Shambles is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Penguin Love’, Nerys Williams

On Wednesday the world celebrated its cutest holiday, World Penguin Day, so in continued praise of these adorable birds our Friday Poem this week is ‘Penguin Love’ by Nerys Williams.

Nerys Williams Sound ArchiveTaken from Nerys’ 2011 collection Sound Archive, ‘Penguin Love’ is a vibrant and evocative portrait of black, white and yellow – of curiously wistful creatives who stand ‘angled at constellations’ and ache for the gift of a perfect smooth stone – the symbol of budding penguin romance.
Sound Archive was shortlisted for both the Forward Best First Collection Prize and the Michael Murphy Prize, and won the Poetry Now / Mountains to Sea DLR Strong Award. This is a strikingly original debut in which the poet conjures a complex music, intriguing narratives, and poems full of atmosphere that query identity, gender, and the dream of art as a vehicle for emotion and meaning.



World Penguin Day poem Penguin Love Nerys Williams











Sound Archive is available from the Seren website: £8.99

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Paul Deaton on Therapy, Honesty, and Exiting the ‘Poetry Closet’

Paul Deaton therapy poetry

This article was originally published in Therapy Today (April 2018) and we thank the editors for granting permission for its reproduction here.

‘Without her mirroring, maybe I’d have stayed in my poetry closet. Her affirmation was the turning point in my adult life. I felt I’d finally been given permission to have a voice’

Ten years ago, when I was 40, I saw an advert for a poetry course at Bristol University. It was an adult learning programme, which, sadly, is no longer offered. I had to submit six poems before being accepted. I’ve always written, and always used poetry as my mirror, to know and explore who I am. But I’ve always done so as a guilty pleasure, a closet hobby.
The course was run by a grounded, passionate and sometimes fearsome poet. It was challenging in the way that therapy is challenging; getting the poems to a level of truth and meaning, of genuine authenticity, isn’t easy. People often get the wrong idea of poetry; they think of it as something flaky. I was struck by how powerfully my teacher responded to my work. She was serious about it. She said it had value, more than I had chosen to give it. Tellingly, what she conveyed was that she believed in it.
Looking back, this was a huge moment. She opened a door that had been firmly shut. Without her mirroring, maybe I’d have stayed in my poetry closet. Her affirmation was the turning point in my adult life. I felt I’d finally been given permission to have a voice.
Up to that point I’d been working in publishing sales. I’d graduated in psychology as a mature student when I was 33. In my final year, I fell ill with Hodgkin’s disease. Even though I eventually came out with a top degree, when I graduated, rather than being full of confidence, I was broken. I had lost hope in my own future. I also felt I’d failed. The sales job was some bizarre gesture to my father; I was still trying to get his love, to prove to him I could be a man in a man’s world. It wasn’t me at all.
My relationship with him had been tense, difficult and baleful. I didn’t trust him, and that lack of trust fed into me. I wouldn’t trust myself or my own instincts. That poetry course opened the door to a side of my personality I had done my damnedest to shut away. Once open, there was no going back to the repressed darkness. I’d found a little light and began a process of reliving that opened out my 40s. I could no longer afford to not be myself. There wasn’t time.
I started to trust in my more nuanced skills – thoughtfulness and reflectiveness; to trust that I could be and offer something else. I entered therapy and was ‘blessed’ by a male therapist, week in and week out. It was a revelatory experience to trust a man. Like a new tide, I returned to my love of psychology, and finally had the confidence to start my counselling training. And, amid the study, my new job with the NHS, gardening work and marathon running, I followed on with a commitment to my poetry. I sent my poems into the world, and to my surprise, they were published.

Paul Deaton poetAbout Paul
Paul Deaton is a poet, writer and counsellor-in- training at BCPC Bath. Seren has just published his first full-length poetry collection, A Watchful Astronomy.



Paul Deaton A Watchful Astronomy

About A Watchful Astronomy:
A Watchful Astronomy is such an unclouded, moving and accessible collection it should be prescribed by the NHS for those who say they cannot stomach poetry because it’s too difficult or irrelevant.’
– Poetry School
Haunted by a father ‘like a wounded bear’, the poems in Paul Deaton’s debut collection, A Watchful Astronomy, are tense, exact and often beautifully formal.








Friday Poem — ‘Laika’, Claire Williamson

Tomorrow marks sixty years since the conclusion of the Sputnik 2 spacecraft mission that carried Laika, the first dog and living creature to orbit Earth, into space. In commemoration of the historic dog, who tragically did not survive the mission, our Friday poem this week is ‘Laika’ by Claire Williamson. 

Minotaur cover.pngThe tender, unexpectedly hopeful poem comes from Williamson’s upcoming collection Visiting the Minotaur, which will be published on April 30th but is available for pre-order on the Seren website. In the inventive and intensely felt collection, the poet must enter a labyrinth of her own complicated family history, a history beset with secrets and lies, in order to come to terms with her own identity.  Williamson borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, of city life, in order to fashion her artful meditations on experience and mortality.

As Michel Faber writes of the work, ‘Claire Williamson’s poems are beguiling hybrids – self-assured yet emotionally raw, mysterious yet not precious, meditations of wonder and exorcisms of grief.’


Visiting the Minotaur is available for pre-order on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘The Hatching’, Rhian Edwards

Friday Poem The Hatching Rhian Edwards

Spring has just arrived and so our Friday Poem this week is ‘The Hatching’ by Rhian Edwards – a decidedly alternative portrait of new life.

Taken from Edwards’ multi award-winning debut, Clueless Dogs, ‘The Hatching’ places us in claustrophobic darkness to witness the faltering first steps of a baby bird. This sense of magnified reality prevails throughout the collection – Time Out Magazine hits the nail on the head by saying, ‘although her poems are accessible … and supremely crafted they are also inhabited by something far rarer, an unerring ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.’
Clueless Dogs is a brave and beautiful first book, full of verve and humour, with a winning honesty and intensity.



The Hatching Clueless Dogs Rhian Edwards










Clueless Dogs is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Easter Sunday, Table Mountain’, Graham Mort

Easter Sunday Table Mountain Friday Poem Graham Mort

It’s Good Friday today and the start of the blissfully long Easter weekend. In celebration, our Friday Poem is ‘Easter Sunday, Table Mountain’ by Graham Mort, from Black Shiver Moss.

This transportive poem will sweep you – at all angles – through unfamiliar landscapes: whether high above Cape Town, the ‘broiling city’, or precariously gazing upwards at a rocky landscape on the cusp of falling.
Black Shiver Moss includes pieces about landscapes and peoples as distant as our featured poem’s South Africa, and as close as Europe. Mort’s talent for vivid descriptions and evocations renders each new destination intimate and familiar – here is a traveller who has taken his destinations to heart, reproducing their weathers and textures with a startling exactitude and intensity.

A note on the poem:

I wrote this poem after walking the old Pipe Track that curves around Table Mountain above Camps Bay, past the gullied buttresses of the Twelve Apostles. I’m working there again and it seems odd to be home for Easter in North Yorkshire, looking at snow on Ingleborough, which has always seemed a miniature of that other flat-topped mountain. When I wrote the poem I’d just visited a Saturday school in Philippi township, held in a church constructed of cardboard and corrugated iron, attended by a group of wonderfully enthusiastic children. I wondered about their futures in what is still an emergent democracy, in the lingering shadows of Apartheid. I’m not religious, but there’s a hint of George Herbert’s Easter Wings in the poem, a desire for equanimity in a part of the world where oceans, languages and cultures come together in a constant flux. I’m flying back out on Easter Monday into the worst drought for a hundred years, but also to another kind of thirst – the almost palpable longing for freedom, equality and restitution.

Graham Mort


Graham Mort Easter Sunday Table Mountain


















Black Shiver Moss is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘As we live’, Martyn Crucefix

Friday Poem As we live Martyn Crucefix

This week as our Friday Poem we have ‘As we live’ by Martyn Crucefix, from his latest collection, The Lovely Disciplines.

Martyn Crucefix The Lovely DisciplinesA second-hand book proves to be the window into another’s world in ‘As we live’, which picks apart a scrawled shopping list to conjure plans, insecurities, and possible futures.
The Lovely Disciplines is full of such ‘acutely astute observations’ (Mario Petrucci): Crucefix’s poems often begin with the visible, the tangible, the ordinary, yet through each act of attentiveness and the delicate fluidity of the language they re-discover the extraordinary in the everyday.


Friday Poem Martyn Crucefix As we live


















The Lovely Disciplines is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Why islanders don’t kiss hello’, Siobhán Campbell

Friday Poem Why islanders don't kiss hello Siobhan Campbell

Tomorrow many of you will be celebrating Ireland’s foremost patron saint, and so today we feature Irish poet Siobhán Campbell’s witty rumination on cultural customs, ‘Why islanders don’t kiss hello’.

Heat Signature Siobhan CampbellTaken from Campbell’s most recent collection, Heat Signature, ‘Why islanders don’t hiss hello’ is not simply a humorous piece about the awkward and personal nature of the continental cheek-kiss, but also – as with much of Campbell’s poetry – a wry commentary on the political: ‘Perhaps we are not fully of the Europe…’
Heat Signature is Siobhán’s sixth collection, and its complex style is entirely characteristic of the poet’s spikey voice: infused with an intelligence that resists easy answers to the conundrums that have faced her Irish homeland, but also suffused with a grudging admiration for the citizens who have survived their tumultuous history.


Siobhan Campbell Why islanders don't kiss hello














Heat Signature is available on the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘March Morning, Pearson Park’, Carol Rumens

Friday Poem March Morning Pearson Park Carol Rumens

Our Friday Poem this week is ‘March Morning, Pearson Park’ by Carol Rumens, from her latest collection, Animal People.

Animal People Carol RumensThe setting for this poem is Hull’s Pearson Park, which was established on land that was given to the people by Zachariah Pearson in 1862 – hence the park’s original name of ‘People’s Park’. At this time, the lack of public spaces for working classes to enjoy and exercise in was a public cause, and approximately 30,000 visitors came to watch the park’s grand unveiling.
The poems of Animal People are frequently inspired by places, either wild landscapes as in ‘Fire, Stone, Snowdonia’ or the urban scenes of our featured poem. Often, a setting will be a pretext for a theme that has a political, sociological, aesthetic, philosophical or even metaphysical focus.


Carol Rumens March Morning Pearson Park















The dedication is to the Hull poet Maurice Rutherford, born in the same year as Philip Larkin, and still writing. Find out more on his website:


Animal People is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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