Reading for St David’s Day

Happy St David’s Day / Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus. 1st March not only marks the first day of Spring, but also St David’s Day here in Wales. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up a list of great books by some of our Welsh authors. How many of these have you read?

Miriam, Daniel and Me – Euron Griffith

This cover shows a black and white image of a woman's head in profile. She is looking down and is wearing a 1960s style hat. The background is cream fading to blue at the bottom. The text reads: Euron Griffith, Miriam, Daniel and Me

Miriam, Daniel and Me, Euron Griffith’s first novel in English, is a gripping story of relationships and simmering unrest in 1960s Gwynedd, driven by love, jealousy and vendetta. Spanning three generations of a North Wales family in a Welsh-speaking community, Miriam, Daniel and Me is an absorbing and compelling story of family discord, political turmoil, poetry, jealousy… and football.

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees – Clare Dudman

This cover shows a painting of a tree leaning to the right with green leaves on one side and bare branches on the other. It is surrounded by dry yellow grass. The text reads: Clare Dudman, A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees.

A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees is a lyrical and insightful evocation of the trials of the first Welsh Patagonian colonists as they battle to survive hunger, loss, and each other. Impoverished and oppressed, they’d been promised paradise on earth: a land flowing with milk and honey. But what the settlers found after a devastating sea journey was a cold South American desert where nothing could survive except tribes of nomadic Tehuelche Indians, possibly intent on massacring them.

Gen – Jonathan Edwards

This cover shows a colourful abstract painting of people out on a busy street on a sunny day. The text reads: Gen, Jonathan Edwards. Winner of the Costa Book Award for Poetry 2014.

The poems in Costa award-winning poet Jonathan Edwards’s second collection Gen, celebrate a Valleys youth and young manhood, offering the reader affectionate portraits of family members alongside pop culture figures like Harry Houdini and Kurt Cobain, and real and imagined Welsh histories. 

A Last Respect – Glyn Mathias and Daniel G. Williams

This cover shows a painting of rolling green fields stretching towards a blue lake in the distance. Fluffy clouds hover in the blue sky above. The text reads: A Last Respect: The Roland Mathias Prize Anthology of Contemporary Welsh Poetry. Edited by Glyn Mathias and Daniel G. Williams.

A Last Respect celebrates the Roland Mathias Prize, awarded to outstanding poetry books by authors from Wales. It presents a selection of work from all eleven prize-winning books, by Dannie Abse, Tiffany Atkinson, Ruth Bidgood, Ailbhe Darcy, Rhian Edwards, Christine Evans, John Freeman, Philip Gross, Gwyneth Lewis, Robert Minhinnick, and Owen Sheers. It is a who’s who of contemporary poetry which shows the form in good health in Wales.

Inhale/Exile – Abeer Ameer

This cover shows a close up painting of someone cutting yellow reeds in the heat of the sun. The text reads: Inhale/Exile, Abeer Ameer. "These poems remind us that even in the darkest times, there is light and there is love" - Katherine Stansfield

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.

Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches – T.J. Hughes

This cover shows a photo of a ruined Welsh church surrounded by green hills beneath a blue sky. The text read: Wales's Best One Hundred Churches, T.J. Hughes. "A really wonderful book" – Simon Jenkins

Illustrated in colour Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches encompasses a millennium of churches around Wales, from tiny St Govan’s tucked in its cliff-face, through ruined Llanthony to the magnificence of the cathedrals at Llandaff and St David’s. It is an invaluable repository of history, art and architecture, spirituality and people’s lives which will appeal to the historian and the tourist, communicants and those without a god.

Four Dervishes – Hammad Rind

This cover shows an cartoon of an old box TV sitting on the hazy, dry ground. The text reads: Four Dervishes, Hammad Rind. "Easily the most remarkable work of fiction to come out of Wales in a thousand moons" – Jon Gower

Four Dervishes draws on a long tradition of storytelling as it skewers issues like religious bigotry, injustice, the denial of women’s rights, and class division. Lavishly inventive, verbally rich, an exotic confection, this novel is both darkly thematic and humorously playful.

The Meat Tree – Gwyneth Lewis

This cover shows a cardboard cutout of a tree and a woman with a ragged dress in relief against a red background. The text reads: Gwyneth Lewis, The Meat Tree. New Stories from the Mabinogion.

A dangerous tale of desire, DNA, incest and flowers plays out within the wreckage of an ancient spaceship in The Meat Tree: an absorbing retelling of the Blodeuwedd Mabinogion myth by prizewinning writer and poet Gwyneth Lewis. An elderly investigator and his female apprentice hope to extract the fate of the ship’s crew from its antiquated virtual reality game system, but their empirical approach falters as the story tangles with their own imagination. By imposing a distance of another 200 years and millions of light years between the reader and the medieval myth, Gwyneth Lewis brings this tale of a woman made of flowers closer than ever before, perhaps uncomfortably so. After all, what man can imagine how sap burns in the veins of a woman?

We Could Be Anywhere By Now – Katherine Stansfield

This covers shows an abstract collage of a woman in 1920s style dress looking out over a balcony with into the blue sky. The text reads: We Could Be Anywhere By Now, Katherine Stansfield. "multi-layered and full of surprising transitions" - Patrick McGuinness

In her second collection, We Could Be Anywhere by Now, Katherine Stansfield brings us poems about placement and displacement full of both wry comedy and uneasy tension. Stints in Wales, Italy and Canada, plus return trips to her native Cornwall all spark poems delighting in the off-key, the overheard, the comedy and pathos of everyday life.

Please – Christopher Meredith

This cover has a blue background. The yellow text reads: Please , Christopher Meredith.

Christopher Meredith’s fifth novel Please, full of humanity, sly humour and verbal invention, is his shortest and arguably his funniest, most innovative and most outrageous. It’s a tragicomedy touching on themes of the limits of knowledge, on isolation, and male frailty in new and playful ways as octogenarian language geek Vernon, whose never written anything longer than a memo, tries to write the story of his long marriage.

Visit our new titles page for more fantastic books by Welsh authors.

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Announcing the Seren Stay-at-Home Series Programme!

Beginning on Tuesday 12th May, we will be bringing you the Seren Stay-at-Home Series – ten days of online readings, interviews and Q&As with our fantastic authors. Browse the full programme below.

Buy Tickets Here*

*All ticket holders will receive an exclusive 30% discount code to use on the Seren website. This code can be applied to any order but can only be redeemed once per user.

Date: Tuesday 12th May

Time: 7:30pm​

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Robert Minhinnick: Nia, interviewed by Jon Gower

Nia Vine is about to fulfil her dream of exploring an unmapped cave system. With her will go two friends brought up in the same seaside town. As they explore, Nia finds herself obsessed by a series of dreams that lead to a shocking revelation.

Newly longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize, Nia is the latest novel from award-winning author Robert Minhinnick. Join us to hear him in conversation with Jon Gower discussing the book’s themes, its links to his previous two novels Sea Holly and Limestone Man, and to hear him read extracts from the book.

“a dizzying, yet, brilliant carrousel of delirium.” – Wales Arts Review

Robert Minhinnick is the prize-winning author of four volumes of essays, more than a dozen collections of poetry, and several works of fiction. He has edited a book on the environment in Wales, written for television, and was formerly the editor of Poetry Wales. He is the co-founder of the environmental organisation Sustainable Wales. His debut novel Sea Holly was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize in 2008. Robert’s second novel Limestone Man is a gripping story of a man trying to connect past and present, haunted by dreams of Australia and his youth. Nia was published by Seren in 2019.

Photo credit: Marian Delyth

Jon Gower has over thirty books to his name, in Welsh and English, including The Story of Wales which accompanied the landmark BBC series, An Island Called Smith which gained the John Morgan Travel Writing Award and Y Storïwr which won the Wales Book of the Year award. He is a former BBC Wales arts and media correspondent and was for many years the presenter of Radio Wales’ arts programme First Hand.  He lives in Cardiff with his wife Sarah and daughters Elena and Onwy.

 

Date: Wednesday 13th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Eoghan Walls: Pigeon Songs

Pigeon Songs by Derry-born poet Eoghan Walls is richly detailed, densely metaphorical, and steeped in themes of love and loss. The totemic pigeon suggests both a down-to-earth physicality and an ability to astonish, to take flight. Formally adept, vividly evocative, Pigeon Songs is a collection that rewards re-reading. Introduced by our poetry editor Amy Wack, Eoghan joins us from his home to read from the collection.

Eoghan Walls was born in Derry in Northern Ireland. He studied in Wales, Dublin and Belfast, where he completed a PhD in the Seamus Heaney Centre. He was the winner of an Eric Gregory Award and an Irish Arts Council Bursary, and his work has been published widely in journals and anthologies throughout the UK and Ireland. His first collection of poems, The Salt Harvest, was published by Seren in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Strong Award for Best First Collection. Eoghan teaches creative writing at Lancaster University, and lives with his wife and daughters in a village near the sea.

 

Date: Thursday 14th May

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Ask a Poet Q&A with Kim Moore

Calling all poets! If you’ve got a burning question you would like to put to an award-winning author, this is the event for you. In this special Q&A, Kim Moore, author of The Art of Falling, will be answering your questions and offering advice on all aspects of poetry. Attendees will be able to submit questions for Kim in advance of the event which will be chaired by Seren poetry editor Amy Wack.

Kim Moore’s first collection The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015) won the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. She won a Northern Writers Award in 2014, an Eric Gregory Award in 2011 and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2010. If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2012 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition. She is a PhD candidate at Manchester Metropolitan University and is working on her second collection.

 

 

Date: Thursday 14th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Phil Cope: The Poetry of the Sacred Springs and Holy Wells of WalesScotlandCornwall & Ireland

Join author and photographer Phil Cope on a richly-illustrated journey through the wellsprings of Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland. Found on mountaintops, in deserted valleys, on the coast, in sea caves and even in city centres, wells have long-standing links with religion, healing and folklore, and have always been places of inspiration for our poets. Phil will share some of his favourites of these responses with us. Followed by a short Q&A.

Phil Cope is a photographer, writer, teacher, and cultural exhibition designer whose subjects have included the footballer John Charles, Paul Robeson and Wales and the Spanish Civil War. His lavishly illustrated books on wells include Holy Wells: Wales (2008), Holy Wells: Cornwall (2010), Borderlands (2013), Holy Wells: Scotland (2015) and The Living Wells of Wales (2019).

 

 

 

Date: Friday 15th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Ben Wilkinson: Way More Than Luck

Way More Than Luck is the vivid debut collection of well-known poet and critic Ben Wilkinson. At its heart is a series of poems inspired by a lifelong devotion to Liverpool Football Club. We meet former players, coaches and re-live moments of both stoic despair and wild joy, where vivid themes are adroitly enacted in poetic forms. Ben joins us from his home to read from the collection and discuss the poems he has been sharing on social media to get us through lockdown.

Ben Wilkinson was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield. In 2014 he won the Poetry Business Competition and a Northern Writers’ Award, and in 2015 he was awarded a writers’ grant from Arts Council England. He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool FC fan, and he writes criticism for The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and Poetry Review. He lectures at the University of Bolton.

 

Date: Saturday 16th May

Time: 4:00pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Nula Suchet: The Longest Farewell

When Nula’s husband James was struck by Pick’s Disease, an early onset form of dementia, her life began a terrible downward spiral. Feeling alone and consumed by grief and the demands of caring for James with little support, she turned to the care system for help. There she met Bonnie, a resident in the same home as James, and in turn Bonnie’s husband, the broadcaster John Suchet. The similarity of their plight became a bond between them and after the deaths of James and Bonnie, and some guilt-induced false starts, they eventually married. In this event, Nula and John join us from their home for an intimate discussion on the heart-breaking reality of caring for a loved one with dementia and of unexpectedly finding a happy ending.

“A cry from the heart that is a triumph of love over despair.” – Alan Titchmarsh

Nula Suchet was born in Ireland, part of a large family. After a difficult early life she became an interior designer who worked internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. She now lives in London with her husband John Suchet. The Longest Farewell is her harrowing account of dealing with her husband’s dementia and the heart-break that accompanied it.

 

Sunday 17th May
NO EVENTS

 

Date: Monday 18th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Peter Finch: Walking Cardiff & The Machineries of Joy

Renowned performance poet and author of the Real Cardiff books, Peter Finch, will read from his two most recent books Walking Cardiff and The Machineries of Joy. Followed by a short Q&A.

Peter Finch is a poet, author and critic who lives in Cardiff.  His latest book Walking Cardiff (Seren, 2019) is a collection of twenty walks around the Welsh capital, written in conjunction with photographer John Briggs. His first collection of poetry in a decade The Machineries of Joy was published by Seren in February 2020.

Peter is a former publisher, bookseller and Chief Executive of the Welsh Academy (now Literature Wales), and recipient of the Ted Slade Award for Service to Poetry 2011. He compiles the poetry section for Macmillan’s annual Writer’s Handbook and the self-publishing section for A&C Black’s Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook.  His extensive website can be viewed at www.peterfinch.co.uk.

 

Date: Tuesday 19th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

T. J. Hughes: Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches

The archetypal Welsh church is not in town or village, enhanced by generations of patronage: it is the isolated, simple, evocative walls-with-roof, in a landscape often spiritually charged.  The Welsh churches tell us about medieval times, and the Age of Saints that came before and, amazingly of the pagan Celtic times before that, which they were meant to erase.

Illustrated in colour Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches encompasses a millennium of  churches around Wales, from tiny St Govan’s tucked in its cliff-face, through ruined Llanthony to the magnificence of the cathedrals at Llandaff and St David’s. It is an invaluable repository of history, art and architecture, spirituality and people’s lives which will appeal to the historian and the tourist, communicants and those without a god. T J Hughes brings the book alive in this fascinating illustrated talk.

“A really wonderful book.” – Simon Jenkins

T J Hughes was born in Denbighshire in 1959. His lifelong fascination with Welsh culture, and with its old churches and chapels, led him to write Wales’s Best One Hundred Churches which aims to show some of the great treasures of Welsh churches, as well as explaining their very distinctive history and origins in Wales’s unique and ancient story. He also wrote the short biography of R.S. Thomas in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Deputy Executive Director of the International Bar Association, which works around the world to foster the rule of law and to fight against infringements of human rights such as state use of torture, he lives in London with his wife and son.

 

Date: Wednesday 20th May

Time: 6:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Ask a Writer Q&A with Jaki McCarrick

Calling all writers! Join award-winning writer and playwright Jaki McCarrick for a special Q&A session. Perhaps you would like to know where she finds inspiration for her short stories, or you would like to write for the stage but don’t know where to begin? This is your chance to ask. Attendees will be able to submit questions for Jaki in advance of the event which will be chaired by Mick Felton.

Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer of plays, poetry and fiction. Her play Leopardville won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing, and The Naturalists premiered last year at the Soho Repertory Theatre, New York to rave reviews. Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio in London, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award. In 2016 Jaki was selected for Screen Ireland’s Talent Development Initiative and has recently completed the screen adaptation of Belfast Girls. Jaki’s plays The Mushroom Pickers, Leopardville and Belfast Girls were published by Samuel French in 2015. She has also had plays published by Routledge and Aurora Metro.

Her short story collection, The Scattering, was published by Seren and was shortlisted for the 2014 Edge Hill Prize. The collection includes her story ‘The Visit’ which won the Wasafiri Prize for Short Fiction.

Longlisted in 2014 for the inaugural Irish Fiction Laureate, she is currently editing her first novel, set in the border area of the Cooley Peninsula, close to where she lives. Jaki also regularly writes critical pieces for the Times Literary Supplement, Irish Examiner, Poetry Ireland Review and other publications.

 

Date: Wednesday 20th May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

Alexandra Ford: What Remains at the End

Alexandra Ford’s debut novel What Remains at the End is wonderfully intelligent and hauntingly beautiful. It focuses on the largely undocumented ethnic cleansing of the former Yugoslavia’s ethnic German population, the Danube Swabians, by Tito and his partisan regime. Alternating between the late 1940s and contemporary Serbia, the story is told from the perspective of Marie Kholer who embarks on a journey to find out the truth about her grandparents’ flight to America. Ford speaks movingly of the personal stories that brought her to the book, and will answer questions from the audience about her research and how one can use the impulse to memoir as a way to weave a fictional tale of persuasive power.

“a deeply personal, startlingly honest, and devastating portrayal of the lasting effects of communal and generational trauma.” – Wales Arts Review

Alexandra Ford was born near Philadelphia. She earned her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her BA from Virginia Tech. Her writing appears in The Rumpus and No Tokens Journal, among others. She lives on a smallholding on the border between England and Wales.

 

Date: Thursday 21st May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

An Evening of Poetry with Tamar Yoseloff & Martyn Crucefix

Tamar Yoseloff and Martyn Crucefix join us from London for an exciting evening of poetry. Tamar Yoseloff’s new collection The Black Place is a dark and gorgeously multi-faceted collection that eschews the sentimental, embraces alternatives and offers antidotes to cheery capitalist hype. Martyn Crucefix’s The Lovely Disciplines is full of elegantly-crafted, intriguing poems. The ‘disciplines’ of the title encompass many of the manifestations of human love: of a child, a partner, of ageing parents, of the world.

Tamar Yoseloff’s fifth collection, A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems, was published by Seren in 2015. She’s also the author of Formerly, a chapbook incorporating photographs by Vici MacDonald (Hercules Editions, 2012) shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award; two collaborative editions with artist Linda Karshan; and a book with artist Charlotte Harker. She’s a freelance tutor in creative writing, and runs poetry courses for galleries including the Hayward, the RA and the National Gallery. She lectures on the Poetry School / Newcastle University MA in Writing Poetry. Her sixth collection, The Black Place, was published in 2019.

Martyn Crucefix has won numerous prizes including a major Eric Gregory award and a Hawthornden Fellowship. He has published 7 collections of poetry including Hurt (Enitharmon, 2010): “an exceptional ear…superbly intelligent…urgent, heartfelt, controlled and masterful.” (Kathryn Maris, Poetry London). His translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies (Enitharmon, 2006) was shortlisted for the Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation and hailed as “unlikely to be bettered for very many years” (Magma). His translation of Rilke’s The Sonnets to Orpheus appeared from Enitharmon in 2012. His translations of Rainer Maria Rilke and the Daodejing, appeared in 2016. His collection The Lovely Disciplines was published by Seren in 2017.

 

Date: Friday 22nd May

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Online via Zoom

Tickets: £5

David Llewellyn: A Simple Scale, interviewed by Nemonie Craven Roderick

In A Simple Scale, a piece of music starts a story that will range across Soviet Russia, McCarthyite Hollywood and post-9/11 New York, as the secrets of the lives of two gay composers are uncovered. David Llewellyn explores the points at which the personal and the political meet as narratives of love, death, deceit, the CIA, atomic bombs and classical music unfold. Hear David Llewellyn in conversation with Nemonie Craven Roderick discussing his Polari Prize shortlisted novel A Simple Scale.

‘Beautifully told and beautifully written’ – Philip Reeve 

David Llewellyn was raised in Pontypool and is a graduate of Darlington College of Arts. As well as his four novels for Seren he has written scripts for the BBC and several short stories. David lives and works in Cardiff.

 

 

 

Nemonie Craven Roderick is an agent at Jonathan Clowes Literary Agents. Her clients include Gruff Rhys, Toby Vieira, Simon Critchley and The New York Times (for the popular column The Stone).

 

 

 

Visit the Seren website to get your tickets*

*All ticket holders will receive an exclusive 30% discount code to use on the Seren website. This code can be applied to any order but can only be redeemed once per user.

Happy International Women’s Day 2020!

Over the year’s we’ve been fortunate enough to work with a long list of fantastic female authors, all of whom bring something unique to the Seren list. There are too many to mention each by name in a single post, and so for International Women’s Day 2020 we’re shining a light on some of the women writers we are publishing in the first half of this year. Keep an eye out for their books coming your way soon.

Katherine Stansfield
We Could Be Anywhere By Now, March 2020

Katherine Stansfield grew up in Cornwall and now lives in Cardiff. Her poems have appeared in The North, Magma, Poetry Wales, The Interpreter’s House, And Other Poems, Butcher’s Dog, and as ‘Poem of the Week’ in The Guardian. Katherine’s debut collection Playing House (2014), a pamphlet All That Was Wood (2019), and her second full-length collection We Could Be Anywhere By Now (March 2020), are all published by Seren. She is also a novelist, with five novels published to date. Her latest titles are The Mermaid’s Call (third in her historical crime series set in Cornwall in the 1840s) and Widow’s Welcome (a political fantasy novel co-written with her partner and published under the name DK Fields). Katherine is the recipient of a Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales. She teaches for the Open University and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow.

Cath Drake
The Shaking City, March 2020

Cath Drake lives in London and has been published in anthologies and literary magazines in the UK, Australia and US. Sleeping with Rivers won the Mslexia Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition in 2013 and was a Poetry Book Society Choice. She has been short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Prize, and was second in the 2017 Resurgence Poetry School Eco-poetry Prize (now called Ginkgo) and highly commended in the same prize in 2019. Her work has included campaigning, copywriting and storytelling for good causes, environmental writing and award-winning journalism.The Shaking City, forthcoming from Seren at the end of March 2020, is her first full collection.

Sarah Wimbush
Bloodlines, March 2020

Sarah Wimbush comes from Doncaster and currently lives in Leeds. After winning the Yorkshire Post Short Story Competition in 2011 she began writing poetry. Her poems are rooted in Yorkshire with tales of childhood, colliery villages, and Gypsies and Travellers, and they have appeared in a variety of magazines including; the North, The Rialto, The Interpreter’s House, Stand and Strix. She won first prize in the Red Shed Poetry Competition 2016, and second prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition 2019 where the judge, Daljit Nagra, described her poem as ‘linguistically charged’. A winner of both the Mslexia Poetry Competition (2016) and the Mslexia Poetry Pamphlet Competition (2019), she received a New Writing North – New Poets Award in 2019. Her debut pamphlet Bloodlines (Seren, March 2020) is the winner of the Mslexia/PBS Women’s Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2019.

Sarah Philpott
The Seasonal Vegan, April 2020

Sarah Philpott is a freelance copywriter and proofreader for a variety of organisations, and a fluent Welsh speaker who has appeared on S4C and ITV Wales to talk about vegan cooking. She is a regular guest on Radio Cymru, has written for Wales Online and writes restaurant reviews for the Wriggle app and website. She has a recipe column in Cardiff Now magazine and was featured in an article about vegetarianism in the Sunday Telegraph magazine, Stella. Sarah also has a vegan food blog, Vegging It. Her first vegan cookery book, The Occasional Vegan was published in 2018 and her second The Seasonal Vegan is forthcoming from Seren this April.

Kate Noakes
Real Hay-on-Wye, May 2020

Kate Noakes is a poet whose seventh and most recent collection, The Filthy Quiet, was published by Parthian in 2019 and was reviewed by the Poetry Book Society. Her work has been widely published in magazines in the UK, Europe and beyond. She was elected to the Welsh Academy in 2011. She lives in London where she acts as a trustee for writer development organisation Spread the Word. She reviews poetry for Poetry London, Poetry Wales, The North and cultural website London Grip. She can be found reading from her work all over the country, notably most recently at the 2019 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. Kate has degrees from Reading University and the University of South Wales. She teaches creative writing workshops in London and beyond and offers one to one poetry coaching. Real Hay-on-Wye (May 2020) is her first non-fiction title.

Katrina Naomi
Wild Persistence, June 2020

Katrina Naomi has published four pamphlets of poetry, including the Japan-themed Typhoon Etiquette (Verve Poetry Press, 2019). Her collection The Way the Crocodile Taught Me, (Seren, 2016) was chosen by Foyles’ Bookshop as one of its #FoylesFive for poetry.  Katrina was the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in W Yorks, and since then has been poet-in-residence at the Arnolfini, Gladstone’s Library and the Leach Pottery. Her poetry has appeared on Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please, BBC TV’s Spotlight and on Poems on the Underground. In 2017 she was highly commended in the Forward Prizes. She has a PhD in creative writing (Goldsmiths) and tutors for Arvon, Ty Newydd and the Poetry School. She received an Authors’ Foundation award from the Society of Authors for her new collection, Wild Persistence (June).

Rhian Edwards
The Estate Agent’s Daughter, June 2020

Rhian Edwards is a multi-award winning Welsh poet, renowned for bridging the gap between page and stage poetry. Her first collection Clueless Dogs (Seren) won the Wales Book of the Year 2013, winning the hat-trick of prizes. It was also shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2012.  Rhian also won the John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry, winning both the Judges and Audience award. Rhian’s pamphlet Parade the Fib (Tall Lighthouse) was awarded the Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice for autumn 2008. Rhian’s poems have appeared in The Guardian, TLS, Poetry Review, New Statesman, Spectator, Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Arete, the London Magazine, Stand and Planet. Her second collection The Estate Agent’s Daughter is forthcoming from Seren in June.

Sue Gee
Just You and the Page: Twelve Writers and their Art, June 2020

Sue Gee is a novelist and short story writer. She has published eleven novels, including The Hours of the Night (1995), winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year award, The Mysteries of Glass (2005), long-listed that year for the Orange Prize, and Reading in Bed (2007) a Daily Mail Book Club selection. Her most recent novel is Trio (2016). She ran the MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University from 2000-2008 and was awarded a Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at the University of London Graduate School in 2008. Since 2010 she has taught at the Faber Academy, and worked as a mentor for the Write to Life group at Freedom from Torture. With the novelist Charles Palliser she has for some twenty years run monthly author events at Stoke Newington Bookshop, under the umbrella N16 Writers & Readers. She is a frequent contributor to Slightly Foxed.

Jayne Joso
Japan Stories, June 2020

Jayne Joso is a writer and artist who has lived and worked in Japan, China, Kenya and the UK. Now living in London, she is the author of four novels, including My Falling Down House (2016) and From Seven to the Sea (2019). Her journalism has been published in various Japanese architectural magazines and in the UK’s Architecture Today magazine. She has also ghost written on Japanese architects for the German publisher, Prestel Art. She is the recipient of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Award, given to artists whose work interprets Japan to other cultures and was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Award 2017. Her forthcoming short story collection Japan Stories (Seren, June 2020) reveals Japanese life in city and countryside through a variety of characters notable for their shared humanity.

 

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Seren Gift Guide: Give the Perfect Gift this Christmas

We all have them. That one person in the family who is impossible to buy presents for. They’re very particular so food or alcohol is out of the question and you bought them novelty socks last year so what are you going to do? Buy them a book of course!

Here at Seren we’ve got books to suit everyone: fiction addicts, nature lovers, poetry fanatics, art & photography connoisseurs, history buffs, current affairs enthusiasts, fans of biography & memoir – the list goes on. Here are a selection of our top suggestions for those difficult to buy for family members to help you give the perfect gift this Christmas.

 

Books for Fiction Addicts

Significance by Jo Mazelis £9.99 

significanceLucy Swann is trying on a new life. She’s cut and dyed her hair and bought new clothes, but only gets as far as a small town in northern France when her flight is violently cut short. When Inspector Vivier and his assistant Sabine Pelat begin their investigation the chance encounters of her last days take on a new significance. Lucy’s death, like a stone thrown into a pool, sends out far-reaching ripples, altering the lives of people who never knew her as well as those of her loved ones back home.

Sugar Hall by Tiffany Murray: £8.99 

Sugar Hall Tiffany MurrayEaster 1955 and Britain waits for a hanging. Dieter Sugar finds a strange boy in the red gardens at crumbling Sugar Hall – a boy unlike any he’s ever seen. As Dieter’s mother, Lilia, scrapes the mould and moths from the walls of the great house, she knows there are pasts that cannot be so easily removed. Sugar Hall has a history, buried, but not forgotten. Based on the stories of the slave boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray.

Brief Lives by Christopher Meredith £9.99 

Brief Lives Christopher MeredithFrom the nightmarish first story set in the South China Sea in 1946 to the final piece, set nowhere at the end of time, Brief Lives demonstrates in a short compass a huge range in technique and milieu and a unity of theme and sensibility. It opens naturalistically but is distinctly non-realist by the close. We meet an ex-collier in 1950 anguishing over whether to return to the pit, a young mother in the early 1960s quietly shepherding those around her through a bleak Christmas day, an industrial chemist in this century plunged into vortices of memories that cause him to question his grasp of the world, and more.

New Stories From The Mabinogion – The Complete Box Set (Unsigned): £80 

In New Stories from the Mabinogion ten great authors take the Celtic myth cycle as a starting point to give us masterly re-workings with a modern twist in a series both various and wonderful. In these retellings of medieval stories from Celtic mythology and Arthurian Britain, we reach the orbit of Mars, the Tower of London and the edges of India, travel in time to WW2 and forward to the near future, see Iraq in drug-addled dreams, and view Wales aslant, from its countryside to its council estates. Each author makes the story entirely their own, creating fresh, contemporary novellas while keeping the old tales at the heart of the new.

 

Books for Home Birds

The Seren Real Series: £9.99

First started by Peter Finch with Real Cardiff and now containing over 20 volumes, the Seren Real Series is a collection of psychogeographic guides that take a closer look at beloved towns and cities from all over the UK. Always insightful and full of interesting observations, made personal by each author’s connection to the place, these books discover the essence of what makes our towns and cities tick.

 

The Living Wells of Wales by Phil Cope: £20.00 

Author and photographer Phil Cope takes us on a journey through the sacred wells of Wales, from the Anglesey to the Gwent. On his way he discovers wells in city centres and, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere – on mountainsides, in deserted valleys, on the coast, in sea caves. They include healing wells, cursing wells, and wells named for saints, Satan, witches, angels, fairies, friars, nuns, hermits, murderers and hangmen. Packed with colour photographs, including some of long-forgotten wells now rediscovered, The Living Wells of Wales is the new definitive volume on a subject gaining a new popularity.

Walking Cardiff by Peter Finch and John Briggs: £14.99 

Join Peter Finch and John Briggs on twenty walks around Cardiff, the bustling capital of Wales. Together they visit the new and the ancient, the difficult, the undiscovered, the lesser-known, the artistic, the entertaining, the quirky and the unexpected. They criss-cross the city, informing, discovering, exploring, and enduring, reviving old routes as they go.Their journeys encompass the city’s history, and record daily life on its streets, in its parks and its famous and not so famous, buildings.

 

Books for History Buffs

Conflict, War and Revolution: My Life by Alessandra Kozlowska: £12.99 

Discovered by the author’s grandson, and written originally in Italian, Conflict, War and Revolution: My Life is the memoir of Baroness Alessandra Koslowska (1892-1975) and is a vivid depiction of her life from childhood to the end of the Second World War. In essence it is the story of her struggle to keep her family together through the huge and sometimes deadly social and political changes of early twentieth century Europe including the survival of two revolutions in Russia and the subsequent civil war, her travels in central Europe during World War One, her life in Italy during the inter-war years, and her internment there, which was almost terminated by German forces.

Forbidden Lives by Norena Shopland: £12.99 

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesForbidden Lives is a fascinating collection of portraits and discussions that aims to populate LGBT gaps in the history of Wales, a much neglected part of Welsh heritage. In it Norena Shopland reviews the reasons for this neglect while outlining the activity behind the recent growth of the LGBT profile here. She also surveys LGBT people and their activity as far back as Giraldus Cambrensis’ Journey Through Wales in the twelfth century where he reports on ‘bearded women’ and other hermaphrodites. Other subjects include Edward II and Hugh DeSpenser, seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

Caradoc Evans: The Devil in Eden by John Harris: £19.99 

Caradoc Evans Devil in Eden John HarrisIn Caradoc Evans: The Devil in Eden John Harris has written the definitive biography of Welsh author Caradoc Evans. He investigates what lay behind his writing, and its impact on Wales and beyond. Evans is revealed as a polemicist on issues like the rights of workers, the conduct of the Great War, and the status of women. A leading London journalist, Evans had a popular weekly column in which he responded to readers’ views in trenchant fashion. As Harris argues, challenging convention was his life’s work. Extensively researched and brilliantly written, it is a revelatory and necessary insight into the man, his country and his times.

 

Books for Nature Lovers

Wild Places UK: UK’s Top 40 Nature Sites by Iolo Williams: £19.99 

In 2016 television naturalist Iolo Williams brought us the definitive guide to the top nature sites in Wales. Now he returns with a guide to his top 40 sites in the UK. From Hermaness on Shetland to the London Wetland Centre, from Dungeness in Kent to Loch Neagh, Williams criss-crosses the country. Lavishly illustrated, author and book aim to introduce a new audience to the delights of the UK, be they armchair naturalists or, more importantly, visitors to the forty sites Williams has selected.

Waterfalls of Stars by Rosanne Alexander: £12.99 

Waterfalls of Stars Rosanne AlexanderWhen Rosanne Alexander’s boyfriend Mike was offered the job of warden of Skomer Island, they had just ten days to leave college, marry (a condition of employment) and gather their belongings and provisions for the trip to the island. With great sensitivity, and humour, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. With her lyrical evocation of the natural world and its enthusiastic and resourceful approach to the problems of island life, Waterfalls of Stars will inspire and entertain anyone who has felt the need for escape.

Once by Andrew McNeillie: £9.99 

Once is the journey from boyhood to the threshold of manhood of poet Andrew McNeillie. From an aeroplane crossing north Wales the middle-aged writer looks down on the countryside of his childhood and recalls an almost fabulous world now lost to him. Ordinary daily life and education in Llandudno shortly after the war are set against an extraordinary life lived close to nature in some of the wilder parts of Snowdonia. Continually crossing the border between town and country, a fly-fisherman by the age of ten, McNeillie relives his life in nature during a period of increasing urbanisation.

 

Books for Poetry Fanatics

Erato by Deryn Rees-Jones: £9.99 

Named after the Greek muse of lyric poetry, Erato combines documentary-style prose narratives with the passionate lyric poetry for which Rees-Jones is renowned. Here, however, as she experiments with form, particularly the sonnet, Rees-Jones asks questions about the value of the poet and poetry itself.  Erato’s themes are manifold but particularly focus on personal loss, desire and recovery, in the context of a world in which wars and displacement of people has become a terrifying norm.
Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Gen by Jonathan Edwards: £9.99 

Jonathan Edwards GenGen is a book of lions and rock stars, street parties and servants, postmen and voices. In the opening sequence’s exploration of youth and young manhood, the author sets his own Valleys upbringing against the ’50s youth of his parents and the experience of a range of pop culture icons, including Kurt Cobain and Harry Houdini. Other poems place a Valleys village and the characters who live in it alongside explorations of Welsh history and prehistory, and the collection concludes with a selection of sometimes witty, sometimes heartfelt love poems.

Regional Poetry Pamphlets: £5.00

Our new series of poetry pamphlets celebrates the beauty, history and lively everyday goings-on in four areas of Wales: Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia, the Borders, and the capital city of Cardiff. Each pamphlet comes with an envelope and a postcard – the perfect stocking filler for your loved ones this Christmas.

 

 

Twelve Poems for Christmas: £5 

This sparkling selection of Christmas poems is the perfect stocking filler for any poetry addict. These are poems full of feeling that resist cliché, that touch on classic ‘Christmas’ themes, but bring them to life from fresh perspectives. The pamphlet opens with Pippa Little’s lyrical and tender poem, ‘St. Leonore and the Robin’, and features poems both humorous and contemplative. Small enough to send with (or instead of) a card, this is the perfect festive treat for your loved ones.

 

Books for Cooks

The Occasional Vegan by Sarah Philpott: £12.99 

The Occasional Vegan Sarah PhilpottThe Occasional Vegan is a collection of 70 simple, affordable and delicious recipes, suitable for newcomers and long-time vegans alike, that will keep you well-fed and healthy. Author Sarah Philpott’s recipes are accompanied by the story of her own journey to becoming a vegan, exploring the ethical and lifestyle arguments for a plant-based diet.  Food lover Philpott shows that embracing veganism certainly doesn’t need to break the bank. Her recipes are homely and easily cooked, suitable for old and young, gourmet cooks and the kitchen novice.

 

Books for Music Lovers

Just Help Yourself by Vernon Hopkins: £9.99 

Just Help Yourself Vernon Hopkins1960. Britain stood at the cusp of new times. In Pontypridd, sixteen-year-old Vernon Hopkins had just found a new singer for his band: a local boy who would come to be known as Tom Jones. Just Help Yourself tells the full story of The Senators – soon to become The Squires – and their lead singer Tom Jones. Vernon Hopkins’ authentic narrative is a revealing look at the highs and lows of the music business, and of London in the allegedly Swinging Sixties. Full of gritty detail about life in Pontypridd, and with great insight into the music business, it is a cautionary tale of ambition and success. Illustrated with previously unseen photographs from the author’s archive.

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back by Peter Finch: £9.99 

The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and BackPeter Finch follows the trail of twentieth century popular music from a 1950s valve radio playing in a suburban Cardiff terrace to the reality of the music among the bars of Ireland, the skyscrapers of New York, the plains of Tennessee, the flatlands of Mississippi and the mountains of North Carolina. The Roots of Rock mixes musical autobiography with an exploration of the physical places from which this music comes. It is a demonstration of the power of music to create a world for the listener that is simultaneously of and beyond the place in which it is heard. It also considers how music has changed during this time, from the culture-shaping (revolutionising) 50s and 60s to the present day.

 

Books for Horizon Gazers

No Far Shore: Charting Unknown Waters by Anne-Marie Fyfe: £9.99 

No Far Shore is no ordinary exploration of coastlines. Anne-Marie Fyfe combines travel writing, history, memoir and poetry in an intriguing meditation on the sea, that explores the unsettledness of living on the boundary between two elements. She explores countless coastlines, her own family history and the works of a number of writers for whom the coast has been influential along the way.

 

Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye: £12.99 

In 2007, in a chance conversation with her mother, a kibbutznik, Jasmine Donahaye stumbled upon the collusion of her family in the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. She set out to learn the story of what happened, and discovered an earlier and rarely discussed piece of history during the British Mandate in Palestine. Losing Israel is a moving and honest account which spans travel writing, nature writing and memoir. Through the author’s personal situation it explores the powerful and competing attachments that people feel about their country and its history, by attempting to understand and reconcile her conflicted attachments, rooted in her family story – and in a love of Israel’s birds.

The Road to Zagora by Richard Collins: £9.99 

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, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Equador and Wales. With ‘Mr Parkinson’, as Collins refers to his condition, by their side, he and his partner Flic decide to continue to travel ‘close to the land’ post diagnosis, leaving the tourist trails and visiting places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The story of their travels is collected here in a memorable journey around the world, and the self.

 

Books for Fans of Biography and Memoir

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet: £12.99 

When Nula’s husband James, an Irish documentary filmmaker, becomes forgetful they put it down to the stress of his work. But his behaviour becomes more erratic, and he is eventually diagnosed as suffering from Pick’s Disease, an early onset and aggressive form of dementia. The Longest Farewell is the true story of Nula’s fight with her husband’s disease, and how this terrible time held a happy ending.

 

Tide-Race by Brenda Chamberlain: £9.99 

Tide-Race is a remarkable account of life on Bardsey (known as Ynys Enlli to Welsh speakers), a remote and mysterious island off the coast of North Wales. Brenda Chamberlain lived on the island from 1947 to 1961, during the last days of its hardy community. The combination of Bardsey, ancient site of Christian pilgrimage, wild and dangerous landscape, and Brenda Chamberlain, Royal Academy trained artist, results in a classic book, vividly illustrated by the author’s line drawings.

Jim Neat: The Case of a Remarkable Man Down on his Luck by Mary J. Oliver: £9.99 

Jim Neat is a remarkable evocation of the seemingly fractured life of Mary J. Oliver’s father. Tinged with the tragedy of his partner’s death and an orphaned daughter, it ranges across the history of 20th century England and Canada. Using the few documents of Jim’s life and a combination of poetry and prose, Oliver adopts a legal structure, making ‘the case’ for the worth of his life. The result is a fascinating and engaging book unlike any other memoir.

 

Books for Art Connoisseurs

Welsh Quilts by Jen Jones: £12.99 

Welsh Quilts Jen JonesWelsh Quilts is an authoritative guide to the history and art of the quilt in Wales. It is the result of expert author Jen Jones’ researches into the subject and her desire to revive what had been a gloriously high-quality craft. Illustrated with beautiful images of the bold designs and intricate stitching of the quilts in her own collection, Welsh Quilts is the essential book on the subject, whether you are a quilter yourself, or simply interested in quilting heritage.

Jonah Jones: An Artist’s Life by Peter Jones: £14.99 

Sculptor, painter, letter cutter, stained glass artist, novelist, academic and administrator; Jonah Jones (1919-2004) was a twentieth century renaissance man. His son Peter looks back on his life, from growing up in a mining family in Newcastle, through his experiences in a non-combatant role in the Medical Corps during the Second World War, to the people and places that fired his passion to become an artist. Jonah Jones: An Artist’s Life is a considered look at the life of one of Wales’ most successful artists.

Try the Wilderness First : Eric Gill and David Jones at Capel-y-Ffin by Jonathan Miles: £12.99 

Try the Wilderness First is the only study devoted to controversial artist Eric Gill’s artistic and religious community in the Black Mountains of Wales during the 1920s, told through the character and work of Gill himself and David Jones, two of Britain’s most significant twentieth century artists. In it, Jonathan Miles explores the influences of place, culture and religion on artistic practice and investigates the effect of the Black Mountains and of Gill’s community on the work of these two important British artists, both at the time and in the future.

Books for Photographers

Living in Wales by David Hurn: £25.00 

Living in Wales is an album of one hundred and one duotone portraits of people who, in the words of David Hurn ‘have enriched my life and that of Wales.’ It is a roster of the famous and distinguished in the fields of science, business, the arts, sport, the law, health, media, politics and religion. Beautifully composed, and shot with David’s characteristic flair for detail, the photographs linger on the physicality of the person, a telling prop pushing the image towards the possibility of narrative. Here is a photographer on inspirational form.

Taken in Time by John Briggs: £14.95 

Photographer John Briggs continues his project to document change in the Cardiff docklands, revisiting the sites and people memorably recorded in Before the Deluge. In the last thirty years landmark buildings have been demolished, docks filled in, the barrage built, maritime businesses closed, and streets disappeared. In their place, a huge redevelopment scheme, gentrification, and tourism. With characteristic honesty and an eye for compelling detail, John Briggs brings these changes to a wider audience in this not to be missed book.

 

Still not found what you’re looking for? Browse our website for more inspiration.

Create your free Seren account and enjoy 20% off every book you buy from us.

Seren Christmas Pop-up Shop Returns to Chapter!

From the 16 – 20 December our Christmas pop-up shop will be back at Chapter in Cardiff to satisfy all your last minute present buying needs.

You’re guaranteed to find something for everyone amongst the books on sale so come along and have a browse. From stocking fillers like our fantastic regional poetry pamphlets, to gripping new fiction like Alexandra Ford’s What Remains at the End and fascinating non-fiction titles like the new Wild Places UK by Iolo Williams. Or for something extra special, why not trust us to do the choosing for you with one of our mystery fiction or poetry bundles?

Already got all your presents? Then come along and top up your 2020 to be read pile or find some fantastic books to fill the blissful amount of reading time you’ll have over the holidays.

We’ll see you there.

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.

 

 

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Jonathan Edwards in India

My Family and Other Superheroes author Jonathan Edwards is behind today’s post after taking part in the ‘Walking Cities’ exchange. Part of the Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations and organised by the British Council, ‘Walking Cities’ pairs up UK and international writers, providing them with the opportunity to tour each other’s home cities through the eyes of their local host.

Earlier this month Tishani Doshi, author of the Mabinogion retelling Fountainville inspired by India’s own mythological landscape, showed Jonathan around Kolkata.

‘Now through your head there speed the words Hold on.’ As those words, the final line of a short poem about Kolkata I’d been working on since arriving in the great city, came out of my mouth, I looked in front of me at my audience. During the past year, I’d read poems at Sheep Festivals and school assemblies, in attics of restaurants and back rooms of pubs, with gangster rappers and Morris dancers, but none of that prepared me for the scene in front of me. I was reading poems to one poet from Swansea and two from India and behind them, a crowd of grinning and pointing residents of Kolkata had gathered. A rickshaw driver had stopped to take me in. Two Indian schoolboys giggled with eachIMG_3182 other. Behind them, the city’s distinctive yellow Ambassador taxis sped past. On the other side of the road, a man sat on the pavement gutting fish for sale, as murky water gurgled past his feet towards the drain. The next stall over was crammed with the most vibrantly coloured flowers I’d seen in my life. This was Kolkata.

The poem I was reading was the culmination of a film I was making with my exchange partners, Joe Dunthorne, Tishani Doshi and Jeet Thayil. Loosely inspired by Richard Linklater’s Slacker, our plan was to shoot, in one take, a series of conversations as we walked down Chitpur Road in north Kolkata. Joe Dunthorne would tell an anecdote about the time a local tried to pick him up by telling him he looIMG_3117ked like Princess Diana. Tishani Doshi would reflect on the quieter spaces of the city, its parks, its rivers. Jeet Thayil would grab hold of unsuspecting locals and shout haiku at them. The relay baton for this series of conversations would be a stool, passed from hand to hand, which would also be the platform from which I would deliver my embryonic poem.

As the content of these coIMG_3167nversations will tell you, Kolkata is a city of incredible variety and vibrancy. It is rich in history: we managed to find in the Park Street Cemetery the tomb of one of Charles Dickens’s sons, which was impressive yet surprisingly ramshackle. We went on a boat on the Hooghly river, fishingboat-bobbing our Welsh and Indian selves and chatting about our shared poetic concerns on a break from the madness of the city. We found a shared love of the sestina and wrote one collaboratively for Dylan Thomas, whose centenary celebrations the trip was part of. And we read together at the Kolkata Book Fair, the tents, stewards and professionalism of which reminded us of Hay-on-Wye, but with roughly, it seemed, a hundred times as many people. It was awesome to read poems like ‘Anatomy’ and ‘View of Valleys High Street through a Café Window’ in that setting.

One thing I struggled wIMG_3179ith during the trip, and continue to do so now I’m back and trying to develop my jottings into full poems, was how to write about this amazing city. Do I have any right to? My writing is so geographically rooted in Wales and in a set of experiences which are my own. How do I write about a completely different culture and way of living? The best I’ve come up with so far is to adapt the sort of descriptive, documentary, writing-in-situ style of a number of poems in my first collection to this completely new subject matter. To paraphrase something Jeet said, if you were simply to fIMG_3180ix a camera to the front of a taxi and record a drive through the streets of Kolkata, you’d have a truly astonishing film. The poems I’m working on out of the experience, including ‘Kolkata Street Scene’ with which I’ll end this blog, and which I read for the film, are attempts to replicate something like that.

Before I finish, though, I just want to take a moment to thank my collaborators – or co-conspirators – on this project. Joe, Tishani and Jeet are amazing writers and people who it was a joy to be with. Discovering the shared ground in our writing and also enjoying our differences, discussing process and the things we’re grappIMG_3172ling with, was an amazing experience. In May we’ll do the whole thing again in Swansea, culminating in an event at the South Bank Centre in London which will also involve Rhian Edwards and a number of other Welsh, Scottish and Indian writers. I’m already looking forward to it. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see the final cut of that film. A boy from Crosskeys standing on a stool in the middle of the street in Kolkata and shouting his loony poem at the colour, the dust, the grins. Yes, yes, grandchildren, I remember. That fella just by there look – that was me.

Kolkata Street Scene

There on the pavement, men in broken-down
patio chairs fiercely discuss
what’s for lunch and a dog has given up
on consciousness. A bus comes tooting at itself
to get out of the way and, in top floor flats, men take up
sniper positions. A flower stall guy names the price
for colour, as a passerby
spits his clear spit onto the street.
Here comes a girl on a motorbike, plaited ponytail
growing from her helmet like a towrope.
Now through your head there speed the words Hold on.