Friday Poem – ‘Arcades’, Paul Henry

Our new quartet of regional poetry pamphlets have just arrived, with each celebrating a special place in Wales: its people, landscape, wildlife, and vibrant goings-on. This week our Friday Poem comes from Poems from Cardiff, our tribute to the Capital.

Paul Henry’s ‘Arcades’ inhabits the busy and eclectic Victorian arcades that wind around the city centre, telling a private tale of sadness, love, and hope. The poem was first published in The Brittle Sea, Henry’s bestselling New and Selected Poems.

 

Friday Poem Arcades Paul Henry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All four regional pamphlets, including Poems from Cardiff, are available on the Seren website: £5.00 (each)

 

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Friday Poem – ‘Perspective’, Damian Walford Davies

It’s 1st March – Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus (or Happy St David’s Day) to you! This Welsh holiday has been celebrated since the 12th Century, and honours Wales’ patron saint.

On such a historic holiday it seems fitting to consider Wales’ history, and our Friday Poem does just that – ‘Perspective’, the opening poem from Docklands by Damian Walford Davies, introduces Victorian Cardiff: the chilling and visceral setting of this intriguing ghost-story-in-verse.

Damian Walford Davies Docklands Ghost Story

‘When much new poetry looks no further than the poet’s navel, this kind of imaginative leap is a tonic.’ – The Telegraph

Damian Walford Davies’s compellingly eerie new poetry collection, Docklands: A Ghost Story, introduces us to a Cardiff architect – a man supremely sure of himself – as he is commissioned to transform an area in the busy docks. Docklands explores grey worlds at the edges of the eye, conjuring late-Victorian Cardiff’s hustling, booming, sullied docks – and the horrors they conceal.

 

 

Friday Poem Perspective Damian Walford Davies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Docklands: A Ghost Story is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Telling the bees’, Katherine Stansfield

Friday Poem Telling the Bees Katherine Stansfield

This week our Friday Poem is a new work by Katherine Stansfield, ‘Telling the bees’.

‘Telling the bees’ is a touching memorial to Christian Brown OBE, co-founder of the Seren Cornerstone Poetry Festival. The poem weaves together memories with the imagery of a garden in which ‘everything has bloomed’: a legacy of colour and life, conjured by Christian even after his passing.

Christian was the driving force behind the first Seren Cornerstone Poetry Festival in 2018 and as we approach 2019’s festival we are reminded of his extraordinary energy and vision. Cornerstone’s Poet in Residence, Katherine Stansfield will be opening the festival alongside Kim Moore and Emily Blewitt in the Opening Buffet event: tickets available now. All That Was Wood, a pamphlet of poems written during Katherine’s residency, will be published to coincide with the festival.

 

Katherine Stansfield Telling the bees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All That Was Wood will be available in February 2019 from our website, and at the Seren Cornerstone Poetry Festival (8-10 February 2019).

 

 

Friday Poem – ‘Extremities’, Claire Williamson

Tonight Claire Williamson will be reading alongside fellow Seren poets Elizabeth Parker and Ross Cogan, and three Parthian poets, for Cardiff Book Festival’s Friday Night Poetry Party. In anticipation, our Friday Poem is ‘Extremities’ from Claire’s recently published collection, Visiting the Minotaur.

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

In Visiting the Minotaur, Williamson’s 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.  She borrows from myths, histories, careful observations of nature, of city life, in order to fashion her artful meditations on experience and mortality.

 

Claire Williamson Friday Poem Extremities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the Minotaur is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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

 

 

An interview with Cardiff author & legend, Peter Finch

Interview Cardiff Peter Finch

The Eisteddfod will soon be in full swing in Cardiff’s beautiful Bay area. We can’t wait to welcome you to Wales’ capital city – and to introduce you to our resident Cardiff expert, Peter Finch, who will be signing copies of his new book on the Welsh Books Council stand (84) on Wednesday 8 August, 1:00pm.

As you prepare for the marvellous week ahead, we thought you might enjoy learning a little more about the Welsh capital – so here is our interview with Peter Finch, who – as ever – is full of fascinating insight into his home city.

Peter Finch

Peter, you have been writing about Cardiff for quite some time now, with the first ‘Real Cardiff’ book having appeared in 2004. What do you perceive as the most radical change Cardiff has undergone in the last decade?
Changes to Cardiff seem to work in twenty year cycles rather than decades.  We didn’t have the Bay nor the Barrage, the Millennium Centre not the Senedd in 1980 but by 2000 we did.  In 2000 and other than right on campus there was barely a purpose-built student let available anywhere in the city.  Today they are everywhere, gargantuan, gleaming, glowing, growing, rocketing up in every district from right next door to the old Gaiety Cinema on City Road to the city’s highest of new high rises, the Bridge Street Exchange, at the bottom of Charles Street.  In the pipeline are plans for more.  Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) erected against a background of weak planning control and easy to manage building regulation they are the cash cows of property developers everywhere.   Put them up and then apply for change of use.  The cityscape will never be the same again.  In 2000 we had a green belt running right round the city.  Today that belt has shifted to become instead a green wedge, a green splash, a green smear.  In its place are the city’s new districts.  Plas Dwr, Churchlands and all the others. Cardiff expands. And expands. And expands.

The ‘culinary odyssey of City Road’ is marvellously well documented in Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City. For hungry Eisteddfod-goers, where would you recommend trying first?
.CN, the internet suffix for China, is the name of the city’s best Chinese eatery by far.  Here you can get top end Sichuan king prawn in chilli and pepper sauce, healthy option Kung Po chicken, and north east China salad in a style you’ll find hard to beat anywhere else in the city.  Failing that and for kebab fans Al Wali’s Omani Restaurant half way down and hiding behind a bus stop is pretty decent.  For Omani read Persian or Iranian or Egyptian, or Middle Eastern.  City Road is a feast from one end to the other offering meals at price points everyone can reach.

If you could be transported to any period of Cardiff’s history, which would you choose?
I think I’d want to see the heroic period of Cardiff’s industrial expansion in action first hand.  That would mean arriving in 1861 at the Royal Arcade and finding the very first Cardiff Free Library on the first floor.  Out the back they’d have a time machine, naturally, so having got here I could then get back.  I’d use it to slide back a further few years to 1849 to see Brunel move the Taff in order to build Cardiff General Rail Station for his South Wales broad gauge railway.  I’d spot a few numbers and then rush forward to 1886 to visit the brand new Coal Exchange, have a drink in the just opened Grand Hotel on the new Westgate Street, buy some cockles at the brand new indoor market and finally climb up the shiny new statue of John Bachelor to top his head with a road mender’s lamp, traffic cones not yet having been invented.   This was the period that made Cardiff, when the population boomed and when modern invention and business innovation flooded the place.  That flourishing must have been simply thrilling to watch.

Psychogeography is a particularly inventive way of mapping a place – how did you first become interested in it?
The Situationists who flourished between the fifties and the seventies were international social revolutionaries and avant garde artists.  I was running the journal second aeon at the time, a Welsh-based home for a world of avant garde poetry, so naturally I took note.  These people interested me.  They were an onward growth of the Dadaists and the Surrealists and seemed to me to be right at the cutting edge.  One of their members was Guy Debord ­– the man who invented psychogeography, the exploration of mainly urban environments for what they were rather than where they led.  The sense of place became more important than the place itself.  Why not view a city as an entity rather than a destination?  This was something I needed to try for myself.

Peter Finch Real Cardiff Flourishing CityWhat did you find most challenging in your process of writing Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City?
In writing these books you don’t sit about waiting for inspiration to strike, no hoping for those rays of Blakean stuff to come pouring down through the air and infest your work.  None of that.  This is work..  I need to immerse myself in my subject. Research it, walk through it, think about, talk about, listen to it, feel it.  I make notes.  Constantly.  I record things on the camera, take snaps, use the phone.  I check out the maps.  I check out the old ones and then the new ones.  I check  just how the used to spell the name of the place I am interested in.  Why was Rumney called Rompney? Why was Cardiff called Kairdiv?

I accumulate what I need to say and then find a way of starting out and saying it.  The starting is so important.  Get that right and the rest will flow. I work hard walking and thinking, note book always with me, and into it I make notes of how my start might go.  The walking helps the flow.  I ignore passers-by, I ignore interrupters, I am working so this poor and rude behaviour is entirely reasonable.

It’s also true that you then need to check and then check again.  I reread and redraft.  I get help from others to check too and I listen to what they say.  I recheck my spellings.  I look at what others have said and I try not to repeat them.  I acknowledge them if I do.

What’s the most challenging?  Transcribing interviews.  Getting that right.  And remembering to ask the right questions in the first place.  I always double check with my interviewees.  I let the subject see what I intend including and ask them if they are happy.  If they aren’t or I’ve got it wrong somehow then I put it right.

And finally, in the closing pages of The Flourishing City, you wonder about Cardiff ‘how it could be’, and tell us, ‘Cities are never finished’. Is it also true, then, that you’ll never be finished exploring this city of yours?
I think that once a city gets above a certain size there will always be new things to discover about it.  Not only is Cardiff big enough to keep me permanently involved but it is also changing constantly, often at a bewildering rate.  No matter which part of it I find myself in there are always new things to look at, new roads to walk down, new paths to follow and new routes to create.  Tracking the lost can be just as thrilling as delighting in the newly discovered.  The moment I finish a volume of Real Cardiff something new or different or previously unseen appears.  Buildings get built.  Buildings get torn down.  Populations flourish.  Roads and walkways bend and turn offering new and different vistas.  This capital of ours is a great Welsh place, far more involving than most people think. Try it. Just arrive and open your eyes. Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City will give you a few hints.

 

Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City is available from the Seren website: £9.99

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Friday Poem – ‘Return to Cardiff’, Dannie Abse

Dannie Abse Return to Cardiff

The National Eisteddfod is coming to Cardiff, and with just a few hours to go, we couldn’t think of a better Friday Poem to feature than Dannie Abse’s ‘Return to Cardiff’.

Wales, and Cardiff in particular, haunted the imagination of the great Dannie Abse. In Welsh Retrospective he writes movingly about the Cardiff of his childhood, home of his beloved Bluebirds football team, and also about the small village of Ogmore-by-Sea, location of early holidays and for many years his home in Wales. Selected from the whole of Dannie Abse’s writing career, the book includes such well known and well-loved poems as ’In the Theatre’ and our featured poem today, ’Return to Cardiff’, alongside many previously uncollected poems. Welsh Retrospective gives fascinating insights into Dannie Abse’s Wales and his versatility as a poet.

 

Friday Poem Return to Cardiff Dannie Abse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to Dannie Abse performing this remarkable poem at Seren’s First Thursday event, December 2009:

 

Welsh Retrospective is available from the Seren website: £8.99

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

 

An extract from Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City, by Peter Finch

Real Cardiff Peter Finch extract

Though certain parts may be seeing rain this weekend, the warm weather continues – and what better time than summer to explore all the UK has to offer?

Peter Finch Real Cardiff Flourishing CityOur Real Series – a collection of intimate and entertaining guide books written by local writers – offers an insider’s view of the places it celebrates. The most recent addition to the series is Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City by Cardiff author and legend Peter Finch. So whether you’re an armchair traveller, or someone looking forward to a trip to the Welsh Capital sometime soon, we hope you enjoy this glimpse into the history of Cardiff – specifically, the area in which famous children’s author Roald Dahl grew up.

The whole of the Real Series – and all our other Seren books – are 50% off until midnight, Sunday 29 July, on the Seren website.

 

ROALD DAHL’S CARDIFF NORTH LEY

I catch the train at Cardiff Central. This is the City Line which began in the city’s north east and now, after looping in a great U through the city’s heart is about to head north again. I’m in the two-car Sprinter and I’m standing. Every single seat is occupied by pupils from Bishop of Llandaff High School. Kids, bags, blazers, headphones, chewing.
The windows stream as the train steams. Around us is railway land, an industrial cityscape full of rail sheds, engine bays, carriage washeries, repair shops and assembled new track in stacks like a giant train set. This south west of the city on view from the tracks is the capital with its guard down. Backs of mosques, tottering streets, unkempt gardens, the yards of Brains brewery, warehouses stacked with building materials, and even more open and right now empty rail beds. It reminds me of London, how the land looks as you reach Paddington or Waterloo.
But it doesn’t last. After the carriages have disgorged a hundred uniformed school kids at Fairwater, the cuttings emerge, wooded banks and scrub masking the housing above. It’s leafy suburbia giving an impression of empty countryside. A green west Cardiff, a place that doesn’t change.
It’s freezing. This is January. The train has reached Radyr where it will rest a while before returning the way it came. I’m off, up the footbridge steps, plastered thickly with Network Rail road salt. No one but no one will slip and sue here. In a previous, smaller, steam-filled incarnation, the Radyr train would have served Roald Dahl’s father, Harald, who did a daily commute in to what was then called Bute Road Station. His ghost is there on the platform now, eye glasses, three-piece suit, white starched collar. He looks like a disapproving headmaster. His railway season ticket was found inside his expensive leather wallet when he died in 1920. That was on April the 11th. The ticket was valid until the 23rd.
Like most in Cardiff at this time Harald’s business was coal. With his partner Ludvig Aadnesen he had established a business as a colliery agent and provider of all that ships docking in the world’s leading coal port would need. Provisions, ropes, oil for their lamps, food. The profits flowed.
In 1917 Harald had bought Tŷ Mynydd (Mountain House), set on rising ground a mile north of the Radyr rail station. As befits the successful businessman Harald was, here was life on a grand scale. 150 acres of land, outbuildings, cottages, a piggery, lawns, formal flower borders, terraces, its own electricity generator and an enormous Victorian house.
In photographs it looks like part of Hogwarts. It had multiple chimney stacks, mock Tudor gables, a tiled roof larger than most churches’ and greenhouses to the side to rival those of Dyffryn House, to the west of Cardiff. This is the place Roald, the great author, remembers with nostalgia, recalling the fields full of shire horses and dairy cows. There are photographs of him as a four-year-old out on the lawns and terraces, in the fields among the sheaves of corn, sitting on the wall of the piggery and of the house itself, which is resplendently decorated with both the Union Jack and the Norwegian Flag. No Welsh dragon in sight.
Like Cefn Onn, Tŷ Mynydd also had railway connections. The house had been built in 1883 by George Fisher, Director of the Taff Vale Railway. When he died in 1891 the property passed to his son, H. Oakden Fisher, Chair of both the TVR and the Cardiff Gaslight and Coke Company Ltd, although his real interest lay with the military. He was Lieutenant Colonel of the Glamorgan Volunteer Artillery. Harald bought the estate in 1918. When he died in 1920, his second wife, Sofie Magdalene, moved to smaller premises back in Llandaff. Tŷ Mynydd then became the property of the architect Sir Beddoe Rees, MP and for a brief time in the 1930s was turned into St Maur’s College, a small private boarding school for girls.
In 1967 the house and most if its outbuildings were demolished. This was the first full-blooded rush at clearance following the war. Cardiff was expanding. Property developers had no interest in the preservation of inefficient, draughty piles such as Tŷ Mynydd. On its lands a whole housing estate could be build. It had to come down.
I take the road up out of the station’s gully. Already the old shunting yards and waste ground lining the river have been populated with high density brick town housing. There’s little public space. Most structures are distinct from each other, laid at angles as if thrown there like dice. Room for breath is restricted and corners are rounded. Access is on turning roads named after De Clare, Norman Lord of the City, Aradur Hen, an ancient local croft that gave us the name Radyr, and Goetre Fawr, the farm that once worked these lands. Behind the aptly named Junction Terrace is a field replete with three grazing llamas, tall-necked beasts which, despite the ll of their name, are about as common in Wales as kangaroos. Food To Go which has signs offering coffee and warmth is closed. I head up along rising Heol Isaf in the direction of the Village of Fire.
In 1841 the ten cottages of Pentre Poeth (Warm Village) were all that existed of what is now Morganstown, upper Radyr – that part of Cardiff north of the M4’s périphérique grip. This is where the workforce of the developing fire-filled ironworks at Pentyrch lived, an element of Cardiff’s lost industrial heritage. Heol Isaf was and still is the main road to Tŷ Mynydd. It’s no distance to cover. In my ears I’ve got Emmylou playing through the buds. 1970s country, when what she sang was the edge. Alabama down home. Dahl wouldn’t have stood for this. He preferred Beethoven.
The Tŷ Mynydd estate has been built on; the fields are gone. The line of the original entrance path running up from Tŷ Mynydd Lodge has been preserved in the rising bends of MaesYr Awel. The detached late-sixties houses along it turn eventually to a U-shaped cluster of apartment blocks. Cwrt Tŷ Mynydd is the appropriately named first; after that the developer gave up and resorted to names with a strong English resonance – Norfolk Court, York Court, Windsor. It’s a marketing thing. Here, near the eastern edge of Wales, where the language thins, the Anglo norm dominates.
Beyond the apartment courts, circled like a residential wagon train, there’s a copse, ancient pine trees, all that remains of what once was here. For the Dahls of the nineteen teens this would all now be virtually unrecognisable. A local walking his young daughter to the primary school at the former estate’s southern end tells me, yes, he knows about Dahl and the great house. He points me back towards the still extant Tŷ Mynydd Lodge which faces Heol Isaf. And there it is, the gatehouse preserved, doing time now as an up-market B&B. The Llandaff Society have installed a celebratory plaque above the front door. Over the years since Roald would have known it the building has been much extended. But there’s enough original left for the Dahlian spirit to soar. I can see him outside, short pants, laced leather shoes, hat, overcoat with enormous buttons. Mama holding his hand.

 

Real Cardiff: The Flourishing City is currently half price on the Seren website: £9.99 £4.99

Thinking of visiting cities elsewhere in the UK? Find the perfect insider’s guidebook to enrich your trip:

Poet Ian Spring overlays the current map of Glasgow with the map of his memory and experience.
‘Bard of Barnsley’ Ian McMillan delves into the past of the area of South Yorkshire in which he was born and still lives.
Poet Chris McCabe looks at the art, attractions and ‘oozy’ docklands history of this slice of London.
Novelist Clare Dudman explores her richly historic city as you won’t find it in other guidebooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


See the full list of Real books on the Seren website: all half price until midnight, Sunday 29 July!

Beat the Blues Salad recipe – National Vegetarian Week

National Vegetarian Week Beat the Blues Salad recipe

National Vegetarian Week 2018 runs from 14-20 May and is the perfect excuse to indulge in exciting and colourful veggie fare – so out with blandness and in with this scrumptious salad!

Sarah Philpott’s Beat the Blues Salad brings together smoky marinated tofu, beetroot, orange and salty black olives in a celebration of all things plant-based. You will need to press and marinate the tofu so we suggest doing this in the morning before you head to work – or even the night before (it takes a little time but it’s oh so worth it).

Beat the Blues Salad

Ingredients

For the salad
– 1 x 400g block firm tofu
– 2 bags of lettuce or spinach– 1 cucumber, diced
– 2-3 large beetroots, peeled and sliced (or use the vacuum-packed kind)
– 3 tsp capers, drained
– 1 330g jar pitted black olives
– 2 oranges, divided into segments
– 1 tbsp sesame oil
– Flat-leaf parsley (optional)
– Pomegranate seeds (optional)

For the marinade
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp sea salt
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
Take the tofu and use kitchen roll or a clean tea towel to blot and absorb all its water. Take a heavy wooden chopping board or a hardback book and place it on top of the wrapped tofu. This will press down on it and absorb excess moisture. Leave for 30 minutes or more then slice into medium-sized strips.

Make the marinade by mixing together all the ingredients. Pour into the base of a large dish and place the slices of tofu into it, making sure to turn them so that both sides are covered in the marinade. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the tofu slices for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown, turning occasionally – you may need to do this in two batches. Remove from the pan and set aside while you make the salad. Simply combine all the ingredients in a large bowl then drizzle with a little sesame oil. Divide into bowls and serve with the smoked tofu. Garnish with the parsley and pomegranate seeds.

The Occasional Vegan Sarah Philpott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Occasional Vegan is available from the Seren website: £12.99

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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.’

LaikaPoem

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

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

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

Join our free Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.