Waterfalls of Stars

Rosanne Alexander
When Rosanne Alexander’s boyfriend Mike was offered the job of warden of Skomer, a small uninhabited island off the south west tip of Wales, 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. This was the first of many challenges Rosanne and Mike faced during their ten years on the nature reserve, from coping with periods of isolation when they were the island’s only inhabitants, to dwindling food supplies during the winter when rough weather made provisioning from the mainland impossible. Thrown on their own resources they had also to deal with catastrophes like the devastation of the island’s seal colony following an oil spill.With great sensitivity, and humour, Rosanne Alexander relates their experiences on Skomer, including her observations of the island’s wildlife and landscape. It is an important breeding ground for many birds, and shearwaters, puffins and kittiwakes – and the seals – become a source of pleasure and companionship. With her lyrical evocation of the natural world and its enthusiastic and resourceful approach to the problems of island life, Alexander’s book will inspire and entertains anyone who has felt the need for escape. 
£12.99

Brood

Rhian Edwards
Brood is the new pamphlet from poet Rhian Edwards. Winner of all three categories of Wales Book of the Year in 2013 for her debut poetry collection, Clueless Dogs, Bridgend-born and based Edwards is known for her dazzling performance style and her vivid, often acutely personal poems.The new pamphlet opens with ‘Birds of Rhiannon’ introducing us (via a nod to the famous medieval Mabinogion story where magic birds, said to bring people back from the dead, console the heartbroken Celtic princess Rhiannon) to a darkly resonant tone that echoes from the myth:Before I was mortal, I was haloedin feathers, my trinity of familiars;whose birdsong was legend, serenadingthe dead from their dreams,lullabying the living to torpor…The centre of this new pamphlet is a ten-part poem, ‘Pied Margot’ based on the mnemonic rhyme for groups of magpies ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy…’. This long poem charts the progression of a troubling relationship from infatuation to disillusionment, alongside the birth of a much-loved daughter.There are unflinching descriptions of arduous pregnancy, as well as miscarriage, that remind us that this stage of a woman’s life can be as risky as a battlefield. Also, any parent will recognise the irritated joy of ‘Kiss’ where a child becomes an expert at ‘delaying the damnation of bedtime.’Meanwhile, birds are at all times present: hovering, chattering, casting their shadows, they are both tricksters and familiars in these hypnotic, spell-like poems. Welsh artist Paul Edwards has provided some beautiful charcoal drawings of magpies inspired by this atmospheric sequence, which feature throughout the pamphlet.Other poems feature Gulls, Red Kites and ‘The Universal Doodle’ of a murmuration cloud of starlings. This pamphlet Brood is an apt follow-up to Clueless Dogs and leaves us eager for the poet’s next full collection. 
£6.00

Translating Mountains

Yvonne Reddick
Translating Mountains is the Mslexia prize-winning pamphlet from Yvonne Reddick. The poems are multi-layered compositions. They tell of grief for a beloved father as well as a close friend, who both died in mountain-climbing accidents. The author’s own love of mountaineering comes through with her vividly described sections of action: grappling with tie-lines, slopes and ravines, of aspiring to glorious heights while coping with treacherous and changeable weathers.These poems are also hymns to stunning landscapes, with mountains and place names often in a craggy, atmospheric Gaelic. Full of tension, emotion and action, this writing grips our attention. The author searches for ways to grieve and come to terms with the trauma of her father’s death. She can understand his love of the sport, as she shares this. But bravado and needless risk-taking also rankle with the telling and her devastation is deepened with the death of her friend in the High Andes, perhaps even more tragic as this person was only twenty-two.The author’s background as an exponent and practitioner of ‘eco-poetry’ gives us a further dimension: we are always aware of the wild landscapes under threat from human action. The mountaineer’s love of risk has its parallels with the perilous risks we are taking with the natural world. Translating Mountains introduces us to a striking new voice in British poetry, with a distinctive Scottish focus.
£5.00

Basic Nest Architecture

Polly Atkin
PRE-ORDER NOW – PUBLISHING 27 FEBRUARY Basic Nest Architecture, Polly Atkin’s first collection of poetry, marks a startling new talent. Known for a couple of prize-winning pamphlets, including her Seren/Mslexia prize-winning Shadow Dispatches, and her Michael Marks nominated Bone Song, and widely shortlisted for competitions, Atkin has already built up a loyal readership for her complex, intelligent, densely metaphorical lyrics, often inspired by the beauties of the Lake District where she has made her home for a decade. The book is divided into three sections: the first contains poems quite directly inspired by the author’s move from London to the Lakes. In the beautifully bee-haunted (And Troubadour prize-winning) ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ the protagonist says “To leave the City was to leave one’s memory./Outside was a garden gone wild.” The poems begin to discover and enact the spells cast by nature, landscapes and animals become charged with tension as in ‘Heron/Snow’ where the bird carries “worlds in the cipher of your feathers.” Later, one of the lakes appears like “a blue-green iris of one great eye”. The author’s imaginative grasp excludes cliché, and she expertly grapples with her own animal obsessions as in the lively ‘Road-Kill’.Most of section two moves back in time and uncovers earlier locations and subjects. It is clear that the celestial heavens, weathers and things seen from city windows inspired the poet earlier in her development. But there is a distinct sense of claustrophobia in some of the poems like ‘Dreams’: “You are sick to death of my dreams./I drag them out, one after the other.” The wonderful ‘Strength in Winter’ is a parade of glorious detail concerning the Constellation Leo in all its manifestations, it is a full-bodied fantasy to console the protagonist for the gloom of the season.  The final section contains more painful work, literally and figuratively. These poems are hints from the autobiography of the poet who suffered for many years from a mysterious and debilitating illness. The poem ‘Begin’ recalls a sixteen-year old, purloining doctor’s letters from her mother’s handbag so she could try to secretly decipher them, as if it is almost a game: “then you play medical snap with the encyclopedia, trying to match up your blood with its names.” Other poems are less literal, but use these experiences to reach-out towards a wider metaphor, such as in ‘Imaging’ where an MRI inspires musing on other dimensions “I met its whirling motion in the dark”.The remarkable poems in Basic Nest Architecture are a testament to the persistence and artistry of Polly Atkin. As well as being profoundly personal, they reach out to the modern world in all it’s complexity and diversity.
£9.99

Heat Signature

Siobhán Campbell
PRE-ORDER NOW – PUBLISHING 23 FEBRUARY  There is a beautiful ruthlessness to the poetry of Siobhán Campbell. Her new collection, Heat Signature, from Seren, is composed in her characteristically 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. Likewise her ‘nature’ poems observe a natural world either compromised by human interference, or on the brink where nature is about to take its revenge. While these are poems of moral tension, of provocation, they also artful: full of marvelously terse textures, of clashing consonants, subtle rhymes and insistent rhythms.   Such is the concision and compression of the verse, that individual lines can read as aphorisms such as this couplet from ‘Photos of the Islanders’:There’s a welcome stapled to their tongueand they count your leavings when you’re goneThough such lines are only one part of the tool kit. Campbell can conjure beautiful circular rhythms as in ‘The Latest’ (a pantoum) where the repeated lines chime and mimic the insistent repetitions of news stories that now appear and echo from multiple sources: newspapers, radio and TV and across social media outlets. She pinpoints our confusion at the plethora of information and highlights our complicity in how we receive and respond to facts.The natural world, in these poems, is often full of portents and warnings. The nearest we get to consolation and/or rapture is the mysterious, unearthly vision of a cornfield in ‘Fodder’ or in ‘Piebald’ where a scruffy horse is “tethered on the edge of new dual carriageways…” and can represent a dream of freedom, of exhilaration, of a ‘world we lost before we named it.”Most often, as in ‘Republica dolorosa’ and ‘The Longing of the Bees’ the incipient violence of the swarm is detected, a force that seems unamenable to censure or even warning. ‘Ravens’ “…colonise like something moral to be despised’. Cows are given their due as bovine-lazy and sometimes comical creatures, but the author also retains their animal strangeness, “…they hold time in their four stomachs, chewing it down…”.  The prize-winning ‘Framed’ is based on an all-too-likely anecdote concerning a character called ‘Dinny of the unborn twin’ because of a growth in his neck, and manages to be about small-town (or island) prejudice, the ‘rights of the unborn’ and the jovial harassment of a local priest. The blend of dark comedy, tragedy and politics is entirely typical of Campbell’s complex, thoughtful and profoundly entertaining poetry.
£9.99

Writing Motherhood

Carolyn Jess-Cooke
PRE-ORDER NOW – PUBLISHING 09 MARCH  ‘This is a truly inspiring collection, all the more so for its wit and its grit, its poetry and its honesty; here we have women producing ‘good art’ despite – and often  because of – ‘the pram in the hall.’ – Shelley Day‘Essential reading for anyone who is a mother, or who had a mother, and is interested in how motherhood and creativity intertwine. Packed with top quality writing that serves to remind us that far from being marginal, the challenges of motherhood are central to the human condition and the dual creative role of writer and mother is both conflicting and super-charging.’ – Helen Cadbury, author of the Sean Denton series of crime novels. Debates and debacles surrounding the issue of motherhood have hounded women’s writing for decades, and despite advances in feminism, equality, maternity leave and childcare, we are still asking female writers with children how they find time to write.Through a unique combination of interviews, poems, and essays by established writers, Writing Motherhood interrogates contemporary representations of motherhood in media and literature, queries why so many novels dealing with serious women’s issues are packaged in pink covers with wellies and tea cups, and portrays the exquisite moments of motherhood as often enriching artistic practice rather than hindering it.Entries include an insightful interview with Pulitzer prize-winning poet Sharon Olds, excerpts from Hollie McNish’s motherhood diary, Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful portrait of being and having a daughter, and specially commissioned poems by Sinead Morrissey, Rebecca Goss, and many others. Crime fiction fans will enjoy CL Taylor’s witty essay, ‘How Motherhood Turned Me to Crime’, and Nuala Ellwood’s heart-wrenching depiction of miscarriage and loss. By engaging with both the creation of literature by mothers and literary representations of motherhood, Writing Motherhood is a vital exploration of the complexities of contemporary sexual politics, publishing, artistic creation, and 21st Century parenting.
£12.99