Take away the hands that held me,
the eyes in which I first saw
love, the mouths from which I learned
to speak.

Take away the house I played in,
the bed I slept in, knowing
they were near. Take their footsteps
from the earth.

Take the city and the sky with it,
the streets I walked looking
for them, take the plane from around me
in mid-air.

See how I land with what they gave me.

Hands that are ready to hold,
eyes in which you will see
love, a mouth that is learning
to speak.

by Gregory Leadbetter

(c) Gregory Leadbetter

From See How I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers, ed. Carole Angier, Rachel Buxton, Stephanie Kitchen, and Simon White, with a foreword by Shami Chakrabarti (Heaventree Press, 2009)

We’re delighted to begin the current series of Weekly Poems with a poem from See How I Land: Oxford Poets and Exiled Writers – indeed, with the poem which gives the anthology its title.

See How I Land is a collection which brings together the work resulting from the ‘Oxford Poets & Refugees Project’, an initiative of the Brookes Poetry Centre and Oxfordshire charity Asylum Welcome.

The project paired 14 established poets with 14 exiled writers, refugees, and asylum seekers. Greg Leadbetter was one of the poets involved; he worked with Dheere, who came to the UK from Somalia in 1999.

For more information about the project, and to find out how to purchase a copy of See How I Land, please visit the project webpage.

You can also find links on this webpage to some of the other poetry that came out of the project: Bernard O’Donoghue’s ‘Emigration’, a passage from Yousif Qasmiyeh’s ‘Holes’, and Jean-Louis N’Tadi’s ‘Flight of the Writers’.

The pandanus

hunkered by the beach wall daubed
with the Disney B-list
leached by constant sun – its dusky

loopholes carven of necessity –
overachieves like Caliban,
its trunk a shivalingam

propped, not understood by this
freakishly-enlarged birdcage
of roots with no bird

trapped in it – a listening structure
taps Ariel’s vein with feedback
loops outpacing their own shadows

on the sand, those tiger stripes
crab-strafed with bulletholes
glazed over by high tide.

Aerial roots extrude
their twilight slowly – the Colombo skyline’s
emergent dot dot dot of light

picks out floating green coconuts
arivarl-halved and cursed
with grave-ash, prayer-beads, menses.

Each mist-wall the sea throws up
is capons to the pandanus who knows
the air is crammed with glittering données.

by Vidyan Ravinthiran

from at home or nowhere (2008)

“This poem is about visiting Sri Lanka, where my family’s from, though I was born here in Leeds. There’s a kind of tree there called the pandanus which roots itself in tropical areas, or on the beach, and it’s got aerial roots so it can survive by taking its necessary moisture from the air, not the earth. Those ‘aerial roots’ provided me with a way of talking about my background, or lack thereof, in Sri Lanka. It’s also one of my most helplessly academic poems, and I’m not ashamed of that – with its token allusion to Caliban, its bits and bobs of Shakespeare, an embedded phrase of Marvell’s. I’d like to say I didn’t do all this deliberately – I’ve never wanted to write blatantly self-regarding and ‘difficult’ poetry – but it’s really an expression of who I am, of what I felt as I looked at the tree. To pretend to some kind of more stripped-down authenticity would be false. I didn’t want this poem to be a workshop-type thing, streamlined and unembarrassable.”

Vidyan Ravinthiran was born in Leeds and studies in Oxford where he serves as Poetry Editor of the Oxonian Review. His pamphlet at home or nowhere is published by tall-lighthouse in their pilot series, which is under the editorial guidance of Roddy Lumsden.

tall-lighthouse was founded in 2000. It publishes full collections, pamphlets, chapbooks and anthologies of poetry, and organises poetry readings & events in and around London and South East & South West England, as well as facilitating writing workshops in conjunction with Arts, Education, Library & Community Services.

How to Make a Woman Out of Water

Move to a boathouse by a river –
the walls must be yellow, the windowsills blue.
Sleep downstairs with your head upstream,
wait for a dream of swimming.

When it rains all night and you lie awake
collecting the music of a leak
and reading The Observer’s Book of Water
until you’ve learned that chapter

on whirlpools and waterspouts by heart,
listen to her whisper and giggle
as she scribbles her slippery name
over and over down the glass.

Have a bucketful of oysters in the sink
in case she’s feeling peckish
and a case of Rainwater sherry
chilling in a cave behind the waterfall.

At the bottom of the well
there’s one white pebble –
put it beneath your tongue
until it dissolves into a kiss.

Become so dry she will slip
into the shape of your thirst.
Prepare to be a shiver on her surface.
Taste her arrival on the wind.

by Charles Bennett

from How to Make a Woman Out of Water (2007)

The title poem of Charles Bennett’s new collection, his first since the highly-acclaimed Wintergreen, is full of sensual magic and supple music. It is charged with power and grace, yet lightened by a wry sense of humour. It is lithe and strongly flowing as water itself, and gives a pure pulse of clarity and drive that runs like an undercurrent through the whole collection. Beguilingly simple and approachable, these poems speak with the fluid voice of water. Vivid explorations of water’s depth, linked to the dark release of deep sleep, culminate in the collection’s central sequence: when one of a pair of lovers falls asleep on a beach, the other muses on the seascape, on lives that flourish on the littoral, and the nature of love itself.

Charles Bennett was born in 1954 and was a mature student in the 1980s at London University and the University of Massachusetts, where he was mentored by Joseph Brodsky and Amy Clampitt. He later wrote his doctorate on Seamus Heaney. He has been virtual poet-in-residence for the National Library of the Blind and until recently director of the Ledbury Poetry Festival. He won the North West Poetry Pamphlet competition for The Mermaid Room and his first collection Wintergreen was published by Headland in 2002.

Founded in 1967, Enitharmon Press publishes fine quality literary editions. While specialising in poetry, we also publish fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, and an extensive list of artists’ books.

Two poems


What peace
between the folds
of her old black dress, grimy
from blowing into the fire,
peace always
as long as her head
covered my own
with whitened hair.

 Translated by Richard Burns


The memory is dear to me
like the often too short
meals of my hungry childhood.
From hardened hands yellow flour
into boiling water
while the fire
crackling on the stones
tickled the laughter
from my eyes tearful with smoke.

 Translated by Peter Jay and Linda Lappin

by Aldo Vianello

from Selected Poems by Aldo Vianello. Translations by Richard Burns, Peter Jay, and Linda Lappin.

Aldo Vianello is a little-known poet from Venice, now in his early seventies. He has never been abroad; his work is firmly rooted in the city he has loved all his life. His poems are mostly quite short, so I have given two which are connected as they both reflect his childhood and focus on his mother. The second shows how his mainly straightforward style can be suddenly sharpened by a twist of syntax – here, the omission in line 4 of words to the effect of “she poured”, which quicken and dramatize the image.

Vianello’s first English selection, Time of a Flower, translated by Richard Burns, was Anvil’s first publication in 1968. His new, bilingual Selected Poems, with additional translations by Peter Jay and Linda Lappin, appeared in 2008 as part of Anvil’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.

Webcam Sonnet 4. Now

Film and photograph only show
how it was. You’re seeing how it is,

now, this moment. A moody sunrise
bruising the nimbus above Hammerfest

to a nacreous flush that will never outlast
the next refresh. The very townsfolk

will miss it, unless they chance to look
now, right now. Can you catch his attention,

the man crossing the Torg, head down;
can you make him see one moment of sky

unlike all the others you and he
will walk under today, unlike the moment

passing in Padua, Jaipur, Tashkent,
that you don’t happen to be watching now?

by Sheenagh Pugh

from Long-Haul Travellers, Seren (2008)

Some of the journeys in this collection can be found on maps. But some travellers are journeying from one self to another, like those strange adventurers Murat Reis and Tristan Jones. Some, like Adwaitya the tortoise, have traversed time as well as space. Some travel in dreams. And the longest-haul travellers of all are the dead, like Josephine, whose memory returns to haunt our consciousness and remind us that not all places can be found in the atlas. (Sheenagh Pugh)

Elisions, displacements, journeys, dreams: this new collection of poems by Sheenagh Pugh has a pervasive, elegiac quality. Known for her intriguing narratives, many of these new poems work more by implication than explication. Typical is ‘The Unconversations’ which is a beautiful paean to the shorthand of private references used by a long-married couple. A longer poem, ‘Murat Reis’, chronicles the life of a man who was Dutch, Algerian, Christian, Muslim and many other things according to circumstance and his own whim. History provides vignettes such as ‘Victor’ which mourns the life of a young freed slave in Roman times, via the words and images carved on his gravestone. ‘Webcam Sonnets’ capture the subtle, sometimes poignant, sometimes sad, illusion of intimacy given by webcam contacts.

Sheenagh Pugh is a poet, critic, essayist, lecturer, and author of several works of fiction, non fiction and translation. The winner of many awards, including the Bridport Prize and the Forward Prize, she has published twelve individual collections of poetry, most recently The Movement of Bodies, which was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and also shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize.

Seren is an independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Our diverse and eclectic list has something to offer anyone with an interest in excellent writing. Our aim is not simply to reflect what is going on in the culture in which we publish, but to drive that culture forward, to engage with the world, and to bring Welsh literature, art and politics before a wider audience.

Please visit our website for more information on our authors and titles.