Happy Seventieth Birthday Blues, Mr Zimmerman 

I’m staring into seventy, staring at that old bad news,
Yeah, staring into seventy, staring at the rank bad news.
I’m getting slowly smashed, but it’s not the getting smashed you’d choose.

It’s a wall that’s got no garden shining on the other side,
A wall that’s got no pardon, smiling on the other side –
Just ask any angel who ever crossed that divide.

I heard the devil singing, he was singing to me long ago,
He sang me through the sixties, he sang me years and years ago –
Sang Man, if you’re a woman you just have to grow and grow.
I’m a long-born woman, and it’s the shortest straw.
I’m a long-born woman, smoking my cheroot of straw.
But I’m no damned angel, I was born to be a whole lot more.

I’m looking at the wall. Are you telling me it’s a gate?
I’m looking at a wall, yeah, he’s telling me it’s the gate.
You can find it if you’re blind, baby blue, it’s not too late.

We’re only ever twenty, we’re only ever at the start.
We’re only ever peddling that iconic parabolic start.
And there’s no wall, baby, it’s the shadow of an empty heart.

Go cruising into seventy: seventy’s a broad highway;
Cruise along at seventy, along that broad highway –
You’ll soon be doing eighty, if the angels get out the way.

by Carol Rumens

The latest Poetry Review blog review is now available! Written by Alex Wortley, who recently completed his MA by Research about Seamus Heaney at Brookes, it examines a new collection of poetry by Michelle Cahill. You can read Alex’s review here.

The awards event for the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition takes place on Friday 25 November from 6-8pm. It will feature a reading by the judge, Daljit Nagra, as well as a number of the winning and shortlisted poets. If you would like to attend, please let us know by the end of this week. Simply reply to this e-mail.

‘Happy Seventieth Birthday Blues, Mr Zimmerman’ is copyright © Carol Rumens, 2016. It is reprinted from Animal People (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

Animal People is the new collection by distinguished poet Carol Rumens. Often inspired by and infused with the weathers of various seasons of the year, many poems also feature a strong sense of place, whether it be the dramatic mountain rock-scapes of Snowdonia or the gritty streets of London and Hull. This particular poem has also appeared in the Seren anthology The Captain’s Tower: Seventy Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at 70 edited by Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss and David Wooley. There is a strong sense of commemoration in this collection, of time passing and of the challenges of mortality, and also a number of brilliant pieces that are influenced by translations or re-readings of classic works of literature. The title poem refers to a sequence devoted to themes inspired by autism and what it means to be ‘on the spectrum’. Read more about Animal People on the Seren website.

Carol Rumens was born in South London. She has taught at the University of Kent at Canterbury, Queen’s University Belfast, University College Cork, University of Stockholm, and the University of Hull; she is currently Visiting Professor in Creative Writing at the University of Bangor. The author of sixteen collections of poems, as well as occasional fiction, drama and translation, Rumens has received the Cholmondeley Award and the Prudence Farmer Prize for her poetry, and has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Her work has appeared regularly in publications such as The GuardianThe Observer and Poetry Review, and she currently writes the hugely popular ‘Poem of the Week’ feature for The Guardian. Writing about Rumens’s work in the Times Literary Supplement, Isobel Armstrong described her as ‘a European poet whose imagination goes beyond the confines of Europe, a poet of borders and transit, and of movement across frontiers which makes both the experience of alienation and that of “home” a relative matter.’ Read more about Rumens’ work on her website.

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website.

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