Grunting Up

Who would have thought that these great slab-sided beasts
who fall to their knees and slump belly up,

would sing this rhythmic, grunting lullaby? 

Weight drops from back and loins but
swollen, undulating glands seem added on,
like a full frill at the bottom of a skirt.

The piglets rush to their particular nipple
and plug on, tongues curling, eyes closed,
chubby fingers, lined up, reaching.

And then she begins. This low throbbing,
this song to the milk flow,
this crooning hymn.

by Ilse Pedler

The Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Competition, judged this year by award-winning poet Helen Mort, is open for entries for just one more month! Poems are welcomed from writers of 18 years or over in the following two categories: English as an Additional Language and Open category. First Prize in both categories is £1000, with £200 for Second. The competition is open for submissions until 11pm GMT on 28 August 2017. Visit our website for more details, and please feel free to share news of the competition with friends and colleagues.

‘Grunting Up’ is copyright © Ilse Pedler, 2016, and reprinted by permission of Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

N.B. Grunting up is the name given to the noise a sow makes when her piglets are sucking.

Her life as a busy vet inspires the poet Ilse Pedler in her debut poetry pamphlet, the winner of the prestigious Mslexia pamphlet competition in 2015, The Dogs that Chase Bicycle Wheels. The author uses both free verse and traditional forms like the sonnet and sestina to delve into days that can include dramatic situations with animals, both farm and domesticated species, and their human carers. A secondary theme runs throughout the collection, exemplified by the poem ‘Suturing Secrets’ – the secrets we keep as spouses or parents or from those we are close to. You can read more about the pamphlet on the Seren website.

Ilse Pedler was born in Derby in 1963 and grew up in Birmingham. A Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, she works as a vet in Saffron Walden. She has a son, stepson and a number of small and medium-sized animals. Her poems have been published in Poetry News, Orbis, The North and other journals. Writing about this collection, Helen Ivory has commented: ‘These poems point to the equality of mammals; the locked cabinets of our bodies, how a neat incision, a skilled turn of the wrist can reveal the hearts of dogs and humans alike. There is tenderness here, and a sense of wonder at the world, that scientists and artists share. This is a striking and sure-footed debut.’

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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