Ymir’s skull 

Scraped clean of its skin, the ice-white skull
of Ymir, first and greatest of the frost giants,
still rinsed in a thin wash of sunset blood,
was shoved and shouldered like blue stone and sarsen;
rigged over the earth like a bone awning.  

This brain-hall filled quickly with bright guests;
the go-cart sun; the hospital-trolley moon
wheeled through on its cast-iron casters;
planets like wandering lute players;
shoals of stars swimming in circles. 

Some, the sources note, evolved to live
further from earth in the thinnest air.
Polaris, the North Star, say the sagas
is furthest of all, as it moves least –
a piece of false but plausible logic  

held like a hand towel over this tall tale
to lend it some shreds of specious sense
perhaps. Or perhaps to counterpoint the truth
that we are as ephemeral as thoughts
bubbling and bursting under a bone sky.

by Ross Cogan

News! The Poetry Centre is delighted to announce three new ignitionpress poets, whose work will be appearing in 2019. They are: Joanna Ingham, Jennifer Lee Tsai, and Sarah Shapiro, and we’re excited to share their poetry with you soon! You can find out more about these three writers on the ignitionpress pages

To coincide with the publication of this week’s poem, our Brookes colleague Brian McMahon (an expert on Old Norse), has written a review of Ross Cogan’s Bragr, and you can read it on our blog.

This is the final Weekly Poem of the year. We wish you a very happy and poetical Christmas and look forward to sharing more poems with you in 2019. Thank you for reading! 

‘Ymir’s Skull’ is copyright © Ross Cogan, 2018. It is reprinted from Bragr (Seren, 2018) by permission of Seren

Notes from Seren:

Ross Cogan studied philosophy, gaining a PhD from Bristol University and, in 1999, received a Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. He has published two collections, Stalin’s Desk (2005) and The Book I Never Wrote (2012) and his verse play Achyncourt was performed at several literary festivals and broadcast on radio. Bragr is the Norse God of Poetry and this book is inspired by readings of Norse myth. Ross now works as a freelance writer/editor, as well as being Creative Director of the Cheltenham Poetry Festival and an Associate Tutor at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Widely published, he has won first place in The Exeter Prize, The Staple Open Poetry Competition, The Frogmore Poetry Prize, The Crabbe Memorial Prize, and The Cannon Poets Sonnet Competition and second prize in the Troubadour International Poetry Competition. Ross takes a keen interest in environmental matters and is semi-self-sufficient, growing most of his own vegetables, raising goats, ducks and chickens, and brewing his own mead.

Whether it’s myth intended to explain the constellations, the secret of eternal life, or the bloodthirsty tale of the mead of poetry, Ross Cogan’s collection Bragr (meaning ‘poetry’ in Old Norse) is a reimagining of Norse mythology for our times. In particular, the collection focuses on environmental concerns. The earth’s incredible beauty seems all the more fragile in the face of habitat loss and global warming. Read more about the book on the Seren website, and read an assessment of the poems in Brian McMahon’s review.

Seren is Wales’ leading independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Many of our books are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across the UK and America. At the heart of our list is a good poem, a story told well, or an idea or history presented interestingly or provocatively. We’re international in authorship and readership, though our roots remain here in Wales, where we prove that writers from a small country with an intricate culture have a worldwide relevance. Amy Wack has been Poetry Editor since the early 90s. 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. Find out more on the Seren website and via Twitter and Facebook.  

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.