The C Word

catches in the throat; the first syllable
on its own, enabling, following by a hissing snake,
rattletail bringing up the rear.

It trumpets its presence in the glare of the ward,
sneaks into glossy brochures, flashes its statistics
(the odds are against me), looks like carer but isn’t.

Not to be confused with the other c word
that cuts at both ends, detonated in hate
murmured in love – how can it be both?

And how can I contain them, sites of birth
and death? I should know how to speak
of what’s inside me. To be blunt. 

by Tamar Yoseloff

Watch Tamar read this poem (and others from her new collection) on Seren’s YouTube channel, and then come to Waterstones Oxford this evening to see her read from her work in person! Tamar will be reading alongside Carmen Bugan, whose work we featured last week. Join us at 6.30pm in Waterstones Oxford (free tickets here).

On Wednesday we are hosting an open mic and small exhibition on the topic of mental health. All are welcome! We start at 7pm in JHB 203 (John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus, Oxford Brookes), and there will be free cake! Sign up to attend here.

You can find details of our other upcoming events, including free creative workshops in fiction and non-fiction, our International Poetry Competition Awards Evening with Jackie Kay, and a reading from Doyali Islam and Mariah Whelan here.

‘The C Word’ is copyright © Tamar Yoseloff, 2019. It is reprinted from The Black Place (Seren, 2019) by permission of Seren

Notes from Seren:

The Black Place is a dark and gorgeously multi-faceted artwork, like a black diamond. Tamar Yoseloff eshews the sentimental, embraces alternatives, offers antidotes to cheery capitalist hype. But there is a sort of dark grandeur to her view of mortality, one that matches the sublime desert painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, the subject of the title poem. The central sequence in this collection, ‘Cuts’, is a characteristically tough look at the poet’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. The diagnosis arrives at the same time as the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, a public trauma overshadowing a private one. These poems focus on the strangeness of the illness, and of our times – they refuse to offer panaceas or consolations. Read more about the book on Seren’s website.

Tamar Yoseloff was born in the US and moved to the UK in 1987. She has published five full collections; her debut book, Sweetheart, won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize and was a PBS Commendation. She published a collection of new and selected poems in 2015 with Seren Books called A Formula for Night. She is also the author of Formerly (the inaugural chapbook from her publishing venture, Hercules Editions), incorporating photographs by Vici MacDonald and shortlisted for the 2012 Ted Hughes Award; two collaborative editions with the artist Linda Karshan and Nowheres, a privately-produced book with the artist Charlotte Harker in 2015. Tamar has also run site-specific writing courses for many galleries across the UK and taught for numerous London-based writing organizations. She is currently a visiting guest lecturer at Newcastle University on the Newcastle/Poetry School MA course in Writing Poetry and the Chair of the Poetry and Spoken Word Group of the Society of Authors. Find out more about Tamar’s work on her own website.

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.