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.

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.

The Tadpole Goddess

My Lethe, motionless between green thickets
Where flags prick up their rust-stained saffron ears,
You hear no splash of oars, no dust-up of lost souls
Except for dragon-flies a-spin, and tadpoles
That hang like little mud-bubbles, expecting
Their childhood gloom to lift, and life bounce up in them.
Your spirit’s airless, Lethe; boot-top-deep,
You’re less ditch than a mouthful of saliva
Drained by a dental tube. So why this leaning
To breathe into your film of suspect glitters,
And leave my slutty kiss? The final flutter on
Posterity? Perhaps a faster current
Washes the tubers, where my hair would tangle
And pass, and finally drag me to pure water.
I’d travel free of earth, rapid and weightless
And miles out of my depth, my shadow flinging
north and north, my coughed-up lungs your rattles
To play with till their fragments swam like tadpoles.
I’d find my cold Elysium, and to keep.

by Carol Rumens

‘The Tadpole Goddess’ is copyright © Carol Rumens, 2010. It is reprinted from De Chirico’s Threads, published by Seren Books, 2010.

A poet, novelist, translator, and editor, Carol Rumens was born in South London in 1944. She started writing at school and went on to study (and drop out from) a philosophy degree at London University. She has won many awards for her writing and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Rumens’s latest collection, De Chirico’s Threads, features a play-for-voices about the life of the painter Giorgio de Chirico, as well as a number of occasional poems, such as ‘The Tadpole Goddess’. You can read a number of other poems from the new collection at the link to the book above. In addition to her own work, Carol Rumens selects and comments upon another poet’s writing each week in her blog on the Guardian website here. She also maintains a website here.

Seren is based in Wales (‘Seren’ means ‘star’ in Welsh) and recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Begun as an offshoot of the magazine Poetry Wales by Cary Archard and Dannie Abse in the latter’s garage in Ogmore-by-Sea, the press has now grown and employs a number of staff. It is known for publishing prize-winning poetry, including collections by recent Forward winners, Hilary Menos and Kathryn Simmonds, as well as books by Owen Sheers, Pascale Petit, Deryn Rees-Jones, and many others. The fiction list features a new title by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, that was longlisted for the Booker Prize. The high-quality arts books include the recent collaboration between the poet John Fuller and the photographer David Hurn, Writing the Picture. For more details about Seren, visit the publisher’s new website, where there is a blog about Seren’s news and events. You can also find Seren on Facebook and on Twitter: @SerenBooks.

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.