I kept you in bed with me so many nights,
certain I could hold the life into you,
certain that the life in you wanted to leap out, hare-like,
go bobbing off into some night-field.
For want of more eyes, more arms
I strapped you to me while I did the dishes, cooked, typed,
your little legs frogging
against the deflating dune of your first home.
Nested you in a car seat while I showered, dressed,
and when you breastfed for hours and hours
I learned how to manoeuvre the cup and book around you.
Time and friends and attitudes, too.
We moved breakables a height, no glass tables.
Fitted locks to the kitchen cupboards, door jammers,
argued about screws and pills someone left within reach.
I’ll not tell you how my breath left me, how my heart stopped
at your stillness in the cot, and who I became
when at last you moved. There is no telling
what skins of me have dropped and shed in the fears
I’ve entered. What I will say is that the day
beyond these blankets, beyond our door
is known to me now, fragile as moth-scurf,
its long ears twitching, alert,
white tail winking across the night-field.  

by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

The Poetry Centre is collaborating on a one-day symposium for a second time with the University of Reading and the International Poetry Studies Institute (IPSI), based at the University of Canberra. The symposium, entitled ‘Contemporary Lyric: Absent Presences, the Secret & the Unsayable’, will take place on Tuesday 26 June from 9.30-5pm at the Museum of Early Rural Life at the University of Reading. The event is free to attend and all are welcome but places are limited. Find out more and sign up to attend via our website

The Poetry Centre recently launched our 2018 International Poetry Competition! Open until 6 August, the competition has two categories – Open and English as an Additional Language – and this year is judged by the highly-acclaimed poet Kayo Chingonyi. You can find full details and enter here . 

Finally, join Poetry in the Meeting House @ 43 St Giles Oxford on Wednesday 11 July at 7pm to hear American poet Lauren Rusk, who will be reading from and talk about her recent book of poems What Remains To Be Seen. The book is inspired by children’s art from Theresienstadt concentration camp. Everyone is welcome.

‘Hare’ is copyright © Carolyn Jess-Cooke, 2013. It is reprinted from Writing Motherhood (Seren Books, 2017) by permission of  Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

Writing Motherhood features a chorus of voices on the wonders and terrors of motherhood and the myriad ways that a creative life can be ignited and/or disrupted by the pressures of raising children. Thought-provoking essays, interviews and poetry by high-profile writers detail experiences of creating art while engaging in the compelling, exhausting, exhilarating work of motherhood. 

Editor Carolyn Jess-Cooke introduces this important anthology which re-considers ‘the pram in the hallway’ as explosively nuanced. Entries include an insightful interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sharon Olds, excerpts from Hollie McNish’s diary, Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful portrait of being and having a daughter, specially commissioned poems by Sinéad Morrissey, Rebecca Goss, and many others. Crime fiction fans will enjoy C.L. Taylor’s witty essay, ‘How Motherhood Turned Me to Crime’, and Nuala Ellwood’s heart-wrenching depiction of miscarriage and loss. This anthology is a vital exploration of the complexities of contemporary sexual politics, publishing, artistic creation, and twenty-first century parenting. Find out more about the anthology via the Seren website.

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is a poet who has published two collections from Seren, the most recent being Boom. She is also the author of several bestselling novels including the 2017, I Know My Name, which is being made into a television series. You can read more about her work on her 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. 

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There was this baby who thought she was a hand grenade.
She appeared one day in the centre of our marriage
– or at least in the spot where all the elements of our union
       appeared to orbit –
and kept threatening to explode, emitting endless alarm-sounds
       that were difficult to decode.
On the ridge of threat, we had two options.
One was attempt to make it to the bottom
of the crevice slowly, purposively, holding hands. The other
       was see how long we could stand there philosophizing
       that when she finally went off we’d be able to take it.
But then the baby who believed she was a hand grenade
       was joined in number: several more such devices entered our lives.
We held on, expecting each day to be our last. We did not let go.
As you might expect, she blew us to smithereens.
We survived, but in a different state: you became
       organized, I discovered patience, shrapnel soldered the parts of us
       that hadn’t quite fit together before. Sometimes when I speak
it’s your words that come out of my mouth.

by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Two notes from the Poetry Centre: registration is now open for our contemporary poetry conference in London from 13-14 March, to which all are welcome. ‘New Generation to Next Generation 2014’ features academic panels, a poetry reading from Nick Drake and Helen Mort, and discussions about the publishing and reviewing of contemporary poetry. It will be an exciting two days. Full details of the programme are available on the IES website. The conference also includes a free public reading on the evening of 13 March by an illustrious ‘cross-generation’ panel of poets: Ian Duhig, Patience Agbabi, and Hannah Lowe, and you can register for that via the IES.The deadline for submissions to our well-being poetry competition isthis Friday 13 February. It is open to all members of the Brookes community. Find more details on the Poetry Centre website.

‘Boom!’ is copyright © Carolyn Jess-Cooke, 2014. It was published in Boom!, and is reprinted here by permission of Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

Carolyn Jess-Cooke is a poet and novelist from Belfast. She has received numerous awards for her poetry, including an Eric Gregory Award, the Tyrone Guthrie Prize for Poetry, an Arts Council Writer’s Award, prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition and the National Poetry Competition, and she has twice received a Northern Promise Award. Her work has been translated into over twenty languages. She is Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. You can read more about Boom! on Seren’s pages, and more about Carolyn Jess-Cooke from her website. You can also follow Carolyn on Facebook and Twitter.

Writing about Jess-Cooke’s work in New Welsh Review, Georgia Carys Williams has commented that: ‘For any readers who sigh at the very idea of pregnancy writing, these poems are somehow unique, laying motherhood bare, written at the raw moment of pain and ecstasy at each strange and miraculous stage. We can only gain further insight from such vivid descriptions of how this experience affects time, identity and relationships.’

Seren is based in Bridgend, South Wales and was originally conceived in the early 80’s by then Head of English at Brynteg Comp, Cary Archard, on his kitchen table as an offshoot of Poetry Wales magazine. After moving briefly to poet Dannie Abse’s garage in Ogmore by Sea, the advent of Managing Editor Mick Felton has seen the press has go from strength to strength. We’ve published a wide range of titles including fiction (which under Editor Penny Thomas has seen the Booker-nominated novel by Patrick McGuinness, The Last Hundred Days, and an acclaimed novella series based on the medieval Welsh tales from the Mabinogion) and non-fiction (including literary criticism such as John Redmond’s Poetry and Privacy, as well as sumptuous art books like the collaboration between the painter Shani Rhys James and a number of poets and writers: Florilingua). Seren’s poetry list, edited by Amy Wack since the early 90s, has produced T.S. Eliot-nominated titles by Deryn Rees-Jones and Pascale Petit, Costa winner John Haynes, and a large list of Forward prize winners and nominees. Cary Archard remains on our Board of Directors and is a lively and influential presence. We mourn the loss, last year, of the wonderful Dannie Abse, also a guiding spirit. Find out more about the publisher from its 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.