When I lived alone

When I lived alone I was clean. Good.
I drank jasmine tea in the afternoons
working by lamplight in the gloom. At night
I read by candlelight. Drank Rooibos. Played
piano to the guitar, guitar to the piano.
Sometimes I sang, to them both, to the room,
to myself, alone. Sometimes I went out.
If I left for more than a day I’d stroke
the walls and tell the house to be good
without me. Occasionally, people came round
and made the still, contained air busy.

Mostly though it was only me,
me and the house, being good together.
I slept curled up against the cool
stretch of its ribs like a cub. It breathed

gently into me. How I loved
its scent of damp sandstone and old warm
wood. I loved how it touched on my mind
and shifted its light to my mood. How
it helped me be good. In the mornings
I’d sit in its eye with a pot of good black coffee,
reheating it on the hob as it cooled.

by Polly Atkin

This is a very exciting and busy week for the Poetry Centre, and we hope you’ll join us at one of our events! Tonight (Tuesday), we’ll be hosting an open mic at Oxford Brookes on the topic of identity, together with the Oxford Human Rights Festival and Oxford Brookes LGBT+ Staff Forum. All are welcome! This week also sees the launch of ignitionpress and our first pamphlets by Lily Blacksell, Mary Jean Chan, and Patrick James Errington: we’re in London on Wednesday and Oxford on Thursday. Both events are free and we’d love to see you! We also have a series of readings and a workshop with Alan Buckley lined up for the coming months. Find more information about those here.

‘When I lived alone’ is copyright © Polly Atkin, 2017, and reprinted from Basic Nest Architecture by permission of Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her second poetry pamphlet, Shadow Dispatches (Seren, 2013) won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize. In 2014 her poem ‘A Short History of the Moon’ won the Wigtown Poetry Prize, and she was awarded New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Prize for work in progress ‘reflect[ing] a strong sense of place or the natural environment’. Her 2017 collection from Seren is Basic Nest Architecture. She has taught at the Universities of Lancaster and Strathclyde. You can read more about Polly’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

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 Familyand 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 and follow Seren on Twitter and on 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.

The Glorious Fellowship of Migraineurs

When we gather we greet each other
by lifting tentatively one hand to one eye.
We meet in darkened rooms, quietly;
share no wine. Nobody speaks
but often our voices join to moan
the migraineurs psalm, low and holy.

The hours before fizz brilliantly, scented
with burnt toast and oranges, petrol, sparking
fireworks, fireflies, stars. Everyone
dons a halo, everyone’s soul
shines out through their pores, whether unnaturally
small or wrapped in a skin of water.

We sleep the night together, slip off
one by one on waking from
a dream we pass between us, in which
the structure of the sky is revealed. We make
no dates, but palm to temple, salute
in a migraineur’s kiss, our transcendence.

by Polly Atkin

There are two events to draw your attention to this week. This week’s poet, Polly Atkin, is one of a number of scholars contributing to Shifting Territories, a conference on modern and contemporary poetics of place, which is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday this week at theInstitute of English Studies in London. As well as panels of papers responding to poetry and place, the conference features readings by Jo Shapcott and David Morley, a keynote paper by Eóin Flannery, a workshop by Steven Matthews, and an evening event in association with the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature with Alice Oswald and Hugh Haughton. Find out more about the conference here.

Tomorrow at 7pm in Headington Hill Hall, Oxford Brookes, the Poetry Centre presents ‘”The Cheerful Companion”: Poetry, Music & Performance in Eighteenth-Century Poetic Miscellanies.’ The event will consist of a series of short talks, readings, and music, followed by an interactive session in which participants will be able to experience an authentic eighteenth-century sewing session hosted by Nicole Pohl from Oxford Brookes. All are welcome and you can find more information about the event here.

‘The Glorious Fellowship of Migraineurs’ is copyright © Polly Atkin, 2013. It is reprinted from Shadow Dispatches , published by Seren Books in 2013.

Notes from Seren:

Polly Atkin was born in Nottingham in 1980, lived in London for a number of years before moving to Cumbria in 2006 to research poems about place. Widely published in journals, various of her poems have been placed first in the Troubadour, and Kent and Sussex Competitions, been commended in the National Sonnet, McLellan, Basil Bunting, Wigtown, and Troubadour Competitions, and shortlisted for the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. Her pamphlet bone song (Clitheroe: Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the 2009 Michael Marks Pamphlet Award. She currently teaches English Literature and Creative Writing part-time at Lancaster University. ‘The Glorious Fellowship of Migraineurs’ comes from Polly Atkin’s MsLexia prize-winning pamphlet, Shadow Dispatches. Writing about her work, the poet Paul Farley has commented: ‘Polly Atkin’s first short collection is shot through with wit and imaginative invention and an attractive acuity. For the approaching reader: this book is truly available.’ You can read more about Shadow Dispatches at Seren’s site here, and follow Polly Atkin on Twitter here.

Seren Books (‘Seren’ means ‘star’ in Welsh) is based in Bridgend, South Wales. Originally conceived by Cary Archard and Dannie Abse as an offshoot of Poetry Wales magazine in the latter’s garage in Ogmore-by-Sea in the early 80s, under Managing Editor Mick Felton the press has gone from strength to strength and has 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 the new John Redmond title Poetry and Privacy, as well as sumptuous art books like the collaboration between photographer David Hurn and poet John Fuller, Writing the Picture). Seren’s poetry list, edited by Amy Wack since the early 90s, has produced T.S. Eliot Prize-nominated titles by Deryn Rees-Jones and Pascale Petit, Costa winner John Haynes, and a large list of Forward Prize winners and nominees, as well as continuing to publishing classic Welsh writers. Most recently, Seren has also added Irish and American writers to its list.

For more details about Seren, visit the publisher’s website, where there is a blog about Seren’s news and events. You can also find Seren on Facebook, on Twitter, and on YouTube, where there are videos of a number of poets reading from their work.

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.