Days of November 2009

Short days, long shadows:
sun rising low skims the hill.

Mending, making good, days full
of outdoor jobs, folk

racing to finish before dark,
before winter. Angled light, always

on the edge of leaving. These days
when every little thing feels urgent,

unmissable, when all you want
is to hold on to a lit rack

of cirrus, the taste of woodsmoke
catching your throat, a sleek seal

slipping back under, the farewell
of geese, scribbled in black arrows.

by Sheenagh Pugh

Hannah Lowe, Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, and Jennifer Wong, PhD student in English and Creative Writing, will be taking part in the Reading Poetry Festival on Saturday 8 November in a special Poetry Centre reading. You can find out more about the festival, and book tickets, on the dedicated website.

‘Days of November 2009’ is copyright © Sheenagh Pugh, 2014. It was published by Seren Books, and is reprinted here by permission.

Sheenagh Pugh lived for many years in Wales but now lives in Shetland. She has published many collections with Seren, including a Selected and a Later Selected Poems. Her latest is Short Days, Long Shadows (Seren 2014). She has also published two novels, a book of translations and a critical study of fan fiction. Write Out Loud has commented that ‘this consummate collection has the certainty of touch one has come to expect from Sheenagh Pugh, one of our finest contemporary poets.’ Sheenagh taught creative writing at the University of Glamorgan, but has now escaped and returned to the wild. You can find out more about her work from her website, and her blog. She writes a lively blog and is a provocative and entertaining presence on social media platforms. 

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 90’s, 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 like Hilary Menos, Sheenagh Pugh, Kathryn Simmonds, Kate Bingham, Judy Brown, Meirion Jordan, Rhian Edwards and Marianne Burton as well as continuing to publishing classic Welsh writers like Duncan Bush, Christopher Meredith, Paul Henry, Ruth Bidgood, Peter Finch and new names like Jonathan Edwards and Dai George. Recently, we’ve also added some fine Irish poets: Anne-Marie Fyfe, Eoghan Walls, Siobhan Campbell, Carolyn Jess-Cooke; several Americans: Carrie Etter and Katha Pollitt; and the London-based: Kathryn Maris. Our staff also includes Simon Hicks, Publicity, who doubles as cover designer, Sarah Davies, Marketing and Digital Media, and Rebecca Parfitt, administrator for Poetry Wales magazine. Cary Archard remains on our Board of Directors and is a lively and influential presence. We mourn the loss, this year, of the wonderful Dannie Abse, also a guiding spirit. Find out more about the publisher on 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.

Webcam Sonnet 4. Now

Film and photograph only show
how it was. You’re seeing how it is,

now, this moment. A moody sunrise
bruising the nimbus above Hammerfest

to a nacreous flush that will never outlast
the next refresh. The very townsfolk

will miss it, unless they chance to look
now, right now. Can you catch his attention,

the man crossing the Torg, head down;
can you make him see one moment of sky

unlike all the others you and he
will walk under today, unlike the moment

passing in Padua, Jaipur, Tashkent,
that you don’t happen to be watching now?

by Sheenagh Pugh

from Long-Haul Travellers, Seren (2008)

Some of the journeys in this collection can be found on maps. But some travellers are journeying from one self to another, like those strange adventurers Murat Reis and Tristan Jones. Some, like Adwaitya the tortoise, have traversed time as well as space. Some travel in dreams. And the longest-haul travellers of all are the dead, like Josephine, whose memory returns to haunt our consciousness and remind us that not all places can be found in the atlas. (Sheenagh Pugh)

Elisions, displacements, journeys, dreams: this new collection of poems by Sheenagh Pugh has a pervasive, elegiac quality. Known for her intriguing narratives, many of these new poems work more by implication than explication. Typical is ‘The Unconversations’ which is a beautiful paean to the shorthand of private references used by a long-married couple. A longer poem, ‘Murat Reis’, chronicles the life of a man who was Dutch, Algerian, Christian, Muslim and many other things according to circumstance and his own whim. History provides vignettes such as ‘Victor’ which mourns the life of a young freed slave in Roman times, via the words and images carved on his gravestone. ‘Webcam Sonnets’ capture the subtle, sometimes poignant, sometimes sad, illusion of intimacy given by webcam contacts.

Sheenagh Pugh is a poet, critic, essayist, lecturer, and author of several works of fiction, non fiction and translation. The winner of many awards, including the Bridport Prize and the Forward Prize, she has published twelve individual collections of poetry, most recently The Movement of Bodies, which was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and also shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize.

Seren is an independent literary publisher, specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Our diverse and eclectic list has something to offer anyone with an interest in excellent writing. 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.

Please visit our website for more information on our authors and titles.