by Sydney Whiteside
The second day of the 2020 Seren Cardiff Poetry Festival opened on Saturday morning with the New Poetry Showcase, a spectacle of new poetry from authors with recently published or forthcoming collections. Featuring five writers, both debut poets and those on their second or third collection, the showcase was a brilliant start to a dazzling Saturday of poetry in Cardiff’s Temple of Peace.
Cardiff poet Roberto Pastore was the first to read, sharing poems from his new collection Hey Bert, out now with Parthian. Pastore’s poems burst with energy and humour, highlighting the beauty in the everyday and reminding us of our ‘all too humanness’. Among the poems read was ‘Heart Poem’, a beautiful look into memory and the often impossible expectations we place on ourselves.
Kittie Belltree, who was born in south London and now lives in Wales, followed with readings from her debut collection Sliced Tongue and Pearl Cufflinks, also out now with Parthian. Her poems explore domestic trauma, history, and mother-daughter relationships with paralyzing detail and wit. Belltree closed her reading with ‘Magician’s Daughter’, a beautifully haunting piece about sexual abuse that makes whimsical diction dangerous and twists words into unexpected and wonderful combinations.
Third to read was Emily Cotterill, a Derbyshire-born, Cardiff-based poet whose debut pamphlet The Day of the Flying Ants (Smith|Doorstep, 2019) was selected by Carol Ann Duffy for the 2019 Laureate’s Choice pamphlet project. Through images varying from coal to Pickled Onion Monster Munch, Cotterill’s work explores teenage love, family history, environmental sustainability, and relationships with masterful control and clarity.
Stepping in for Marvin Thompson, Cardiff-based poet Christina Thatcher treated the audience to a preview of her upcoming second collection How to Carry Fire, out with Parthian in April. Her poems explore the destructive power of fire in all its iterations, with ‘Insurance Report’ and ‘Arson’ describing the burning down of her childhood home in Pennsylvania. However, just as fire can destroy, it can also cleanse and ignite: Thatcher finished her reading with ‘How to Love a Gardener’, a botanical ode to her husband, Rich, a gardener.
Closing the showcase was Gloucestershire-born poet and short story writer André Mangeot, who read from his brand new collection Blood Rain, out now with Seren. Mangeot’s poems are environmental in focus and global in scope, taking readers from Los Angeles to India and everywhere in between. His brilliant poem ‘The Odds’ explores how the biggest moments in life are often accidental.
The New Poetry Showcase was a brilliant look into the current work of new and established poetic voices, promising that 2020 will be an exciting year for Welsh poetry.
Photo Collage Credit: Abeer Ameer