Poetry in Motion; It Started from the Front Room of a Suburban Bridgend House and Is Now the Powerhouse of Welsh Publishing. Abbie Wightwick on 30 Years of Seren
When English teacher Cary Archard took over the magazine Poetry Wales in the late 1970s he little imagined it would spawn a publishing powerhouse in Wales.
In the last 30 years Seren, originally intended as a poetry publisher, has grown into one of Wales' most prolific and respected literary publishers, selling its writers across the globe, winning a clutch of awards and nurturing some of our best talent, new and old.
Back in the late '70s, running Poetry Wales on a shoestring from his house in Bridgend, Archard rose early to finish magazine work before heading to his job teaching English at Brynteg Comprehensive.
Not a poet himself, he simply loved reading it and quickly came to realise a lot of poets in Wales were neglected for lack of publishers.
Helped with a grant from the Arts Council of Wales, Archard, originally from Abercynon, tentatively set up a poetry publishing house from his Bridgend home in 1981.
"Opportunities for publishing in Wales were far fewer then," he explains. "People forget how different it was. There were a couple of publishers but they didn't publish a great deal of English language work and a lot of writers were neglected."
Things went so well in the first year that Archard employed Mick Felton from a publisher in England the following year.
At the prompting of poets moving into fiction, the two men then expanded into publishing fiction, history and art books.
By this time putting a magazine and books together in his house had become untenable. Archard says his family, a wife and three children, suffered because he was rarely there and space had become tight.
Poet Dannie Abse, who had given Seren some of his work to publish, offered them a cottage in the grounds of his house.
From this impossibly romantic base in a poet's garden the hard work of publishing continued to expand until Seren became a limited company in the late '80s.
"It was hard work. Publishing is never easy," Archard cautions.
But it was work well rewarded.
Seren is currently toasting its author Patrick McGuinness, long listed for the Man Booker Prize with The Last Hundred Days.
Other award-winning Seren writers include John Haynes, who bagged the poetry section of the 2006 Costa Prize.
Two of Seren's poets, Nerys Williams and Judy Brown, were shortlisted on The Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2011, and Pascale Petit's collection of poetry What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo was long listed for the Wales Book of the Year 2011.
These are just a few among accolades in the US, UK and Wales over the years, something that has put Seren on the map and brought its writers to worldwide attention.
Looking back, Archard, who is now listed as Seren's founder, patron and member of the board, says: "I'm very surprised and delighted it's going 30 years later. …