Gwaelod-a collaboration between an artist and a poet

This is an interview featuring myself and the artist Chris Rawson-Tetley regarding a project called Gwaelod that we have been working on since the summer of 2017. It features examples of Chris’s art work including more recent images from Gwaelod-Pictures of Us, a development from the early material.

Interview re art/poetry collaboration


Unilluminated Ruminations

Let rage ride a ragged pony
around the fenced-in final
Site of Specific Scientific Interest
its legs buckling under
the combined burden of
foaming resentment
short-lived joust-tirades
and knee-jerk dismissal
of potentially good things

but when you’re born
you get a life
you get a name
you have to live
with that name
that life
with all of its expectations
its meanings
fortune and misfortune

I am almost alert
and will not sleep
as long as the death watch beetle
holds me in its sway
reminding me of the terms and conditions
of worms and munitions
and the hum of the soundtrack
of my collected respirations

the elixir of preparation
and the preparation
of the elixir
the moving air
the flies on hot roof tiles
science as aspirin
alchemy as a thread
through the eye of a needle

in the cemetery of celebratory dead
a view through a green glass sphere
“better do it now than wish it done”

where are my ghosts?
where did I put them?
the clouds conceal a super moon
could they be hiding anything else?
did I visit the moon?
I can’t remember

pond orphans occupy
vying with versions of levitating ladies

(they’ve parked a little too close
I want to urinate
my car’s windows fog up
perhaps I should drive away
or limbo dance my way
around the door)

in old-fashioned fields
stand scarecrows
scaring crows
scared crows
scare crows
sacred crows
scarred crows

blow up your television
escape to the country
from your country
where is your country?

blow up your television
the Clitheroe Kid
updated for the Age of Dunce
and the Presidents without a brain
becomes the Clit Hero Kid

blow up your television
your Jezebel label
with rebel labia
Euphrates nose
an unusual bouquet
Mermaid Quay
poems about blackbirds
I don’t have one

I had been looking for
the most recent results
and the hotel offers an excellent selection
of shops in the town
that’s nearest to a city
and the hiss of the unknown
that kind of person who is
in the humidity of the unknown
and students were able to find out
more about the role of a company
in the humidity of a few hundred yards

a paean for an undiagnosed chutney
my MP40 submachine gun
got from the retirement
of a demobbed Action Man toy
his hard plastic hair
and raised scar
his no cock cock
then Siouxsie Sioux sings
reunion begins

passwords based on
early Atlantic coast saints
early Atlantic coast saints
based on passwords
I struggle to recall their successors

wonder who they could be as I stroll
around the magnificent shops
or as I wait for the fog to lift
and the horizon to be returned

the liturgical urge
the need for mystery
explained or not

please us

Country Man

You seem to have featured
in nearly every photograph
taken in your bypassed village
in the years following
the Second World War

you appear bemused
as though surprised
that you have survived
still strong in the weakening
that old age invites in
getting used to a world
that has changed and people
no longer being around

you have white hair
black eyes
a black suit
for weddings
and snapshot opportunities
an unconscious caricature
of film negatives
and the light and shade
of the photographic prints
of your era

sometimes you are standing
at the side of one of your sons
a father of a dozen children
pleased with the progress
of the generation you part-created

in one image you are clothed
in rough loose textiles
that could have come
from a half century previously
the tenacious thread of rural hard work
as you awkwardly but proudly hold aloft
a newborn great granddaughter
your face beaming
in the handover from
the old to the new

John Jones at Pantyronnen


A wedding of the unknown
kind of them to have invited us
drunk next to the River Avon
or Afon Afon as we’d have had it
river river dancing in the humidity of marriage
and the hurdles of obligatory congestion
of most journeys we insist on making

I got a Kurdish haircut
in the town that’s nearest to us
a place where Gruff Rhys was born
and Suggs spent some boy years
no sign of boyars
in the land of xenophobes
Xerxes unwelcome here
sell out sell you
sell laptop speakers
to Flemish speakers

no need to thin out the population
they willing self-destruct
through unwitting lifelong dependence
on pointless manoeuvres
including funerary rites
the rites of the wrong
the wrongs of the rites

what’s on the box tonight?
I hope it’s not Ray Winstone
playing The Sweeney’s Jack Regan
via a modern potty mouth
the age of the hard man
usurped by the age of the sneer
a deformity that was born
depleted of future character
guts and class

I ate chutney
I ate cheese
I chewed and inflated bubblegum
I spewed my foetus up

the worthies get asked to talk
to an audience about their work
and how they go about it
I have no feelings of resentment
and even less interest
let them jaw away
while I war away
a way to while away the war

build new homes for old people
excavate wider graves for fatter corpses
give the undertakers a different challenge
the diggers a more avaricious arc
and tomorrow’s archaeologists
more to aim for

the dwindling prairies of our dreams
the bison the birds the ants the soil
disappearing out of shot
on a conveyor belt
in an unintelligent looting
and tidying up exercise
the toothless teeth
keep blades of grass as mementos
in an old Quality Street tin

BBC weather used the word toasty
to describe a forecast tonight
dumb dumb dumb
or scorchio even
the laziness of language
the soporific state of minds
and the tongues they fail to control
bequeath the schools
the colleges
the universities
to the dragonflies
the gnats and the mayflies
they’d learn something
and perhaps we’d at last learn something too

a wife killer on the phone
to a lawyer on TV
he wants out of prison
in the worst kind
of cynical middle class accent
ambivalent to the end
hog the limelight with purported education
a criminal is still a criminal
even with a finance sector CV
his wife was from near the river
I know so well
river of mine
thine shine sign
signal singularity

shove elocution lessons
into the sonic industrial ovens
and force the enablers
the coaches
the leadership figures
who want identifiable regional accents
to be scoured from the mouths of their utterers
to view and listen to this outcome
I have booked my ticket
in order to observe and ratify their discomfort

saltcotes and induction hobs
discounted gin but not export strength
seagulls on chimney pots
on an island came to from another
the stepping stones from which
we would not wish to escape
fast road outside
town of roundabouts
get away from nothing
never never get away with anything
just go round and round
in delirious Celtic knots

live for the sun
the ease the comfort it affords
but it continues to wrongfoot us
that amnesia of a half century
of disrupted summers
stalked by soaked darkness
the beaches
the choices
the smiles
the light
the sweat
give me heat
give me T-shirts
give me chilled drinks
give me extensive panoramas
give me a few weeks in which
to live unleashed


Mae patrymau dy glogwynau
yn adlewyrchu’r tonnau
dy daldra yn dalcen
uchel a syn

a haenau dy greigiau
fel blancedi lliwgar
wedi’u plygu a’u gosod
mewn cwpwrdd enfawr
anniben a hirymaros

rwyt ti’n croesawu’r morloi llwyd
i fewn i gysgod dy fae
sy hefyd yn gysur i ni
pan mae amser yn ein caniatau
ac mae’r byd dynol yn ormod

mae dy drysor
yn gemwaith lliwiau
seiniau a theimladau
anadliad y blaen llanw
sibrwd y glustog Fair
gwylanod yn pysgota
yng ngolau dyfriog
y wawr gynnar


The patterns of your cliffs
reflect the waves
your stature a
high and puzzled forehead

and the strata of your rocks
are like colourful blankets
that have been folded and placed
in an immense untidy
and long-suffering cupboard

you welcome the grey seals
into the shelter of your bay
that also gives us comfort
when time allows us
and the human world is too much

your treasure
is a jewellery of colours
sounds and feelings
the breathing of the high tide
the whisper of the thrift
gulls fishing in the watery light
of the early dawn


I was approached last year by the painter Chris Rawson-Tetley to work collaboratively with him on a project that responds to the inundation legend of the West Wales coast, the story of the lost kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod (The Lowland Hundred). As a young child growing up on that coastline, descended from a family that had always lived in that area (or so it seemed), I was taught the tale of this former place and advised to be quiet and listen for the bells tolling under the waves. Needless to say, I never heard them but the myth instilled in me this part of the story of my people, my tribe.

Chris has produced some beautiful images for this project which will have an exhibition not far from the victorious waters. I attach a poster that announces its preview. Some of the poems I have included to date on this blog were written for this collaboration and it is my intention to feature more.

Gwaelod poster other


The wealth of our princes
in swords bent
and thrown into meres
in the feared wildernesses of their time

when they were deposed by invaders
their leaderless subjects
lived similarly fettered

until liberated by learning
the alchemy of the word
the occasional brilliance of finance
like sunlight in a forest

I break the legs of my poems
to prevent them escaping from me
in my hobbled search for
my private Excalibur


For Fire

A cat hunches under a parked car
screws that don’t turn
don’t want to
the sound of an apple falling
heavier than the object
crashed fox grins at roadside
geese heard overhead but not seen
still on a stepladder

new rain
drum rudiment
inadvertent touching of owl feathers

suggest a jester
I’m buying socks
this is as good as it gets
a punch in the guts to start
doing what I want

hitting a door to give
my left hand a chance
no big deal
it hurts but not for long
and the poor quality door will survive me

don’t treat anger
use it as a tool to shape the days
lifestyle fashioned from vexation
a gift given to you

for bones have their own bones
and everything is a part of something else

the long flat views
we never realised we were so high

the change from one season to the next

from Druidism
to Catholicism
from Protestantism
to Nonconformism
from hunger
to consumerism
from farm
to factory
from community
to individualism
from Welsh
to English

more slavery than at any other time in history
pirates command whole seas
Colonel Gaddafi as Bob Dylan
G.I. Gurdieff in downloaded loads

I was thinking about my mother
how to remember her
how she used to look
smell sound laugh and walk
when we roamed the savannah together
all the things she told me

lost at midnight in the vicinity of villages
with “Moat” in their names
I remain underground
don’t get noticed
don’t meet eyes
my imprint already known

hillocks of washing up
the wrong graveyard
in a never-ending episode of Red Dwarf
Matt’s here with the weather

local produce
she said she’d been waiting
for a tall man to come along
I handed her the milk carton she required
she pushed her trolley away

walking over a footbridge
there’s nowhere else to go
behind a young Indian woman
pushing a push chair with good legs

they wore shorts with tights
and intoxicated me
I wore a jacket with a torn inside pocket
full of a letter from a mental hospital

autumnal arousal
she gets in touch
apology envelopes
a rumoured body
a known feint


(a bedtime story)

he lay unable to sleep
thinking about a hundred things he could now do nothing about
whirring around inside his washing machine skull
as revellers loudly made their way home in the street

he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a good night’s sleep
he wondered how much total darkness
there was in his life in life
his heavy eyes closed and he settled into a half comfortable position

(began to dream of an embrace
a tryst he had imagined many times
this time more real than ever
deliciously feeling limbs surround him
the heat of another body
he inched closer into the cuddle)

a toenail scraped his shin
his fantasy was over
somehow there was someone else in his bed
a shape with an unknown face
who had come to lie beside him
he withdrew his hand from the other’s arm
heard their steady breathing
his own quickening respiration
his body grew cold though the stranger remained warm
cosy in a threatening way
he asked in a weak whisper
“who are you?”
no reply he asked again again no reply
he tried to wrestle free from the hug
but strong fingers gripped his elbows
his feet pinioned by athletic legs

the union of terror lasted until first light
when the intruder vanished in a moment
or so it seemed
he got up cautiously clammy with sweat
the bedroom door was still locked
he nervously searched the wardrobe under the bed behind the curtains
he peered carefully through the window
and saw that nothing was out of place

(unfit Inuit unit intuit into it)

reality TV
an adult adult on the cusp of a cusp
and how long does a long hard look take?

I assert my right to silence
to oddity
to isolation
to think about instantaneous evolution
until it cajoles all other thoughts from my thinking

the trigger-happiness be upon you
the heat and torpor caused by weight gain
the bacon brought home
dropping hot cakes
conventional oven
a butcher’s apron
for a three brain roast

bishop as penis penis as bishop
a word that is unable to give its word
toss but sexy in the modern way
castrated babies dodging dogging sex

where will bonfires reveal themselves
in the coal of the countryside?
the smiles of women on horseback
sunshine on tall brightly painted seaside houses

life is getting some money
spending some money
having pleasant and unpleasant interactions

I conclude that I must now be working
for Goldman Sachs
capitalist punishment
grateful servitude
to a cancerous authority
me too at times a joke
international banking conspiracy
of no specific ethnic origin

sacking me sacking you
handmaiden to a regime
misunderstood mantras repeated

race to the bottom
to impoverishment
as others make a profit out of the gap
between us and them and us
the near-mirage effects of changing the hour

I’m rusting
invaded by a single celled mould
it’s that time of our lives
they are surprised to see me
still amongst the transplanted population

when we were human
we stood with livestock
milked slaughtered and salted our way
through iron ice and snow grass
revered our ever present ancestors
opened our eyes when we looked
at the uninterrupted night sky
the way we weren’t

the syllable factory still in business
see a man about a headstone
and tolerate zero

I need someone not something
not a postcard from a postcard
“wishing you had posted me”

broken vein
haranguing God
dimming down
insects at windows at night
in a dry kind of aquarium

bigger clothes for the expanding universe
the men have the same names
they stopped taking photographs
of their children after the age of ten

gin and bath tonic
what’s “reindeer furniture” in Finno-Ugric?
what do I know?

let everything that moves move me