Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Poem: Dark by Julián Herbert


Translated by Richard Gwyn



I spent the whole night with my arm in a crack.
It was not a hall of saints.
It was an hotel on the outskirts of Querétaro.
Two single beds provisionally pulled together
to hold the three of us (always three) together.
Ascesis: a light sleep: Hannibal Barca, my son, falling
______every 15 minutes into the gap.
It’s trite, but it’s true: I spent the whole night with
______my arm in a crack.
The devil instilled in me a black acoustic fury:
______why do you write poems
if everything that wounds has an empty touch, a tomb’s
Dazzled, very smug and without light (without another light and guide
______without etc., etc.),
I wrote these verses from memory:

“At least touch what you kill.
Feel it slug fuel black snail with which you mark
______– you piss –
plastics: Identity.
Remember, when you go to the cinema to watch films about Nazis,
______that you are not a Jew.
But if you are a Jew, don’t remember anything: at least touch what
______you kill.
Don’t try to act god. Don’t blow up cars. Don’t quote
______the scriptures. Don’t argue with me.
Don’t sell me the stumps of limbs. Don’t bring me heads. Don’t ask me
______to learn respect.
At least touch what you kill.”

They are appalling. I knew it at once.
For a couple of years I haven’t been able to make a poem.
I miss it, but don’t regret it.
We all know that poetry is nothing more (or less) than
______a temporary skill.
A skill which, once lost, becomes you and shines dark.

The same as a father will spend the whole night with his arm in
______a crack
making sure his son’s head never touches the floor.


From ‘One skull next to another skull next to another skull: three poets from Mexico’ introduced and translated by Richard Gwyn with artwork by John Abell in the Winter 2014/2015 Issue of Poetry Wales.

Julián Herbert was born in Acapulco in 1971. His difficult childhood is described, in part, in his award-winning 2011 memoir, Canción de Tumba. He is a leading figure in Mexico’s poetry scene, and lives in Saltillo.

Richard Gwyn is currently preparing an anthology of contemporary Latin American poetry, to be published by Seren in 2016. He is Professor in Creative Writing at Cardiff University.

Poem: At Flint Castle by Sarah Corbett

The Devolved Voices project based at Aberystwyth University is investigating the state of Welsh poetry in English since Wales’s devolution ‘yes’ vote of 1997. A series of interviews and filmed readings with a whole host of poets associated with Wales is available at: The latest in the series is from Sarah Corbett. Sarah also reads a poem ‘At Flint Castle’ which is published in our Winter 2014/2015 issue. You can watch it below.

Poem: Food Tester by Jonathan Edwards

Food Tester

I’d give my life for his. This poisoned fruit
that could cut short his breath or break his heart,
this leg of pork that makes him sick for days
or weeks slips easily across my lips

and down my throat. You get a feel for this,
a nose, and do the work by weight, by touch,
to cut the chance, the risk. The merest hint
of something strong in a pitcher of milk,

or in this tender flesh a tint, a fleck
to make a bite of it – just one – a bite
of death. I work alone and with my friends:
the apparatus of pipettes and scales,

the grim art of this business and the science
of my instinct. Does one drop in water
bubble or change colour, does a bit
dabbed on the wrist, just here, affect the skin,

cause it to itch, to rise and, more than this,
can chef this morning look you in the eye?
What do you know about his wife, his mother,
the sous chef’s background or the politics

of the waiter? I would give my life for his.
I’ve never seen him but I’ve heard he eats
like a pig: a mouthful of mutton, chased
with a fistful of capon, spitting words

and food across the table. Today, I face
this bird, this side of beef, this bread, this meat
and this forkful, right here. The one I’m raising
to my lips now as I feel them burn.

Originally published in the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Poetry Wales.

Jonathan Edwards won the 2014 Costa Poetry Award for his debut poetry collection My Family and Other Superheroes.

First Thursday

First Thursday in February will be entirely devoted to Poetry Wales Magazine!

Hosted by Editor, Nia Davies and featuring novelist and poet Richard Gwyn, young Cardiff poets Emily Blewitt and Rebecca Parfitt, and Fran Lock.

5th February at Chapter Arts Centre
7:30 pm, £2.50 entry, OPEN MIC


by Rhys Trimble

Text mechanic ‘disemvowel’

t s Sprng, mnlss nght n th smll twn, strlss nd bbl-blck, th cbblstrts slnt nd th hnchd, crtrs’-nd- rbbts’ wd lmpng nvsbl dwn t th slblck, slw, blck, crwblck, fshngbt-bbbng s. Th hss r blnd s mls (thgh mls s fn t-nght n th sntng, vlvt dngls) r blnd s Cptn Ct thr n th mffld mddl by th pmp nd th twn clck, th shps n mrnng, th Wlfr Hll n wdws’ wds. nd ll th ppl f th llld nd dmbfnd twn r slpng nw


text mechanic ‘scramble’ ‘descramble’ several times  with ambiguities left in

it is spring, oomssenl (((night | thing) | (night | thing)) | ((night | thing) | (night | thing))) in the small (((town | wont) | (town | wont)) | ((town | wont) | (town | wont))), earltsss and bible-black, the otlbeeescbrts (((enlist | listen | silent) | (enlist | listen | silent) | (enlist | listen | silent)) | ((enlist | listen | silent) | (enlist | listen | silent) | (enlist | listen | silent)) | ((enlist | listen | silent) | (enlist | listen | silent) | (enlist | listen | silent))) and the hchuend, srturoec’-and- batsbri’ wood iimpnlg invisible down to the alcoklesb, slow, black, crakboclw, ifanstobgih-gbnobbi sea. the houses (((are | ear) | (are | ear)) | ((are | ear) | (are | ear))) blind as olesm (though olesm see fine to-(((night | thing) | (night | thing)) | ((night | thing) | (night | thing))) in the ntuiosng, eetvvl sndlgei) or blind as captain (((act | cat) | (act | cat)) | ((act | cat) | (act | cat))) (((there | three) | (there | three)) | ((there | three) | (there | three))) in the fduflme middle by the pump and the (((town | wont) | (town | wont)) | ((town | wont) | (town | wont))) clock, the ophss in mnrnguio, the welfare hall in iwswdo’ weeds. and all the people of the ldulel and mnduudfob (((town | wont) | (town | wont)) | ((town | wont) | (town | wont))) (((are | ear) | (are | ear)) | ((are | ear) | (are | ear))) sleeping (((now | own | won) | (now | own | won) | (now | own | won)) | ((now | own | won) | (now | own | won) | (now | own | won)) | ((now | own | won) | (now | own | won) | (now | own | won)))


Bethesda not Buggerall



Cyfiethiad Cymraeg

I ddechrau yn y dechrau mae hi’n wanwyn di lloer yn y dre fechan heb sêr a du Beiblaidd mae’r heol cerrig yn ddistaw a’ r gelli glof, y cariadon a’r cwningod yn baglu’n is i’r môr draenen aeronddu arafddy franddy a’i gychod sigl -di-gwt. Mae’r tai mor ddall â’r wadd er y wadd a wêl yn olew yn y goedwig melfed ffroeniog. Neu mor ddall Capten Cath – fynna yn y canol mud bwys y pwmp , cloc y dre a siopau mewn angau a’r neuadd mewn sidan profedigaeth ac mae’r holl bobol yn ei gwsg cysegr, gostegol yn awr.

Birthday Poem for Dannie Abse at Ninety


im. Dannie (1923-2014)

Oh, write and paint and play, old men, and never count the cost,

the road is long and lonely

and the indifferent gods are lost.


In his ninetieth year to heaven

an artist may still stroke the canvas with a broad  brush,

still cut precise lines in the plate

so flounce of hair and target of nipple

are there from memory, still there.


Oh, fuck me, famed Picasso, treat me harsh and kind:

Time’s Fool rides a wilful steed

and the bearded gods are blind.


The burin’s stipple, the cutting groove

of his graver dissects and reveals the world

still fresh. The carnival processes,

the faces press from the edge of things

to witness how past and present move.


Old lover, Monsieur Degas sees you take me from behind:

Time’s voyeur rides a comely steed

when the bearded gods are blind.


The chevallier’s posed for a portrait: he’s tricked,

his green cocked hat perched like a bird;

his braid and medals shining, chivalric –

Mosquetero con espada

his sword clutched like a crucifix.


Oh, fight me, Pablo Ruiz, cross swords just one more time,

for life is in the balance

and the indifferent gods are blind.


La Banista’s in the ocean again, far from the beach;

the waves transport her, divide limbs from breasts

then re-construct her as one green movement,

a lyric of water. She points or strokes

to a horizon she must reach.


Oh, save me, Senor Pablo, I’m drifting in the wind:

Time’s Fool risks a rising tide

and the salt-beard Gods unkind.


This Mujer kisses so sweetly the beak

of a small, blue bird she holds up to her face.

Her eyes have slipped from their proper place,

her hat, her hair, her head are become bird

and she cannot speak.


Oh, paint me, my Old Master, with brush strokes soft and kind:

your blues can bring me back to life

for the worn-out gods are blind.


The heart of great Matisse gave out

in his ninth decade, leaving Venice the finest chapel

ever completed by an atheist. Then his cut

paper was collaged into a splintered snail

that turned a world of colours and shapes.


Oh, bless the world with colour though your beard is white, Henri;

through the shuttered window, past the patterned walls

the boats are asleep on an endless summer sea.


Dave Brubeck, the master who in five/four conquered time,

in his ninth decade still played, composed and worked:

he’d walk so slowly, stiffly to the Steinway

but at the keys the years dropped off as he began to play

Unsquare Dance, Take Five, Blue Rondo a la Turk.


So play for us, old masters, play fast and out of time:

your fingers kiss the ivory

and breathe the world alive.


We are the sum of all we’ve heard and seen and drawn.

Old Welsh parrot, Dannie, sing once more for us –

speak honestly and true of  Iolo, Leo, Joan,

the lines you have rehearsed so long,

the lovely lies we need from you.


Oh, paint and write and play, old men, and never count the cost,

the road is long and lonely

and the indifferent gods are lost.


Tony Curtis

Poem: ‘What it is’ by Fran Lock

‘What it is’

It’s like how the blank page thinks it’s better than you and you go to risky basements dressed up all exhaustive and feline and listen to glitchy techno, its ringtone pneumatics drilling the front of your skull like baroque and switchy birdsong, and you’re better off, you know, you’re better off out of the suffering mesh, a muzzy shambles with feelings a forgivable squall like rain on a long weekend. I’m not good at texting I’m not good at drinking until saying your name is an allegation and it’s four A.M in the lurking jellied light chilling out among the hardboiled poor and halves of limes and the bar has the curvy incognito of a CAT scan, I think and the speakers trickle glad tidings past my pewter lobes. I put poems in my phone I couldn’t find a pen but look now the screen’s no bigger than an After Eight mint I think it is a very specialist form of derision this pretending you can hear me. It’s blurring I’m blurring the cultivated prism of a fly’s eye, the folksy stifle of smothered in kisses, how I hate a song about white British girls falling in love how I hate it to my skittering, niggling proteins and what’re yous looking at? How her iPad is a violent digest and she’s like a hen-party full of strident consolations don’t cry, pet but I’m not crying. I’m not good at texting at drinking I prove goofy in the too-cool downstairs, size-plus tomboys making eyes at me ’cause I have a smile as nervous as knee-jerk as automatic doors and the butch ones like it and you’re better off, you know, better off not needing a number a name their dross doesn’t get in your eyes, doesn’t get in your PhD proposals and propped-up bed-head like it gets into mine ’til the permissive fizz of their white wine is a shuddering pulse in the sinuses. I’ve got a name and I’m not all right: these oranges these lemons these drums and basics, the components of my trepidation and I want coffee thick as topsoil no I want gin with lip-smack lemon no I want grimy kalimotxo  I want I want doesn’t get. I’m saying your name ’til it beheads itself tripping the tongue like a fugitive limerick and I am not awake not really not awake enough for chatups fucking obvious as a fire-extinguisher and no I know he doesn’t love me and not awake enough for the shameless hardcore canopy of London stars, puking on the pavement, miss-mated and ladders in my tights. I’m not good at going on my knees and having you barter your echo near the nape of my neck where my name is your name close to the chip-fat scourge on my spine. It’s like go away spazzing gravity and stumbling under busses and the cool verge of the bowl in the jacks like an inverted Saint Paul’s and I want to shut all my doors forever and not be saddled with your bragging ghost. I’m no good at sending texts drinking smothered in kisses in party-frocks in silk-gloved swag like First Communion. You are a dead battery, M. This is what it’s like. For the Bereaved (proper noun). For the living. Blah-blah forever. I hate men…

Fran Lock’s second collection The Mystic and the Pig Thief (Salt) came out  this autumn. 

This poem was originally published in Poetry Wales Autumn 2014 issue.

Poem: Two paths by Richard Parker

Two Paths

I came to a division;
Along the one grassy turn to left
Leaf-logged and dewy-grassed and mulched
With fosse and pool and fosse and pool,
Danced black monsters at the path sides
You might see move like steel firing, bellows through the ribs
As, icy, the creatures’ clean clear minds
They knew knowing between the vines
Under dockleaf and cowslip.

While to right, a clearing, out-spreading and open
And in the trees interstellar entropy,
Torpor. On one path white chill clouds
And rolling grey, with swatches of that rimey blue–
Above the other conjecturally you see the stars spin
Or flashing and popping.

I needn’t state the path I trod,
Or my head thick and buzzing against the molten gale,
That one might fall out of life and into the autonomous.
Blackness and blackness

Richard Parker


Originally published in Poetry Wales Autumn 2014 issue

Poem: Query by Damian Walford Davies

A poem from our Summer 2014 issue by Damian Walford Davies. From his forthcoming book Judas… 


Who do you say
I am? he posed,
apropos of nothing,

his gutting knife
poised at the rude
gash of a gill.

Out rolled
the same old
smooth replies.

I was tugging free
the lewd slug of a liver.
Who do you say

you are? I asked.
He resumed the knife’s
intimate intifada,

its flashing
hack and slash
a retort of sorts.


This is one of three poems by Damian Walford Davies from the Judas sequence originally published in Poetry Wales 50.1, Summer 2014. Judas will be published by Seren in 2015:

In this new collection, a shattered Judas Iscariot – that byword for betrayal – tells his own story. There are records to set straight. Trying to make sense of the bewildering events of the past year, and of the terror of the past few days, Judas moves through first-century Jerusalem in historical stereo, fully aware of the turbulence of twentieth- and twenty-first-century history and the contours of the modern city. Drawing on conflicting representations of Judas spanning twenty centuries, this chain of poems sets out to challenge orthodoxies and easy pieties. It offers an imaginative map of centuries-old violence – and dares to hint at resolutions – in the form of a dramatic (and fabling?) biography of the man whose most famous act (they say) was a kiss in the dark.