Yearly Archives: 2023

Poem in Free Verse: Poems for Richard Price

It was a pleasure to engage more deeply with the work of Richard Price. I chose to write about an incident in his life whose spontaneity shows how deeply rooted was his fellow-feeling for his contemporaries. He didn’t hesitate to risk his own interests to help a stranger.

Background to this anthology, edited by Prof. Kevin Mills and Prof Damian Walford Davies:

2023 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Dr Richard Price (1723−91), one of the most undervalued architects of the modern world. In political, philosophical and theological works he defined and advocated for many of the political and intellectual freedoms we take for granted. In our increasingly illiberal times, recovering his humane and enlightened work is an imperative.

The poems included in this exploratory volume go some way towards engaging with that urgent task. In a rich variety of modes and styles, they both scrutinise and channel Price’s legacy − philosophical, political, theological, actuarial and moral − testing the contemporary relevance of his contribution just as they measure contemporary social and political mores against his example.

Prompted by Price, we are encouraged to consider the value of human life; the worth of the individual; the lessons of history; the operations of power; the force of language; the nature of testimony; the implications of artificial intelligence; and the horizon of human possibility.

Firmly rooted in Price’s intellectual legacy, these poems remind us that our cherished freedoms are fragile and must not be taken for granted. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792−1822) famously called poets ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’; the epithet applies equally to Richard Price, and here, for the first time, contemporary poets join their voices with his in seeking out, and giving memorable expression to, liberal values. The volume’s Introduction assesses Price’s impact and reputation in his own day, identifying him as a necessary voice in the work of agitating for an equitable and sustainable future in a warring and environmentally degraded world.

Contributors: Abeer Ameer, Zoë Brigley, Phil Cope, Mari Ellis Dunning, Kristian Evans, Angela Graham, Rae Howells, Mab Jones, Richard Marggraf Turley, Kevin Mills, Robert Minhinnick, Taz Rahman, Gerry Ray, Tracey Rhys, Damian Walford Davies, Hilary Watson.

Poem in Parthian’s Holy Wells series

I’m delighted to have a poem in this 5-volume pamphlet series published by Parthian Books and edited by wells expert, Phil Cope.

This is part of the Ancient Connections project, the ambitious exploration and reinforcement of links between Wexford on the Irish coast and Pembrokeshire across the Irish Sea in Wales.

My poem appears in Y Gerddoriaeth Hynaf / Is Ceol Sine

The Oldest Music

It explores and celebrates how holy wells have inspired poets for hundreds of years and includes a selection of old and new poems, in Welsh, English and Irish, including by Lewys Glyn Cothi, Gwynfardd Brycheiniog, Ieuan ap Rhydderch, Angela Graham, Tony Curtis, Grace O’Reilly, Eirwyn George, Dafydd Williams, Julian Cason, Lorraine O’Dwyer, Brian Jackson, Phil Carradice and Phil Cope. The Volume is illustrated by Phil Cope’s compelling photographs.

My poem considers the link between the culture of wells in both places and some aspects of what wells ‘do’ for us.



This one is the pupil of an eye.

It exists to gaze at heaven.

Even the winter snows

kiss it and leave; no ice

forms here, for the pulse at its core

keeps its sight clear.

My face, hovering, it knows

will pass; all shadows do.

Only the sky endures.


And this one is a summery mirror

avid for something to reflect

− branches, birds, our gawping –

and it giggles, when anything touches it,

shiggling out a little overflow.

All on the surface? The reverse.

The negative of every image

is banked and catalogued in its vault.


These wells hear the sea that roils between them.

Like siblings in the dark, they reach

for one another’s hand

far below the boisterous tides

and spell on each other’s fingers

all they have seen and understood.


We think it is we who do

the looking. When the time approaches

for the world to blister, God

will command that everything be screened;

that the wells, erupting, stream

the banners of their spoils. We’ll see

ourselves, forever at the brink.

Holy Wells of Wexford and Pembrokeshire is a series of five chapbooks commissioned by Ancient Connections, an EU funded arts, heritage and tourism project linking north Pembrokeshire with north Wexford led by Pembrokeshire County Council with partners Wexford County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford. The series coincides with the launch of a new pilgrim route; Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way between Ferns in County Wexford and St Davids in Pembrokeshire. The holy wells explored in this series through fiction, essays, photographs, poetry and prints are all on or close to the new pilgrim route.

‘Compassion’ A poem in Refugee Week

I wrote this poem on 20th June which is UNHCR World Refugee Day.  The theme this year is compassion.


a poem in Refugee Week 19th – 25th June 2023


Their mingling, they’re quite sure, won’t spread contamination

nor their jingling pockets weigh too heavy in the balance

with their consciences

for don’t they have immunity from the herd?


Their bubble floats on seas that sink the rest of us.

Compunction’s prick has bounced off that thick skin

for aren’t they party people who refuse

to be denied their bit of fun?


These sniggerers who pushed us off the raft,

do you think they’d, nonetheless, be capable

of holding out a hand?

You have to hope.


You have to will that no one’s ever lost,

that no one’s left behind,

that each of us stays human

or becomes.

Continue reading ‘Compassion’ A poem in Refugee Week

‘IRISH STREET’ by Damian Smyth, my review

My review of Damian Smyth’s latest poetry collection appears in The Cardiff Review.

Compassion and reciprocity: Irish Street by Damian Smyth

Some additional comments:

There are many touches of wry humour, my favourite being the perceptive 5-line poem, Dipper which treats of a sheep in terms of the Egyptian royalty and a figurine from Ur / Gold leaf and lapis lit from within; those ankles, slim, elegant, worshipped.

published by Templar Poetry

The collection’s second poem, Downpatrick sets the tenor of the book by its depiction, as though in a miniature, of the single thing that might save its soul / When pestilence falls, rescue each mean inhabitant from ruin in every century / To come … and that is the kindness of the inhabitants towards the son of a pharmacist who tended to those who had nothing, for nothing. He has been merciful to them; they reciprocate by being gentle and generous towards his vulnerable son. Smyth makes clear that this reciprocity is in the reach of any town and, by implication, any of us.

Irish Street, Downpatrick

Below, the junction described in ‘St Brigid’s Day’

Because you could drop a rushy cross on the towncentre

And it would fit its articulate legs up each of the four streets,

Like its hips are broken, it’s clear that all the tales are true,

Especially the most unlikely.

Irish, English and Scotch Streets meet in exactly this way, as anyone who has ever seen them, or seen a St Brigid’s Cross, will agree.

Junction of Irish, Scotch and English Streets, Downpatrick

There are many excellent images to savour. Of whins: They switch their floodlights on from dawn … and the canopy of those gnarly and small woods; or a path which drowns face down in a foot of river … and the black baby… / (Her fists like tulips, the soles of her feet already ruched as maps) …

Available from Irish Street – templarpoetry in paperback 12.00 or hardback 14.99.

Poem in Poetry as Commemoration Jukeboxes

I am honoured and delighted to have my poem on the Irish Civil War among the 20 poems related to the Decade of Centenaries 1912 – 1922 that are featured in the Poetry As Commemoration Poetry Juke Boxes in Derry and Limerick from May to July this year.

The Irish Civil War, County Tipperary, Summer, 1922 describes an incident in which my mother, then a seven-year-old, was caught up. Her memories of violence influenced my experience of The Troubles.

New Poetry Jukebox Commemorates Complex Shared History in Derry~Londonderry

I’ve written about this in an earlier blog (below) which contains a link to the poem on the Virtual Poetry Wall of Poetry As Commemoration.

Poem in Poetry As Commemoration

You can listen to the poems featured in this curation here.

  1. ‘Ossuary’ by Seán Hewitt
  2. ‘Poppies In A Field Of Shamrocks’ by Nithy Kasa
  3. ‘The Belfast Pogrom: Some Observations’ by Paul Muldoon
  4. ‘Hogan, Grianghrafadóir’ by Aifric Mac Aodha & transl. by David Wheatley
  5. ‘Blood pulled my Shoe Off: The Birth of the Freestate in the Words of Máire Comerford’ by Martina Evans
  6. ‘Wound’ by Chiamaka Enyi Amadi
  7. ‘The Head of a Man’ by Stephen Sexton
  8. ‘Special Topics in Commemoration Studies: The Kerry Archives’ by Victoria Kennefick
  9. ‘The Lookout’ by Bebe Ashley
  10. ‘This Video Has No Sound’ by Padraig Regan
  11. ‘Faithful Comrade and Life Long Friend’ by Julie Morrissy
  12. ‘Telescope’ by Eoghan Totten
  13. ‘Without Fuss or Splutter’ by Ann-Marie Foster
  14. ‘Uncle Maurice’ by Ian Duhig
  15. ‘The Irish Civil War, Co. Tipperary, Summer 1922’ by Angela Graham
  16. ‘Bloody Sunday, 21st of November 1920, Croke Park’ by David McLoghlin
  17. ‘Cogadh na gCarad ó Bhéal mo mháthar’ by Mike MacDomhnaill
  18. ‘Eliza’ by Karl O’Hanlon
  19. ‘Yew’ by Karen J. McDonnell
  20. ‘Kingdom’ by Brian Kirk

Sanctuary.. in Wales Arts Review’s top poetry of 2022

We’ve been treated to a year full of delightful and heart-wrenching collections from all across Wales, and naming our choices has been particularly tough for our contributors.  That said, we take great pleasure in revealing the best Welsh poetry releases of 2022 

Written in collaboration with poets (Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson), Angela Graham’s Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere is an innovative collection that Graham herself states ‘moves from war, to migration, to the alienation imposed by illness (a kind of expulsion from the sanctuary of Eden), to the numinosity of the natural world, to the pandemic, and ends with an assertion that sanctuary is something we can be.’

Read Angela Graham’s introduction to Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere here.

This collection, published by Welsh company Seren Books ,was developed with funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Review of Sanctuary… in Nation Cymru

By Caroline Bracken:

Angela Graham’s poetry collection Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere is an interesting concept. As well as her own poems, it includes poems she wrote collaboratively with Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar and Csilla Toldy.

Her mentor Glen Wilson also contributed a poem, ‘Border Crossing, Reynosa to Hidalgo’, a gorgeous poem with more questions than answers:

‘There is buzzing behind the bevel of the two-way mirror,
I imagine the voices of the hidden judges there’

The collaborative poems all allow the contributing poets’ voices to shine and feel very different to Graham’s own. For example Mahyar’s ‘You’ is end-rhymed:

‘When I was drinking shot after shot

When I was reading Rubaiyat

When I was reading Khayyam’s couplets

When the book got wet with my tears’ droplets’

Csilla Toldy’s ‘Sanctum Trilogy’ is written in three sections, ‘Resistance’ ‘Refuge’ and ‘Resilience’ and is more experimental in form:

‘Forget the borders, tie up your tongue
here you are safe – between the walls of this place.
Stay put for now, We will decide –
    w a i t
         w  a  i  t
            w   a  i   t’

Phil Cope gives us a panoramic, bird’s-eye sequence of the Welsh landscape:

‘A brace of peregrines, monogamous
though solitary throughout the year,
rendezvous up here each April,
drawn by this cliff’s magnetism,
egged on by legacy,
reliable in the knowledge of
a ledge, secure on Darren Fawr
to raise two chicks, then leave.’

Angela Graham’s wonderful poem ‘A Heerd tha Sodjer on tha Radio’ which won the Linen Hall Ulster Scots Writing Competition is included. Her other poems work best when they steer away from prose and allow the image to be seen, as in ‘Annunciation, Visitation’

After the angel left her what was the girl to do?
I see her stand, go to the window,
look out at the utterly familiar street.
A neighbour, jovial, passes and she smiles
─ too soon for speech. She looks down
at her utterly familiar hand
resting on the white stone sill.’

And ‘Persian New Year’

‘Let me give you gorse,
the ungraspable, the unlikely
solder-drops splattered on my hedges
by the sun torching its way out of winter.’

The last word goes to Viviana Fiorentino, from ‘In This Sanctuary’
‘You blue tit, jackdaw or young doe
you, overflow, the breaker of borders
of species, you know it will not matter
that you were males or females, your voice