Return to Aberystwyth

I briefly lived in a tent near where this picture was taken. I was, shall we say, between flats and my first and second year at university a long time ago. I never fell off the cliff coming back at night, and I knew the names of all the flowers. In fact I lived in quite a lot of places in this picture and its environs, and I’ve been back many times since – but not brandishing a book of poems. The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Dead get their Welsh debut at the Arts Centre Bookshop at 6.30 this Thursday, 23rd January. Come along. It will be slightly strange to be reading just upstairs from where I scribbled about Hamlet during my finals, and more importantly saw Ziggy Stardust land on Earth. If I’m creating the impression I was an assiduous student, my apologies to those who know better.

And I know I haven’t blogged since Dublin in September, so apologies for not telling you about reading in the splendid gloom of the former prison HMP Shepton Mallet, nor about reading at Satellite of Love where lovely people brave an exploding microphone. But I’ll get back to you about Aber, and also Frome. On 10th February at Frome Poetry Cafe I’ll be reading with Deborah Harvey not hundreds of yards from where I was born. Here’s a picture from my aunty’s photo album to prove it. Hello Frome and Nunney.

I haven’t told you either of plans for the IsamBards to walk you all round the dead people and living plants and creatures here, at Arnos Vale Cemetery here in Bristol in March – nor about plans for a big collaboration between seven us at the Lyra Festival, also here in Bristol in March. I will, I will.


Meanwhile recent days have been like proper winter, which is a small comfort when the world is on fire. And early this chilly morning I managed to catch the moon in the crab apple tree. One proper winter we drove back to Aberystwyth, and on Thursday I’ll read that poem there. Hope you can make it, and here it is.


Driving on up to the snowline, we came
close to a place on a bend where I saw
someone on foot heading into the snow
years ago now, like a pale grey mark
looking for sheep or just lost in himself.

Little has altered. At this height things don’t.
Fence-posts and wire need replacing at times
gorse dies and grows at the side of the road.
Maybe the man had a dog, maybe not.
Then, on a straight stretch, the weather comes down.

Snow on a peak lifts and spins in the cloud.
Mass is suspended, the hillsides withdraw.
Valleys returning beneath us blank out.
When we have left them or if we come back
mountains go nowhere. They sit there all year.

We were both thinking and watching the road.
I didn’t mention the person on foot.
Somewhere back then maybe, sometime out there
two sketchy figures have come to the ridge.
One doesn’t stop but treks on through the air
searching for something and lost in himself.






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