Poet of the Month

2021: Poets featured as Poet of the Month 

January: Rebecca Lowe (Wales).
February: Jim Gronvold (USA). 
March: Carolyn Mary Kleefeld (USA).
April: Tozan Alkan (Turkey).
May: Byron Beynon (Wales).
June: Michelle Chung (USA). 
July: Jim Gwyn (USA).
August: Jonathan Taylor (England).
September: Beata Poźniak (USA).
October: Maria Taylor (England).
November: Stanley H. Barkan (USA).
December: John Dotson (USA).

2022: Poets featured as Poet of the Month 

January: Maria Mastrioti (Greece).
February: Gayl Teller (USA).
March: Mike Jenkins (Wales).
April: Cassian Maria Spiridon (Romania).
May: Simon Fletcher (England)
June: Sultan Catto (USA)
July: Vojislav Deric (Australia)
August: K. S. Moore (Ireland)
September: Kristine Doll (USA)
October: Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan (USA)
November: Christopher Norris (Wales)
December: Maria Mazziotti Gillan (USA)

2023: Poets featured as Poet of the Month 
January: Samuel Ezra (Wales)
February: Tôpher Mills (Wales)
Rob Cullen (c) 2023 Rob Cullen

Rob Cullen was born in the Rhondda. He holds Welsh-Irish nationality. He attended Bristol, Cardiff and Brighton Art Schools, and has lived in New York and in Brighton in the UK. He currently lives in Pontypridd, South Wales.

His short story The Choice was published in the anthology A Fall into Grace. This project involved a day of storytelling in Aberdare where each writer performed their story at different venues around the town center. The anthology was published on 16th December 2015 with a launch at the National Folk Museum of Wales in St Fagans.

Rob’s first poetry collection “Uncertain Times” was published in 2016 by Octavo Press (now defunct). He had four short stories published in Ystrad Stories - a community project focussed on the work of the artist Ernie Zobole. Rob’s poetry has been published in the Atlanta Poetry Literary Review (US), and many poems published on online magazines such as Medium Reviews’ Resistance Poetry and short stories in The LarkBlackbough Poetry, I am not a silent poet, The Learned Pig Cambridge UK Arts Magazine (2017, 2019), The Bezine and in the Red Poets Annual Anthologies.

He has been published in - Gwrthryfel/Uprising and Onward/Ymlaen,anthologies of Radical Poetry from Contemporary Wales, published by CULTURE MATTERS.

Rob collaborated with the artist Jon Pountney on a short film “Beachcombing” exploring the foreshore of Cardiff Bay. Rob provided poetry and the voice over for the film. This was shown in an exhibition at Oriel Conwy August 2017.

Rob has completed his first Taff Noir novel “Rivers Run Black”, which awaits publication, also his second, a psychological novel “Lost Missing Gone”. He has started a third and fourth novel.


Afon Rhondda

In the Cymer, a gold eyed grey white heron
stilted stands where two rivers collide
commands the stream in its stiff eyed gleam
one river peat whiskey brown, the other bottle green.

in the break and rush of an old fords remains
in its broken rapid cold crackling ice water
among worn rounded scoured stones
Graylings, Queens of the Stream

gleam and glide ride the current
sails aloft hunting nymphs’ unseen.
while in the slow wash of the silt drop zone
Goosanders dive through darkened swirls

hunting with sharpened eyes and beaks
while green necked mallards cruise serene
and gold skinned eels burrow roots of trees
and lie glass-eyed grey through winters dream

and the Cymer’s deep dark pool waits the run
of spawning silver spring Atlantic salmon.
Meanwhile horse eyed on the rivers path
blinkered people thumbing dull blue screens
walk their way virtually oblivious to the snare.

*Cymer – Welsh for the meeting of two rivers.

Previously published in The Atlanta Poetry Review USA/ Spring edition 2020.

(c) 2023 Rob Cullen

Bitter limp fruit

Imagine fishermen labouring in a heavy swell
pulling in the trawl to find silver bitter limp fruit
entwined in the mesh of drip green nets,
the dead eyed souls of their own young children.
And we stay silent for our history is never told
silenced from the hour, the days, and the years
for we are edited out of the hour of our times.

Imagine coal miners hollowing out the seams,
men stripping coal a mile and more underground
and the hooters above ground call them away,
brought up into blink white light to see the black tip
the waste of their toils washed into the village,
spewed over the school where small children,
sang hymns and songs and were supposed to be safe.
And we stay silent for our history is never told
silenced from the hour, the days, and the years
for we are edited out of the hour of our times.

Imagine the trail of letters written foretelling concerns,
the dead nerved fears that a disaster would occur
and the NCB replies not days, not months but years later.
And on a grey fog filled October day after weeks of rain,
a small children’s school and a day of devastation,
exactly in the manner and the way foretold.
And imagine if no one was held to account,
and those families told make the slag heap safe
from the proceeds raised for the disaster fund.
And we stay silent for our history is never told
silenced from the hour, the days, and the years
for we are edited out of the hour of our times.

Imagine the miner, the father, the brother, the son,
looking out at the sprawl of waste they’d dug.
Imagine the mother, the sister, the daughter,
looking out at the grey listlessness of another day.
Of the silent keening, the numbed grieving,
of the impossibility of using words to describe.
And we stay silent for our history is never told,
silenced from the hour, the days, and the years
for we are edited out of the hour of our times.

Imagine the mothers bringing up children,
the happiness and hopes for the future.
Imagine the sisters who stayed off school.
Imagine the brothers too slow and were late.
Imagine the vacuum where a life had once been.
Imagine a young life where a vacuum is now.
And we have been silenced, our history lost words
and our future is silent and will never be told.
Silenced from the hour, silenced from all our days.
Silenced from the years, silenced from all that might have been.

Footnote: The Aberfan Tribunal found that repeated warnings about the dangerous condition of the tip had been ignored, and that colliery engineers at all levels had concentrated only on conditions underground. In one passage, the Report noted:

“We found that many witnesses … had been oblivious of what lay before their eyes. It did not enter their consciousness. They were like moles being asked about the habits of birds.”

In the House of Commons debate on the Inquiry Report it was asserted by the Government, on the advice of the NCB and supported by comments in the Tribunal report, that the remaining tips above Aberfan were not dangerous and did not warrant removal, estimated by the Tribunal to cost £3m, but merely required landscaping - a much cheaper option.

No NCB staff were ever demoted, sacked or prosecuted as a consequence of the Aberfan disaster or of evidence given to the Inquiry.

The government made a grant of £200,000 to the NCB towards the cost of removing the tips, and under "intolerable pressure" from the government, the Trustees of the Disaster Fund agreed to contribute £150,000.

10/10/ 2016

(c) 2023 Rob Cullen

Walking with water
Jacques Benveniste believed water retains on a molecular level a memory that triggers antibodies. His hypothesis remains unproven. But his conviction stayed firm until his end came.
When I was a child I believed God lived in the skies.
it was the only way God could see everything
God was everywhere his proximity was frightening
I walked the mountains searching endlessly
I know I wasn’t alone in these beliefs
I’ve written fifty years and a day, written as they say
without knowing whether my words were listened to
so, I walk these mountains listening to your words
I walk old pathways following mountain trails
I sing my words I sing my song to silence.
I reflect on our indifference
to the way we walk on water
we float on strata of sandstone
once beaches and layered memory
water filters and holds
breaching the surface
springs and dark pools.
And I walk endlessly
on the draining land
beneath my feet
examining the new
examining the past
walking with water
walking with love.
Erw Beddau*
has been desecrated
a place of burial
long forgotten by men
it was still there
when I was a child
amongst the panorama
of the plateaus uplands.
From those heights today
I cast an eye to the valley slopes
and see in the distance
where Errw Beddau* had once lain.
The spring, the well,
it’s clooty* tree remain.
It was said of the well
which stood
in that funerary landscape
of twenty-five burial mounds
its spring water cured
ailments of the eye.
In this age of blindness
I sense an irony here.
If I could only see it now.
I tasted its spring water
many times, long ago
when I was young
walking winding trails
in the steepness of the day
Erw Beddau*
the acre of untouched graves
remains a story hidden.
And I cross the silence
of the high slopes
parish roads and bridle paths
and when these end
the intricate web of trails
of hefted sheep
mapping out
the lands contour.
Do we mould the landscape?
Or has it formed us?
Walking with water.
Walking with love.
When I was a child I believed God lived in the skies
I walked the mountains searching endlessly
I wasn’t alone in those beliefs
I’ve written fifty years and a day, written as they say
without knowing whether my words have been listened to
so, I walk these mountains still listening to your words
words and teachings no longer listened to
I walk mountain trails following old pathways
I sing my words I sing my song to silence
Walking with water.
Walking with love.

Dedicated to my daughter Beth Cullen who walks with water, walks with love
who achieved and learned so much in Ethiopia with the Karrayyuu pastoralist
community and our shared love of past essential knowledge!

*Errw Beddau – Welsh for an acre of graves

*clooty – the Hawthorn tree found by the side of holy places and wells from the old beliefs and strips of cloth left as ovations and wishes – still practiced by people today.

(c) 2023 Rob Cullen

Veritas Giulio Regini

On 25th January 2016 Giulio Regini disappeared?
And nine days later as if by magic reappeared.

Words like disappeared seem so stupid somehow.
as if the torturers and killers didn’t know then and now
who I was, where I was, and what they’d done to me
over those long hours of those nine days and nights.

Now in the silence I am able to speak about me and them.
Three times you broke my bones, and tore the nails
from my feet and my hands. And please forgive me
I confess I fully lost count of the number of times

You burnt me with cigarettes. Did you forget?
And you punctured my body with stab wounds.
And how could I overlook the sparks and electrodes
on my genitals, after all I was a man among you men.

And then you severed my spine with that final blow
and so, my life was taken. Another stupid phrase.
But the torturers and executioners have many lives.
So many lives. Far too many for me to describe.

Imagine them with their wives and their children
with all that blood and gore, my blood washed
and cleansed, as they handle their daughters, sons,
mothers too. The intimate way they touch their wives.

Are they clean and free of all that stains them?
How do they forget what it felt like holding me down?
Of the sound of my breathing, of the smell of my sweat
as they strapped me and held me down. It’s forgotten?

Let’s agree not to call them monsters and demons
shall we? They are brothers, fathers, uncles, sons.
If we make them different, we act and conspire
to make them special, different to the rest of us

Making them different provides an excuse for us
to say too that we would not do what they did or do
when in fact they are like us, all of us, me and you.
A sickness has been unleashed on this earth, this world.

Humans look at what you are, and all of what you do.
On 25th January 2016 Giulio Regini disappeared
the executioner’s reality was - he was in plain view!

(c) 2023 Rob Cullen

Coronation Day 2nd June 1953

From the bench on the street corner one legged Jack sits watching the scene
pennants and bunting draped ready for celebrations, the crowning of a queen.

Jailed for killing a sheep to feed half-starved kids in the far away depression days
Jack remembered the struggle to survive and the children dying in those ways.

On the tree lined flowering street a white-haired boy tried and failed always
when the showering confetti of petals slowly made it their time to fall too.

Red white and pink spring colours in a time of khaki, navy blues, and greys
the white-haired boy walked kicking along the stony road a blue tin zinc ball

Battered and dented dull on each of its three sides from so many tries
to make it fly, it was in those days with long hours they called peace.

Thundering and lightning crackled without warning in clear blue skies
the silenced old gods and wise men left only indentations, remembrances

Of psalms and words in the places they’d once stood in so many guises.
In the tall aspen trees above the school yard Jackdaws turned into blackness

No longer offering advice to the boy standing in silence on a stone edged street.
He wandered listening to hammering hard voices in those endless days of friction. 

It was a time of remembrances of yearning for memories, idylls and those years
before the great fracturing, when men stared too long into the crematoria’s fire.

Of the man-made hell when God looked away from supplications, turned deaf ears
to the prayers of beseechment from the lost, the implorations for intervention

For salvation. And only silence reigned. The old Kings head stared one eyed
on silver sixpences and farthings but he was dead and the Christmas tree lights

Fixed to the windows and doorways ready for the street party rationing allowed
And all those old songs - knees up mother brown, oh knees up mother brown,

They pushed the damper in and they pulled the damper out and the smoke went up
And she’ll be coming round the mountain will be sung again and again and again.

It was a time of remembering past times, it was a time for forgetting times too,
there was hope for the future, for a better life that so many had fought and died for.

But spin the gaudy worn tin carousel sixty-four years or more forward and see
a future of empty food banks feeding working poor kids in the high streets of ghost towns

Where charity shops fill every other door and the worn-out junkies haunt the parade
and we turn our backs too as so many lives are stolen away before our very eyes.

So, our class celebrates the funeral of a queen and our impoverishment
Relinquishing, forgetting what life, poverty and struggle has been like

In those days.
In these days.
My name's Jack.
What’s yours?

(c) 2023 Rob Cullen