City Writing

I have been trying to write the things I love about Cardiff for years. There is something here that excites me, that comforts me, that pulls me back when I’m away. This city deserves poetry more than most.

With this in mind, Emma Metcalfe and I decided to set up a City Writing series which would encourage community members to write about Cardiff’s buildings, waterways, arcades, alleys, people and places. It has been wonderful to read about the city’s history, examine its many objects, hear stories from its residents, and watch it being translated – with appreciation and care – to the pages of students, retirees, and professionals.

In our last session Emma and I focused on the River Taff, Roath Lake, and Cardiff Bay and shared poetry from Carrie Fountain, Gillian Clarke, and Dannie Abse. We walked to the river, told stories, and wrote among the daffodils. Using historical books and maps from the Cardiff Story Museum we asked our group of writers to create a collective poem together. It turned out to be a haunting and beautiful representation of the docks in Cardiff:


The Orchard in the Sea

Fire watch at the railings
women and ships being moved by the tides
Cockburn found
quartered, bricked in
cranes like steeples in the distance
12,000 tonnes
glass manufactory – important enough to be on the map
in another life I would have been a cartographer
sink, drained, stained
the games we played
the men, coal black and sweating, coming in from the docks.


After the session, some of our participants were interviewed by a local University student for a feature about city writing.  It was a glorious day.

In just a few hours Emma and I will be running the third workshop which will focus on Arcades and Alleys. I can’t wait to see what writing will come.

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