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Iris Anne Lewis



the poet

Born in the Rhondda in Wales, Iris Anne Lewis is a featured writer on fellow countryman Matthew M C Smith's Black Bough Poetry website. She was highly commended in the Wales Poetry Award 2022, having previously won first prize in The Gloucestershire Poetry Society's 2020 Open Poetry Competition. Iris is a regular at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, where she's so far been invited to read seven times. In 2018, she founded Wordbrew: a group of poets based in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds market town of Cirencester.

the poems

I make myself a skirt
of fish skin

00:00 / 01:25

                        Mother stitches mackerel eyes

                        as sequins to my bodice. They wink

                        dark gold in the sun.

                        My sisters leave their baskets

                        brimming full of gutted herring.

                        They braid my hair with seaweed.

                        Grandmother binds my thighs together,

                        strokes my silver scales. Her hands

                        are rough with barnacles.

                        Trawler men sing shanties of storm-

                        tossed ships and foundered boats.

                        There is salt in their voices.

                        Women lead me to the water’s edge,

                        show me how to dance to the surge

                        and suck of the waves.

                        They break in a bridal froth

                        of foam. Spindrift settles

                        as confetti on my shoulders.

                        I flip my tail,

                        rip through the tide,

                        dive deep in the ocean.

                        Claim the sea as my own.

I shall have to be
punished for writing this

After John Wieners'

Children of the working class

00:00 / 01:06

                        I do not want to write in colour,

                        red, purple, yellow, blue – 

                        those shades of blood and bruises.

                        I do not want to write in orange – 

                        that haunted hue of halloween.

                        I must be bold, plain-speaking;

                        tell of prisons, beatings, blistered skin.

                        And so I write in black.

                        The blank screen glimmers

                        mirror-bright. I start to type.

                        Words, those ghosts of thoughts,

                        unfurl across the page.

                        I highlight all my text,

                        change the font to white.

The Tomb of the Eagles

00:00 / 01:53

                        Like a trow, he just appeared,

                        led me through the coastal heath,

                        the bladed grass sharp

                        against my sandalled feet.

                        The air is restless here, he said,

                        a harshness always in its breath.

                        His voice a lilting burr

                        of Nordic vowels and rolling ‘r’s.

                        He tells me stories

                        of island ceilidhs, treeless landscapes,

                        a cache of bones and talons

                        of white-tailed eagles,

                        that sailed the Orkney skies 

                        four thousand years ago.

                        We reach the cliff – the drop below, precipitous.

                        The sea glints silver cold.

                        Wild flowers flicker

                        in the coarse green sedge.

                        And then we are upon it –

                        the grass-topped tomb.

                        Its drystone walls curve round,

                        form a shallow entrance.

                        Lie down, he said. Use this

                        two planks side-by-side

                        slung low on nine-inch wheels.

                        And through the long dark tunnel

                        I belly-skated five thousand years

                        to the pitch-black chamber of the cairn.

                        Stand up, he said. Flicked on his torch.

                        A row of human skulls grinned up at me.

                        He chuckled at my shock.

                        The skulls kept on beaming.

Publishing credits

I make myself a skirt of fish skin: Seaborne Magazine (Issue 3)

I shall have to be punished for writing this: Fresh Air Poetry (June 2019)

The Tomb of the Eagles: exclusive first publication by iamb

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