Commiserate is a monthly experiment in poetic collaboration.

October, 2013: William Letford – The Beat is Your Foot

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford

Ryan Van Winkle & William Letford


Says Ryan: I was very glad when SJ Fowler asked if I’d collaborate with my old friend William Letford for his epic CamaradeFest at the Rich Mix in London. The poem started with a text message Letford got during Reel Festivals’ UK tour and evolved with the help of some brilliant of curve balls. Comma cow cow yiki!


The Beat is Your Foot

I am reading your book
it’s pretty dark
where I am right now

sitting with another
life on fire
another job well done


Yesterday, I lay down
on the tarmac
of a Tesco car park

and bench pressed
a shopping trolley
The kids knew

Some of the elderly did too
I’m happy for the rest

to believe I was drunk
or crazy  coma cow cow yiki


people are going home
green purple salmon
our lantern, the soft moon

paved over rivers
something is going on
something is scratching

There are gaps of grief
coma cow cow yiki yiki ay
and art to shinplaster over

these cracks are contagious
coma cow cow yiki
and all the wolves

howl to get in
and weren’t we
roaring lions


You were the wolf
I was the lion
I still am, coma cow cow yiki

mice whisper and see
I was getting
your dark book yesterday

i was sober enough
two stories high
everything made sense

the trolly, the size
of my house, width
of my mothers arms


I’m using my hands
tracing emotions in the air
sadness is an arc

you must not push – slide
happiness is a single point
and my heart beats


chiki down chiki dee down
down down gi doom bong    bong
gi doom bong gi dibby dibby

coma cow cow yiki yiki ay
chiki down chiki dee down

down down gi doom bong    bong
gi doom bong gi dibby dibby
It’s like my hands

are where magic is
and the beat is your foot
in my spoiled, toothless mouth.

Says William: Ryan was in Australia and I was in the North East of Scotland. I’m glad technology has moved forward otherwise our collaboration would’ve involved quills and month long journeys over land and sea and the death of some postmen, and the death of some sailors, and us growing older with painful dental problems. As it was i threw words in his direction which instantly found him and whenever they came back they were better than before.

We duet-ted the poem in London and I loved hearing it out loud. Smiled all the way through it. Even though we have the internet I suspect we’re growing older anyway. My teeth feel okay though.

William Letford has received a New Writer’s Award from the Scottish Book Trust and an Edwin Morgan Travel Bursary from the Arts Trust of Scotland. His first collection, Bevel, was published by Carcanet Press in 2012. He has received rave reviews for his work which combines experimental structure with cadences and accents of ordinary speech to produce “moments of transcendental insight” (The Guardian).