16 Sep 2020

The NZ-born poet telling truth in Covid times

From Nine To Noon, 10:07 am on 16 September 2020

Back in May, Kiwi-born Welsh poet Tomos Roberts (aka Probably Tomfoolery) captured the imagination of millions around the world with his poetry video The Great Realisation.

It's now been turned into a book with illustration by Japanese artist Nomoco.

Tomos tells Kathryn Ryan he began making videos partly in response to tricky questions from his 7-year-old brother and sister.

Tomos was a 26-year-old flatting with friends and making videos for social media when Covid-19 hit Wales. He ended up unemployed and living at home playing big brother to his seven-year-old brother and sister.

While Tomos is into "artsy creative things", his mother, father and big sister all work in health so while they were working in hospitals he spent time with his younger siblings.

To pass the time, and also try and spread some hope, he started creating projects they could do together.

The Great Realisation – the fourth poetry video Tomos made – was sparked by a phrase he kept hearing – "I can't wait for things to go back to normal".

Although Tomos doesn't want to negate the suffering Covid-19 has caused, people were neglecting to see the new good things that have come from the worldwide pause it has caused, he says.

In interviews, Tomos is often asked whether he is an optimist or a pessimist. He says, like most of us, he's a bit of both.

"We exist in a moment by moment basis on this sliding scale … I truly believe it takes more energy to be optimistic. It's harder to try and see the potential in the world but the reward is you get to a life that i think feels like one you want to be living."

It is the job of artists to do their bit for public mental health in these times, Tomos says.

"I feel compelled to try and offer any silver living that I might be able to see. I also hope when I'm struggling to see them someone else will perform that role for me."