Gardener Turned


About Sean

Sean Swallow (he/him) is a poet and garden designer with a lifelong connection to the Welsh landscape.

Exploring nature through a queer lens, his work hopes to subvert the pastoral tradition, offering escape and introspection.

Drawing from personal experiences as an Englishman in rural Wales, his poetry navigates themes of identity and belonging.

Photograph by Charlie Hopkinson


Whilst studying for an English Literature BA (hons) at The University of Liverpool I became interested in the overlap between queer poets and the twentieth century North American pastoral.

I read Frank O’Hara’s Homosexuality, ‘It is the law of my own voice I shall investigate’.

And of gay men cruising he wrote, ‘The good love a park / and the inept a railway station’.

How can locations serve as a code? And how could he write with the authority of ‘law’?

These are questions I still ask myself in my work.

I became a garden designer in my late twenties and, over a period of several years, my landscape work quite regularly appeared in the national press.

I developed my own garden style which attempted to ‘seem natural’, a style which later became important to me as a poet, even when experimenting with form.

Preoccupied by gardens as places of wildlife habitat, I planted hedgerows, woodlands and encouraged hay meadows.

Many of the plants and animals I engaged with featured in poems I wrote later.

In 2014, I studied Poetry and Form with the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. I rediscovered the creative constraints of poetic form, how form prevents us from writing exactly what we want and, in doing so, makes us write something unexpected.

In 2019 I gained a Creative Writing MA (with Distinction) from The Open University.

“Being different, or ‘feeling queer’ from a young age, could be viewed as an advantage because I came to habitually question predominant narratives.”


In 2017, two of Sean’s poems (under the pen name CB Green) were published in The Rialto (88), when chosen by Hannah Lowe as runner-up in the Nature and Place pamphlet competition.

Sean’s debut public reading was at The Cheltenham Poetry Festival in 2018.

In a previous stage of life Sean was fortunate to have been able to make this garden (left) which featured in House and Garden UK, and served as an example of his work for clients.



April is winter weighted with new brightness.

Blue flowers under rusty trees in the frozen yard

and shit up to the door. I reach through branches

to hidden empties. Hunger is our problem,

haylage was a price and now we rent

fields of winter beet. The frosted lambs get up

from sleep-melted circles, one squeak from the gate

and they pour off the hills. Farming is about waking up

one thing and not another yet it all grows at once:

ewes with rotten cloves, brassicas with moths,

oil on the shed floor, blood from a cracked face,

the Off Licence miles off. Last night thaws.

Had I tacked the chainharrow to the Landrover,

spun around the fields, music banging as lambs

foamed in hedgerows? Neglected, they all come to look,

I mean I, we, they, all come to look the same

This poem was first published in The Rialto Magazine 88.

I bead [biːd]

Bead; any strung, sewn object

made of seeds, crystals, beans.

Beadwork; in embroidery,

threads repeated to make patterns

for clasp bags, bishops’ capes.

Unbeaded; a quick hand

on a décolleté catches a necklace,

pearls scatter across the slate.

He unbeads hair extensions

and runs his weightless head

under a tap. Beader; one who beads

and is always right, deftly selecting

the next bead without thought.

The formation of beads of sweat,

the porosity of resting athletes.

Beady-eyed; blackbirds, yet not

unfeeling, Rembrandt’s eyes,

plummy sea urchins in marine light.

Prayer Beads; continuous yet discrete,

as fingertips count along the string

and find a beading soul right there.

Photograph by Charlie Hopkinson

Contact Sean