First prize

The Owl

No one sees him
though his voice fills the dark
wrapping the house,
echoing across the cold night,
across the misted paddock and steaming river,
beneath the perfect arc of a silent,
outstretched wing.
Enfolded in my arms, you listen
as he calls to his mate
and drift into sleep.
Love is your small body close to mine
breathing softly.
It is the peace of your moon face,
your tiny hand in mine,
the smell of your warm, soft hair
like the downy underbelly of our lovestruck tawny
it comes at me in elemental form,
fills me with terror.
Somewhere in feathered cloak,
he silently sweeps the woodland floor
quartering for the faintest rustle,
ready to swoop.

Emilie Jelinek

Second Prize


Old men who know the tides, can feel the sea
stirring beneath their keels and read the Braille
of stippling wind on their raw faces, call
it ‘reconsidering’: that moment when
the deep machinery of weights and wheels
reaches its moon-drawn summit; pauses and turns

towards the land. And, like the mad-haired priest
dragging his load of prayer up heaven’s slopes,
it climbs the banks and sounds the cliff for gaps
and gullies, saps in rocks where it can lay
charges of sea that later on will burst
in shafts of ice. Day withdraws from the sky.

Squadrons of pin-voiced birds hurry from hedge
to bush, sowing their small notes of alarm.
From out over the marshes, winds take aim
at lines of stunted hawthorn. A dark stain
covers the early stars and a clenched ridge
of cloud reports the first rumours of rain.

Ross Cogan

Third Prize

Reintroduction of the Beaver (1526-2001)

What do you remember
of us – and we of you?

Pieces. A foot
like a disinterred bat’s wing
still dripping from the dark earth, stained
with stale river and molasses. A writhing muscle
of water. Yellow teeth
like slabs of rusted armour,
spark-splintered, sharpened again
with every bite.

After this shameful interregnum, we assemble you
from your own parts. Stich back your face
from scraps of sun-slicked fur. A Renaissance blazon:
symbol made stubborn flesh.

How will you meet us in this brave new world?
You, who can hold summers hostage
in a fortress of bronzed pine?

Had we forgotten how the loch
would scour your skin to silver?
That you, too, know the art
of piecing broken things together?

Sarah Howden

Best Beaver Poem

The Aspen Meadow

Ours is a bright wee burn, brimming with coiled rush and swirling chase.
The heron (a grey rock amongst that rushing), plucks her tythes with reptilian grace.
Geysers of mayfly erupt from the eddies, and scything through them, swallows flit.
Then Pipistrelles come thrumming through nights, thick with moths and starlit.

November brings the flashing steel tide of salmon, grim at mouth,
Flowing, fighting, northwards, then ebbing, spent, south.
I plant Aspen and Willow, along the bank, while the dewy meadows gleam;
A prayer of hope, a gift, to beavers not yet here, but coming, in a dream.

I see them here, in our hay meadow, newly sunk in emerald water.
‘Won’t they flood our house? If they build dams here?’ interrupts my daughter.
But this is not our home, our meadow, our bright wee burn with riffled fall.
The accountant has informed me; we only borrowed them all.

Our doings and beings, comings and goings; we pay back what we borrow;
And the landlord tells me that when we go, none will follow.
The Dipper. And the Oystercatcher. The lonely curlews’ call. They will stay.
The pearl mussel larvae, clinging to the gill of the salmon, will find its’ way.

And when the beaver comes to these forgotten meadows and abandoned soil,
She will find an Aspen meadow, suckering up through the ruins of my toil.
She will find my prophecy, written in quaking leaves and sweat and blood,
The cool baptism of quiet waters, a land in-waiting for the flood.

With each thrust of the planting spade, each slit sod and pressing of root,
With each scrape of backfill and firming with black boot,
I give back the crop of bright wildflowers that I took on loan;
I dig the foundations for the beavers’ world, and bury my own.

Scott Iley

For more information on the poetry prize and a downloadable book of the winning poems, please visit