Beaver fact: “Did you know, a beaver can swim underwater for 15 minutes”
Beaver fact: “Did you know, a beaver’s teeth are impregnated with IRON for strength, which makes them bright orange”
Beaver fact: “Did you know beavers never stop building and maintaining dams, their wetlands are constantly changing and evolving”
Beaver fact: “Did you know that beavers are crepuscular, meaning they come out at dawn and dusk”
Beaver fact: “Did you know a baby beaver is called a KIT”
Beaver fact: “Did you know beavers once lived all across Britain as far back as the ice age”
Beaver fact: “Did you know beavers are vegetarian, they only eat plants like brambles and trees”
Beaver fact: “Did you know the scientific name for European beavers is Castor fiber”
Nature and the Ecological Emergency International Poetry Competition 2021
Congratulations to the winners of our poetry competition. From a shortlist of twelve poems four were chosen. The results are:
A PDF booklet of the prize winning poems can be downloaded here.
For our judge Terry Gifford’s comments on the shortlisted poems, please see right column of this page. Congratulations to our shortlisted poets Beverley Bewley, Julian Bishop, Jane Burn, Ross Cogan, Sandra Davison, Bex Hainsworth, Sarah Howden, Scott Iley, Emilie Jelinek, Jon Alex Miller and Fiona Ritchie Walker. And a big thank you to all who entered – there were many excellent poems that didn’t make it to the shortlist, and we really enjoyed reading all your entries.
Open Competition: First Prize
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,
Enfolded in my arms, you listen
as he calls to his mate
and drift into sleep.
Love is your small body close to mine
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.
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.
Reintroduction of the Beaver
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?
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.
We are delighted to have Terry Gifford as our judge.
Terry, whose eighth collection is A Feast of Fools (2018) is Visiting Research Fellow in Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University, UK, and Profesor Honorifico at the Universidad de Alicante, Spain. Author or editor of seven books on Ted Hughes, most recently Ted Hughes in Context (2018), he also wrote Pastoral (2020), Green Voices: Understanding Contemporary Nature Poetry (2011) and Reconnecting with John Muir: Essays in Post-pastoral Practice (2006). He is currently writing D. H. Lawrence: Ecofeminism and Nature for Routledge. See http://www.terrygifford.co.uk
As judge, Terry Gifford read all entries personally.
Beaver Trust Adjudication
Terry Gifford, 28 September 2021
I read all 250 poems and selected a long list of 57 to read again which produced a shortlist of 12 poems of which 4 were about beavers, which from the evidence of this poetry competition, have certainly caught the imagination of poets.
There were two poems about being named Be[a]verley, two about wild water swimming and one underwater poem about a dying reef. Heat featured a lot, and food banks, a ticket for HS2 printed in Buzzard blood, many ‘fungal filaments’ or ‘fungal networks’, the beaver as bioengineer, or architect or ‘griever-reliever’. Maybe an American entry came up with the line, ‘Who gives a dam, man?’
Of the shortlisted poems I was taken by Beverley Bewley’s turning from exasperation at a teenage phone obsessive to teenage celebration of nature to taking up her pen. Julian Bishop had wonderful alliteration and turned two clichés into an effective ending. Jane Burn turned silence into ‘hoar-song’ and after five stanzas about the tiger only then turned to the ‘cutting down of the lungs of the world’. Listen to the deftness of Ross Cogan’s ‘the mild odour / of abandoned books in his poem titled from Goethe’s calling Venice ‘The Republic of Beavers’. Sandra Davison begins with the Loch of the Wolf and ends with a rising sea wolf to a brilliant last line. Bex Hainsworth begins with an arresting iceberg image and has, underwater, the reader hearing ‘a chorus of ghostly clacking’. Jon Alex Miller ends magnificently, ‘shocked/ back to zero’ in a big and a small personal sense. It’s a great idea to write about not seeing the beaver, as Fiona Richie Walker did, being gifted something else because she’s alert.
Third prize went to Sarah Howden whose poem asked questions of originality, clever questions of reciprocal memory, of deep memory, of the cost of memory recovered. There’s a confidence and maturity in the irregular form in which thoughts are allowed to flow without being forced into equal stanzas.
Second prize was for Ross Cogan’s second poem which turned on the vernacular usage of a common word for the turning tide that becomes a metaphor so that the simple image at the end carries an ominous power.
First prize went to a poem in which the intimate human is embedded in nature and cannot escape its predations. The poem turns from softness, delicacy, the intimate warmth of love into a terror at the vulnerability of the next generation. Emilie Cavandish’s ‘The Owl’ did a lot of work from simple images.
The Beaver Prize went to Scott Iley’s making of ‘The Aspen Meadow’ for future beavers, displacing himself in a larger timescale, with a bigger than human sense of planetary future. This was the most traditional form used in the competition – rhyming couplets – which works because of the long lines. Afterwards others agreed that this poem was remarkable and a worthy winner of The Beaver Trust’s Beaver Prize.
1st prize – £150 and publication in Resurgence & Ecologist magazine
2nd prize – £50
3rd prize – £25
- A further prize will be awarded for the best poem with a theme of beavers at its core – £100 – plus a plasticine beaver made by renowned model-maker Jim Parkyn, of Aardman and Shaun the Sheep fame.
All winners will also be offered the opportunity to visit the inspirational Cornwall Beaver Project (as featured on the BBC’s Spring and Winter Watches) for a guided beaver walk. There is no time restriction to this prize, it can be taken when convenient.
Please note This prize does not include the cost of travel or accommodation.
ALL EMAIL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY MIDNIGHT 31st MAY 2021. We will accept postal entries received by Saturday 5th June, provided they are post-marked no later than 31 May.
Rules of Entry:
- The competition is open to all. International entries are welcome.
- Poems should be on the theme of Nature and the Ecological Emergency. You may interpret this in any way you wish.
- There will also be a special prize for the best poem that has the theme of beavers at its core.
- Poems must be in English and not exceed 40 lines of text. There is no minimum length. Titles, epigraphs, dedications and blank lines are not included in the line count.
- Poems must fit on a single side of A4 and must have a title
- Poems are judged anonymously. Each poem must be on a separate page, which must not bear the author’s name or any other mark by which the author could be identified.
- Online entries are preferred – please send a .doc or pdf document to firstname.lastname@example.org with competition entry as the subject header.
- Please first pay your entry fee online at https://beavertrust.org/poetry.
- Please accompany your entry with the following information: name of poet, title of poem, contact details including phone number and the Paypal reference number you received when you paid your entry.
- If you are unable to enter online, you may send a Postal Entry. Two copies of each poem are required, accompanied by a covering letter with your name, address and phone number, a list of the poems submitted and where you heard about the competition.
- Entries should be sent by normal post (NOT registered post) to: Poetry Competition, The Cornwall Beaver Project, Woodland Valley Farm, Ladock, Cornwall, TR2 4PT. Please quote your Paypal reference number if you have paid online, which is our preferred option. If you need to send a cheque these should be made payable to The Beaver Trust. If you require confirmation that your postal entry has arrived please enclose a stamped self-addressed postcard marked ‘Acknowledgement’.
- There is no restriction on the number of poems that may be submitted, provided the appropriate entry fee is included.
- Poems must be the original work of the entrant, unpublished and not accepted for publication in any medium. They must not have been awarded a prize in any other competition.
- Winners will be notified by email or post. No person will be awarded more than one prize.
- Poems entered will not be returned. Make sure you keep a copy for yourself.
- Copyright will remain with the author, but the organisers reserve the right to publish any of the prizewinning poems as they deem appropriate.
- Once entered, poems may not be amended.
- Shortlisted poets will be informed on Tuesday 2nd August 2021.
- Shortlisted poets will be invited to read their poems at a ceremony at the Quaker Meeting House in Bradford on Avon on Tuesday 28th September, at which there will be the opportunity to meet experts from the Beaver Trust. Results will be announced at the ceremony.
- The full list of winners will be announced on our website, https://beavertrust.org shortly after the presentation.
- The judge will read ALL the entries
- The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
- Beaver Trust reserves the right to change the judge if the need arises.
- In exceptional circumstances the organisers reserve the right to return poems and entry fees.
- The Competition is open to all, other than team members, trustees and staff of the Beaver Trust. There is no age limit to entries
- ALL EMAIL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY MIDNIGHT 31st MAY 2021. We will accept postal entries received by Saturday 5th June, provided they are post-marked no later than 31 May.
Poems to inspire you..
From Terry’s collection Whale Watching with a Boy and a Goat (1998)
The island’s tourists savour the flesh of fresh salmon.
The island’s salmon swim at the head of the loch.
At the head of the loch the tides barely reach.
Where the tides barely reach the salmon cages float.
Towards the caged salmon flesh swim the sea lice.
Against the sea lice the farmer feeds ivermectin.
Ivermectin the toxic loves the flesh of the mussels.
The flesh of the mussels is loved by the tourists.
Few tourists at first suffer shellfish poisoning.
Shellfish poisoning is killing more island tourists.
The island’s tourists savour the flesh of fresh salmon.
James Wallace 13th February 2004, WTC.
Most days for the past few decades
a bone-deep pleasure has been bristled
and white-striped to me
by the badgers of Back Lane.
We share this nook of Berkshire,
warm-blooded and canine-toothed into familiarity.
At every glimpse of their earthy excavations,
I feel the thrill of their digging,
their spoil mounding on the tarmac
of this winding Stanford Dingley lane.
Every now and again you see the trundling pace
of a low-slung chap out hunting
beetles and worms and grubbing,
and you slow the engine, swing out wide
giving him the due berth and respect he deserves.
He lives on a mere slip of a hill
with ivy-draped oaks, pigeons,
neat hedges and banks either side.
We had a recent conversation,
I, bipedal and bald, with a man who is
as hairy, narrow-mouthed and blind
as the corner of his roadside home.
Whilst chatting with this subterranean
of dark tunnels,
dried grass bedding
and dangling roots,
He mumbles a warning:
Some nonsense about tuberculosis, apparently.
His lot is lower than cash-crops and factory cows,
slandered with poisonous words,
the howls of terriers dig out this old brock.
Two species, one kingdom, six feet on the ground,
we had a discussion, unheard, garrulous without words
over a bottle of beer as I strode home.
He seemed not to care for his fate,
nor my shadow,
but I do, for both of his,
fuelled by roses a-glow
red-cheeked from an evening at the Bull Inn.
But only two months ago I stood beside him
and gazed in awe at his manners,
our plain similarity,
his bold persona,
incessant scratching at invisible fleas,
calmly ducking into his set,
reversing in and out
shy of prying automobiles.
Three times he returned to sniff the air,
cast a nonchalant glance at my feet
look up and melt my heart in the full moon of his fur.
Today I saw him again,
sprawled by his back door,
drunk on a night’s foraging,
spread on his belly,
Although ruffled ‘round the edges
and covered in dust,
he was surprisingly animated and soft to touch,
since the cruel wheels of a speeding truck.
Copyright © James Wallace 2004
It wasn’t just your orange teeth that first attracted me,
although they undoubtedly helped.
There was something in your style;
how you hacked your way through brash and bramble,
your determination to shape the landscape.
Your reputation preceded you; I had been tracking you
for a while, observing from a distance
where you wouldn’t notice me.
I feared my farmyard odour would repulse you.
My clumsiness of movement,
the way my wellies caught in the mud.
In the evening, hiding behind reeds,
I watched you swimming, your body
sleek through the water, sometimes diving under
like a Renaissance princess searching for a long-lost sword.
I have to admit being besotted, even obsessed;
believed you when you promised to save the world
with your vegan diet, your water gardens; was awestruck
by the way wildlife seemed to gather in your wake.
It has to be said we weren’t without our problems;
you liking an all night party, me ready for gin and bed by ten.
I couldn’t keep up, became frustrated as you slept all day,
We hardly saw each other.
I wondered how you put up with it; all those beaver jokes,
but the truth is you were nothing more
than an oversized rodent. I forgave you everything;
felling my contorted willows, destroying my lilies…
I had no choice but to contain you;
it was all part of the contract.
It was your nature to test boundaries, to rattle the cage,
but in the end I just couldn’t give you what you wanted,
what you wanted most of all –
just be free.
Credit – Lizzy Lister 2020