National Poetry Competition 2000


  • Lavinia Greenlaw
  • Ian McMillan
  • Don Paterson
  • Germaine Greer (chair)

Winning Poem 

Ian Duhig
The Lammas Hireling

After the fair, I'd still a light heart

and a heavy purse, he struck so cheap.

And cattle doted on him: in his time

mine only dropped heifers, fat as cream.

Yields doubled. I grew fond of company

that knew when to shut up. Then one night,


disturbed from dreams of my dear late wife,

I hunted down her torn voice to his pale form.

Stock-still in the light from the dark lantern,

stark-naked but for one bloody boot of fox-trap,

I knew him a warlock, a cow with leather horns.

To go into the hare gets you muckle sorrow,


the wisdom runs, muckle care. I levelled

and blew the small hour through his heart.

The moon came out. By its yellow witness

I saw him fur over like a stone mossing.

His lovely head thinned. His top lip gathered.

His eyes rose like bread. I carried him


in a sack that grew lighter at every step

and dropped him from a bridge. There was no

splash. Now my herd's elf-shot. I don't dream

but spend my nights casting ball from half-crowns

and my days here. Bless me Father for I have sinned.

It has been an hour since my last confession.


Winner's Comment 

"The judges' vote of confidence in your poetry is the lasting satisfaction: writers whose own work you admire and respect, however intoxicated, delusional or misguided they were when they chose you; however unsatisfactory a compromise you were that midnight when they were desperate and exhausted, starving, suffering withdrawals or under siege by messages from their children threatened with being taken into care as "home alone" - they still had to put you in the hat with the others before they could make that mistake. And that, in the end, will do nicely."