As it’s Forest Week (who knew?), we thought you’d like to read this extraordinary owl poem by Yvonne Reddick from Translating Mountains, her winning collection from our 2016 Poetry Pamphlet Competition. We dare you not to shed a tear... 

Like all of our previous Pamphlet Competition winners, Yvonne went on to publish widely following her win. Her first book-length connection Burning Season was published by Bloodaxe in May 2023. The collection won The Laurel Prize for Best UK First Collection 2023, and the title poem won third prize in the Gingko Prize for Ecopoetry 2022. 





Two nights before the inquest 

we leave our dark-paned house 

and hear her yelling in the forked chestnut 

where Dad nailed the owl box. 


She finds us and looses her cry – 

some hear it as Kee-Wick 

but it’s clearly You-Weep. 


She has wings, their barbs hushed for flight, 

the flutings of the quills stifle their riffle. 

Each foot a clench of grapnels, 

she can hear our hearts under a metre of snow. 


Clutching the roof-tree 

she turns her searchlight glare on us: 

a howlet, an august eagle-owl 

pricking her feathery horns when we stir. 


 Dad called minutes before he died. 

We did not answer, and when 

we rang, and rang, it was too late. 

Now she hovers over us, circling. 


Look, I’m training her 

to come to hand. I lure her 

with a scapegoat house-mouse, 

a chick’s foot; feed her  

until her street-lamp eyes

darken to beady brown 

and she shrinks to the size 

of a gentle tawny: a Jenny Houlet 

as she’s called in Scots. 


Mum, you have turned nocturnal – 

the lamp makes your glasses 

two moons. Outside, the owl calls You-Weep

I can’t hear her mate’s Hu-Hoo


YVONNE REDDICK is a writer and researcher. Her debut collection Burning Season, published by Bloodaxe, won The Laurel Prize for Best UK First Collection 2023. Her pamphlet Translating Mountains (Seren, 2017) won the Mslexia Magazine Pamphlet Competition and was selected as a favourite pamphlet of the year in the Times Literary Supplement. Her work appears in publications such as The Guardian, PN Review and The North.

The Author

Yvonne Reddick Image

Yvonne Reddick

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