Baker Poetry Prize

(from Alison Barr)

As some of you know I came third, highly commended in the international Baker Prize and was invited to go to the Skeabost Hotel, north Skye, where the Skye reading room is based.

Having been given personal leave by Highland, Nick and I went up there and stayed for two nights at a cosy little studio near Edinbane then moved on to the big old hotel on the shores of Loch Snizort. The studio was at Knot, which was appropriate as the poem was all about ropes!

On the Tuesday evening before the event I met the other writers. Richard Neath of the Reading Room made us very welcome and bought us drinks. See the Skye reading Room site for more information:

On Wednesday afternoon I was interviewed on Cuillin FM by Charlotte Johnson. Yesterday part one of the Reading Room programme was broadcast and part two (with me included!) goes out next Thursday 7th March at 3pm. If you want to watch it here is the link:    If you miss it live you can still stream it!

At 7 pm the event started. There was an audience of around 50, including well known writers and the judges. Everyone said that it was hardest to go up first but in fact I much preferred this. I so enjoyed reading my poems and although I was a little nervous beforehand I just got up and did what I had to do. I had a slot of about 15 minutes.

Afterwards I was a bit dazed as people were asking me who my publisher was and what my site was. Needless to say I don’t have these things organised! It was interesting to note the other 4 winners were all full time writers, one was with her agent, one had attended St Andrews and one Harvard! I was my natural self and would say that my poems were original and heartfelt.

I was very proud and had a great sense of achievement. My certificate is up on the bookcase here at the Dome. The poem,’ Invasion’ will be published in a Reading Room anthology and also in Northwords, a free poetry magazine which goes out all over Scotland. Look out for the Spring edition. West Highland Free press may also take up the story in next Friday’s edition.

I got the idea for the poem whilst walking the shore below the Dome. Every time that I visited there were pieces of rope lying around. When I revisited the beach they had shifted, disappeared or new ropes and tangles had arrives. I envisaged them here on Scoraig, out across the islands, Britain, Europe and the world. The subject is familiar to us all. So, here is my poem. Enjoy- the Invasion of the ropes, born here on Scoraig!



Ropes have minds of their own.

They migrate to one another,

corkscrew across salty seas,

multi- coloured DNA spirals,

congregate in bundles.

Some stranded on beaches,

brilliant Bluefire jellyfish,

long tentacles trailing.

Some, washed up swirls,


draped over black rocks.

Some, net-intact,

vibrant orange, fisherman yellow,

concertina diamond jersey patterns.

Some brittle with age, sun baked,

degraded, weathered, weakened,

at a touch breaking into powdery filaments.


Assorted lengths float around

deep sea orifices and eddies,

hang around in crisscross rope shoals.

Swirling, shifting slowly,

catching penetrating light rays.

Natural hemp, woven, spliced, pleated, knotted,

rough ends frayed like lions tails.

Nylon, chemical blue, orange, yellow,

white, polished, ends melted.

Lost overboard from moorings, nets, rigging lines,

drifting for days and decades.

Thin, thick, twisted cords, curled, snake entwined,

hitches, stopper knots, plaited.


Where do they all go in the end? To rope heaven?

To a giant universal rope brain with rope synapses

pulsing out messages like an international homing beacon?

Universal assembly harvested from ice scattered northern seas,

warm southern waters.

Modern art flotsam birthed from tankers, P and O’s,

Nile sloops, Hebridean yachts and local fishers,

Dover to Calais Norfolk line, Mediterranean cruisers,

shiny red funnelled Cal Macs, Japanese sampans.


Big tangles washed up on beaches all over the world,

where eyes cast over them and ghost ships cast off.




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