Ways to be Wilder Poetry Competition winners: Mynydd y graig by Eleanor Smith.

Today we’re continuing a series of pages publishing the winning and highly commended poems in the People Need Nature/Young Poets Network “Ways to be Wilder” poetry competition, hosted by the Young Poets Network.

This is the fourth winning poem, mynydd y graig, by Eleanor Smith.


mynydd y graig

Eleanor Smith (20)


hill seethes with rain

bone festering with moss

wind scraping it raw


sweated and curled

with furze and fern


hill is carcass hollowed out

ribs holding the sky


buried under clouds,

only its shadow visible

like a whale underwater


invasions of plant life:

hill is bruised

with heather and gorse


hill is labour pangs, crystallized

hill was a giant once


hill has craters in its skin like you

full of rain

hill cracks like your voice does


hill turns your breath into clouds

makes your ribs hungry for sky


i remember when the night was green


several small wet stars were hanging from the white concrete balcony.

the sky was black. there was light in the leaves.

the rain was falling and i was in dolgoch again, where the sound was eternal,

from ledges, from moss.

i looked up and the sky turned purple-dark, gwrym as in middle welsh,

and the trees were black and i loved them.

the whole night smelt like a gift,

the great dark gothic church across the balcony was safe as anything.

i and the trees were the only ones awake to see the orange streetlights,

and there were leaves, everywhere.


high tide


the sea and a bitter wind

and the great swelling dark that shakes you

like a dog – your skin flickers –

you feel translucent.

the shine of it like a whale, this water.

it swallowed stars and they drowned.


how heavy the valley feels behind you

in all this dark.


you can’t see water-colours in the dark

but you can feel them in the sound.

wind in the grass, the cold all around.

an eerie treble soars in your chest, high and thin.


the tide is as big as the wind. as small as a wingbeat.


white spray lashing flicks a switch,

your skin lights up. it’s too small, cold and wet,

your lungs too light to bear this.


the wind gasping-cold, the beat of the waves

in the wrist of the rock.

crash-retreat-hold-release. somewhere underfoot,

rock, salt-scarred plant life.


the cold bite, the song in the dark –

breathe water, breathe salt


from whence cometh my help


the wind for my hymnal

the holy holy moss

censers flinging birdsong


the stain of heather and gorse

as light crosses the glass hills


the rain, the rain, the rain

the benison mist


everything echoes


thin streams like veins of light

god roaming the mountains like a lion


*  *  *


Competition judge Jen Hadfield commented:

This poem-sequence grows out of a wondering hush; it’s a praise-poem really, to the hill, and to the rain. You understand that white space and silence are as integral to the poem as its printed or spoken elements. In these forays of yours, we experience the elements intensely; your animal intelligence throws out wonderful images: the hill under cloud as a whale underwater; the hill and person twinned in their breath and marked skin. In the charged, near holy quietnesses between verses you allow your reader to draw close and to make the poem with you. This is poetry’s most courteous and powerful gesture.