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Robertson wins Forward Prize for best single poem

What, all my pretty chickens…?

This from Robin Robertson’s 2009 Forward Prize winning poem entitled ‘At Roane Head’ (dedicated to John Burnside).

A fork of barnacle geese came over, with that slow
squeak of rusty saws. The bitter sea’s complaining pull
and roll; a whicker of pigeons, lifting in the wood.

She’d had four sons, I knew that well enough,
and each one wrong. All born blind, they say,
slack-jawed and simple, web-footed,
rickety as sticks. Beautiful faces, I’m told,
though blank as air.

Powerful more for its narrative I think, in the way of ‘The Death of Actaeon’, than for how, as is more common in Robertson’s work, the individual words toil and rub and disarm together.


Don Paterson won this year’s Forward Prize for best collection with Rain. Paterson and Robertson, both Scots, have won three Forward Prizes each.

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