The deadline for submissions for the 2021 Janet Coats Memorial Prize has now passed.
Janet Coats was part of the renowned thread-making family J&P Coats. The eldest daughter of Margaret Glen and Thomas Coats, who was one of four brothers that inherited the Paisley-based thread manufacturing company. Janet's literary aspirations resulted in two volumes of nature-inspired poetry, one of which was published as Verses and Rhymes in 1899. Janet Coats was the wife of the publisher James Tait Black.
The theme of the 2021 Paisley Book Festival is, Radical New Futures, motivated by the importance that green spaces have played as solace and recuperation over the last year. Green spaces can be grand places of outstanding beauty or small, resilient patches of nature in the hearts of our towns and cities. They can be anything from parks to window boxes. Some are carefully manicured, others are unkempt and wild.
The judging panel for 2021 is poet and playwright and Scots Makar, until 2016, Liz Lochhead: poet, writer and creative practitioner, Nadine Aisha Jassat: and the current Tannahill Makar, Brian Whittingham.
The shortlist for both the Under and Over 18s Categories are below:
Under 18s Shortlist:
Breathe by Gemma Livingstone (S1, Castlehead High School)
Seven decades ago I began to breathe
A new life watching over a new house
Part of a new estate being built
The town growing into the green belt
The houses spewed black smoke as coal fires burnt
The cars pumped out an awful smell into the air
And when I looked up
The same engines were in the sky
But the houses aren't so black now
The cars are not as odious
But the planes still fly overhead
Now in ever growing numbers
Today there are no planes flying by
The cars are not moving
The people are in lock down
And I am still standing here breathing
It has become so much easier
Than it was even just last year
The sparrows have returned the flowers are blooming
Children are playing hide and seek
Have the humans learned?
Is it going to keep getting better?
Will the planes ever return?
Will the cars ever move again?
And when will they plant more of me?
After all I’ve stood here for seventy years
And I have breathed for you
So will you breathe for me?
Poem 3 by Emma McCallum (S2, Castlehead High School)
we all have those days where we just don’t wanna wake up,
I have those days often.
I was walking, alone.
But I wasn't alone,
I could hear the song of the birds clearly.
It was comforting.
I came to a stop at a lake,
One thought came to mind.
I took a breath and looked away,
I hated my appearance.
Rain had started to fall into the water,
My reflection disappeared.
The rain slowly dripped down my face.
For a long time I was good at it,
Good at feeling absolutely nothing.
The sound of thunder had overtaken me,
7pm had turned to 3am within minutes.
I watched the water slowly fall off the leaves in the moonlight.
I closed my eyes,
I was at peace
Let That Be Our Green Space by Alisdair Napier (S1, Castlehead High School)
Let that be our green space
take a moment
and be grateful
for our garden.
Snapshots and snippets in time
when visits were banned, we could still meet
We played catch,
competed in circuits for 10k steps,
planted seeds and watched them grow
and waited to see if they were wild.
We ate crisps on the backdoor step
And clapped on the front for the NHS.
sheltered from the rain,
and chopped wood.
We huddled by the fire and wore blankets,
We mirrored the season’s change.
Our green space sleeps
As we wait
for bright days ahead:
to find new memories created
in our green space.
Under 18s Highly Commended:
Green Space Poem by Cameron Walker (S2, Castlehead High School)
The blinding sunlight breaks through the ancient trees,
The aroma of fresh lavender darts up my nostrils, it smells of hime
I look out to the fresh fields of shrubbery and flowers, it looks like a painters pallet,
The planks groan as I hurry along the decrepit bridge,
As the wind whistles through the trees, I feel free
Free frae the hoose
Treehouse by Dawn McGuire (S2, Castlehead High School)
I feel the sunlight shing through the trees.
I watch the wind wandering through the leaves.
I breath in slowly the fresh crisp air calming
Walking up the winding steps slowly.
Excitement bubbling inside me;
The world slowly swallowing me.
The wooden floor old and covered with moss
As I walk to the small window,
Taking in the woods, the trees, the mountains
The treehouse contains the memories of many
The nostalgia surrounds me… consumes me.
From the day we found it until now.
The treehouse is a part of the woods,
The trees have retained it,
The mountains surround it,
The world protects it.
Upon the Hill by Sarah Fulton (S5, St Andrews Academy)
You stand upon the hill,
Barefoot among the blades
As they bow towards you.
As pale a blue as blue can be,
Stretches for miles on the horizon,
And you look to it.
Who knows how long this moment will last?
Genuflecting on your steps,
Carry leaves on their fingers
Admiring them themselves
Before offering you a glance.
And you take it.
Upon the hill,
You drown in an emerald glint.
Mother Nature always did have her favourites,
And today she’s chosen you.
With a yawn,
You brush fingertips with the Gods,
Reaching to the skies
As nature yields to you.
Like a petal in the breeze,
Departs from its constrictions,
In this green glacier,
You’re all you’ve dreamed to be.
Fresh and smooth,
Glides into your lungs
And in turn, blooms a flower.
In these green spaces,
Will thrive forever,
And become one with the earth.
Even if the world itself,
Shuffling hastily along,
Fade and whimper.
Over 18s Shortlist:
The Gulls' Lament by Marka
Whaur are oor ready meals
on chipped ice
unner the clarty wheels
or scattered by roller shutter
gates? Whaur are the ballin
twa-legs whae filled oor gutters
wi guts and fish heids?
They’d share pizza an chips,
chucked up for oor catch,
or bits o pierogi
we snatched when scunnert
nae dieseled air,
Pitches is empty,
nae fitba pies.
Shoaps is empty,
Nae fancy pieces.
Nae wains aboot wi
pokes o’ steamin treats.
Nae dotterin auld yins
wi a shoogly grip.
Nae mair skite tae the napper,
drap ’n grab an aff we skoot.
We cram the sky wi cries
an drum the grass for
worms, makin dae,
A Trumpeter by Angus Bhattacharya
A Trumpeter toots a tune to turn heads away from the general gloom
Gliding over guys, girls and glitchers (gender flow-ers, switchers).
The pitch stirs, calms nerves,
creates verbs of smiling,
Beguiled corners-goers, filing away from their trials, imbibing the music maker's brassy beats,
start tapping feet as others cross the street into the park, before the evening dark descends,
allowing trumpet and two guitars to mend tensions, be momentary friends with their
No pretensions present as the crowd forms and warms, despite the frost, to the warbles and
the strumming and scoops of jazzy scales,
and trumpeter scales a park statue,
and from new view raises his horn to the blue hue of a cold sky for more who pass through to
have their ears mollified .
And the now large crowd is mystified in the mist,
satisfied in bliss.
It's a lullaby some miss, An old man mumbles a grumble,
'folk dignify this with a response?' "they just want your money!" he shouts once,
and carries on with nonchalance but all bonces are turned to the performers
squeezing the valves that are proving the salve for the general topsy turviness,
the unending, unnerving does get under everyone's skin,
and the cold freezing it on top makes all grateful for moments like this, to grin.
To stop. to listen. To share.
To bop along to some happy songs,
To throng with gratitude at each small interlude,
as the mood exudes positivity, fleeting it may be but we who witnessed in the wintery chill,
that makes all still except those with the will and the music to fill others spirits in this park,
resting up against bark, under shade makes the stage for toots in winter,
before buds shoot in spring and the fogs lifts in the air and the hearts of passers-by.
Background Paper 3 (Proposed Housing Developments, Dykebar) by Morag Smith
An indicative masterplan has been prepared
for this teenage Devil’s Playground
where gargoyles smile from burrs on trees
and lockdown lovers kiss in the patients’ garden,
slow-grown, gone in a blink
Garlic. Daisy. Hawksbeard. Bluebell.
Owners confirm the overgrown buildings
are surplus to current operational needs
Life overwinters in rubble,
dead wood is never dead, shelter
found in the hollows of a snag
Earwig. Weevil. Stonefly. Spider.
Perforated steel sheets the eyes
of B-listed ghosts, all blind
to milky sweep of winter sun while moss
coats the trunks of their sentinels
Possible adverse impacts have been examined
Oak. Rowan. Chestnut. Elder.
From the hill you can see layers
of coppice sway in South-Westerlies
lustrous sheets of rain drifting east
One day, not a blade of grass left
from Hazelwood to Councillor’s Wynde
River. Bog. Meadow. Woodland.
These lungs can’t breathe without marshy paths
leading nowhere, nests of brambles that root,
hatch, flower in spring and pipe their warnings
To ease removal from the Green Belt
further detail may be required
Chiffchaff. Dunnock. Song Thrush. Starling.
Over 18s Highly Commended:
Return to Edinburgh by Camilla Bell
Be still with the sky, it is dreaming onto you.
Watch its dusky particles
to bring you back to life.
I have been drifting,
stuck in flight mode,
that is no longer the case.
We came to terms with the wind again,
sought it on hills.
It freed our hair and tightly-wound coats,
it freed our troubles,
polished our cheeks.
There were more than four occasions
it made us gleam.
We fell giggling through gardens
stole figs (in Scotland!)
found down a tunnelled wynd,
a steep climb,
windy maze of cobbled streets –
the tumbled landscape
of my heart’s architecture.
The train took us too soon,
and seabuckthorn, smelled through mask
brought back the beach,
the brittle sea –
bracing us to plunge in
to stand, slick, green as seals
to be all body
but for once not feel.
The Only Way Out is to Cycle Through by Caroline Burrows
I pedalled out under a gloom ridden sky,
On a flat path haunted by ghosts of trees,
Their trunks, like a dead giant’s ribcage, twisted high.
Winds tore through those bones in bitter eddies,
A crumbling skin of leaves littered the trail,
Numbed, I cycled on, past those shadowy sentries.
I pedalled, met by clouds heavy with hail,
On the same path, the trees had mummified,
Each shrivelled branch pointing with a stubbed fingernail.
Ice hammered wood, out of sync, amplified,
The path was pelted as if detested,
I cycled past those clashing drummers, petrified.
I pedalled beneath clouds filled with a flood,
On the path, the trees stood over their graves,
Like bloated corpses that had ruptured, smeared with mud.
Murky sobs streaked down the trees in runged staves,
Trying to bandage the trunks with their grief,
Bogged down, I cycled through the path’s sludge filled concaves.
I pedalled to the sun in disbelief,
On the path, the trees were resurrected,
Waving hello breezily with each full green leaf.
Their branches formed a shelter overhead,
On the flat path, shadows and light shone through,
Making the shape of a ladder which led,
Me and my bike up, out into a brighter view.
Where the Wild Things Were by Sadie Maskery
This garden sprawls downslope
towards the sea. East to West, nettles
and butterflies; South, blown roses.
North, mildew and snails -
creeping things, slimetrails silver
and brittle in cool air.
Once were wolves with paws
heavy in the clay where now cats
tease thistledown in the restless breeze.
The bulk of drowsy wood pigeons
anchors the flight of skylarks above old walls.
Once I scratched a shard from its bed
and thought it was a tiger tooth
stained with old blood.
Herds of wild sheep grazed here.
A forest vaster than worlds made this soil.
Sprites and daemons bathed in pools
of moonlight cradled by trees.
Beyond, waves sighed or roared -
for always, and always, here hung
the salt scent of restless seas.
Now sparrows dance and bicker
in daisies and clover, sing of a past
when children played in a fairy's orchard
and slept in its shade.
Seasons to centuries to aeons turn
and memories burn bright but all will fade.
Dreams whisper on the wind.
Like the wolves, vanish in the night.