Winner of the 2023 Grierson Verse Prize
Rachel Rankin is a poet and translator from Coatbridge, currently based in Edinburgh. She received a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2019, a Dewar Arts Award in 2017, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Jane Martin Poetry Prize. Most recently, she was shortlisted for the 2022 Aurora Prize for Writing and selected for the 2022/23 Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship Scheme. Rachel’s work has been published in Magma, Gutter, The Scotsman, Words Without Borders and Multiverse: An International Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry, among others. She is currently finalising a PhD in Scandinavian Studies/Translation Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
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Single Track Road
When I think about you I don’t think about you
but that day when the road unravelled like yarn
snagged on a nail and strangers were not strangers
but oceans parting and the twitch of their fingers
was not a twitch but a bewitching and the bald trees
stretched thin arms towards a sky that was not a sky
but too many grey pillows pressed against the mouths
of the mountains and you said something and I felt blood
fill my heart that was not a heart but a warm bomb
and I said something that was not something but nothing
and the engine throbbed like some unknown creature
and the wound of the world opened up like an eye
and we moved down the road like a breath down a throat
and we thought we saw everything coming.
Rachel says: A few years ago, my partner and I were involved in a car accident while driving in the Highlands. This shook us up for the rest of the trip, particularly when driving along the single track roads – we were no longer sure of ourselves, no longer relaxed, no longer certain that everything would be okay. When reflecting on this some years later, this poem emerged more or less fully formed, as though the situation had been knitting itself into some kind of expressible form while my back had been turned. I wanted to convey a sense of disorientation and unease in this poem, of things not being quite what they seem, of the unpredictability that, for better or for worse, characterises so much of our lives. It is a poem I am very proud of, and I am honoured and incredibly grateful that it has been chosen as the winner of this year’s Grierson Verse Prize.