The Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year 2017 Shortlist

We are thrilled to announce the shortlist for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Irish Poem of the Year 2017.

We received over 100 entries which were then anonymously forwarded to our adjudicator Richard Skinner, Director of the Fiction Programme at the Faber Academy, who had the unenviable task of choosing a shortlist of four.  Richard also runs Vanguard Readings and Vanguard Editions. He has published three novels with Faber & Faber, three books of non-fiction and two books of poetry. Richard stated;

‘The poems submitted for the Irish Poem of the Year Award were of a very high standard and thematically incredibly various. Some themes did emerge, however: lots of poems about Irish history, lots about friends or prominent figures who have passed and, weirdly, lots of poems about horses. As ever, it was a pleasure and a privilege to judge this year’s competition.’

Apart from the four shortlisted poems, Richard also wanted to especially commend the following poems,

Bright Star: Elegy for David Bowie by Graham Allen
The Moorhen by Jackie Gorman
Sexing the Egg by Eileen Sheehan

The shortlisted poems are now available for reading at below and don’t forget to cast your vote at before midnight on the 23rd November 2017.

Voting can commence on the 2nd November 2017.

The four shortlisted poems  and poets are:-

Amanda Bell

by Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell is a Dublin-based poet, writer and editor. Her début poetry collection, First the Feathers, is being launched on 16 November by Doire Press. Recent publications include The Lost Library Book (an illustrated book for children, from The Onslaught Press) and Undercurrents (a haibun collection, from Alba Publishing).

My arrowheads, no harsh tongues these
but tiny points for felling forest birds –
folsom and clovis, in creamy stone,
black flint and splintered chert
bound to a shaft by hide.

Arrayed before me here by hue and heft
as I renovate a printer’s tray –
drawing a blade along each joint,
fine-brushing every nook and crack,
spirit swabbing to ensure a grip
for backing papers, chosen to offset
the colours of each stone, cast light on
hard-struck angles.

Tools fallen out of use,
they take their place in ink-stained wood,
nestled in the abandoned bed of words.

Published in The Irish Times

John McAuliffe

Ledwidge in Manchester
by John McAuliffe

John McAuliffe has published four books, most recently The Way In (Gallery Press), which was joint winner of the Michael Hartnett Award in 2016, and Of All Places (Gallery), which was Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2011. He teaches poetry at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing, where he is Professor of Modern Literature and Creative Writing. He also writes the regular poetry column for the Irish Times.

Having made mincemeat of his shoulder, he convalesces,
not knowing, but – really – knowing that some padre or other
will sooner rather than later record he was blown to pieces
stopping in out of the rain for a cuppa with his unit . . . In Ypres.
A different unit to the one he just quit in the Balkans, or the upset assembly around him in Lily Lane, in the schoolroom they’ve had to refit
as a ward, so national was the level of casualty.


This is in the run-up to Easter in 1916.
Outside he can be seen observing the new daffodils
bending under the northwest wind. It’s been
and gone. The not much that lies ahead of him, and helpless symbols.

Published in The Irish Times

Tara Bergin

Bride & Moth
by Tara Bergin

Tara Bergin was born and grew up in Dublin. Her second collection, The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx (Carcanet), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and is a PBS Recommendation. Tara currently lives in the North of England and lectures part-time at Newcastle University.

Every sadist needs a masochist.

What queer songs Green Peter sings –
but of course he is both attractor and deceiver:
I mean, he thinks they are the same thing.

Now at the start I thought I was Hawk,
or Coxcomb, or Cream-bordered Chinese;
I thought I was Crimson,
but you thought of me differently:
a Common Footman; a Common Lackey;
a Common Yellow Underwing.

But I could never have been these things.
What cruel songs Green Peter sings.

Because I thought I was Emperor,
while you thought I was Eyed,
and I thought I was Fox,
while you thought I was Feather-flied,
and I swore I was Garden, and Ghost-swift, and Gypsy-pied,
but you said I lied:
I was Hook-tip, you shouted, and Iron.

I cried, and said no I was Kentish Glory,
and Jersey,
and Lutestring:
I showed you the tops of my new white stockings.
But you turned aside,
and spat that I was a Lappet; a Lesser;
I fell to my knees at the Registrar
and said that Oleander was my name.
You laughed and said it was Old Lady.
I clutched at your tails:
I am Pale; I am Peach-blossom, I wailed,
No, you said, you are Pebble, and Puss.
I picked myself up.
I said I was Reed and Rosy, and Satin and Scarce.
I held grandly my white satin purse –

But every masochist needs a sadist!
sang hand-tied little Peter,
as rehearsed.

Published in The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx (Carcanet)

Clodagh Beresford Dunne

Seven Sugar Cubes
by Clodagh Beresford Dunne

County Waterford poet Clodagh Beresford Dunne received the 2016 Arts Council of Ireland emerging-writer bursary. Her work has been published in Ireland and internationally. She is currently assembling her first collection.

On 10th April, 1901, in Massachusetts, Dr. Duncan MacDougall set out to prove that the human soul had mass and was measurable. His findings concluded that the soul weighed 21 grams.

When your mother phones to tell you that your father has died
ten thousand miles away, visiting your emigrant brother,
in a different hemisphere, in a different season,
do you wonder if your father’s soul will be forever left in summer?

Do you grapple
with the journey home of the body of a man you have known
since you were a body in your mother’s body?

Does the news melt into you and cool to the image
of his remains in a Tasmanian Blackwood coffin, in the body of a crate
in the body of a plane? Or do you place the telephone receiver back on its cradle,
take your car keys, drive the winter miles to your father’s field, where you know
his horses will run to the rattle, like dice, of seven sugar cubes.

Published in The Irish Times.