We are thrilled to announce the shortlist for the An Post Irish Book Awards Irish Poem of the Year 2018.

We received over 200 entries this year 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. 

‘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.’

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

Voting can commence on the 2nd November 2018.

https://www.irishbookawards.irish/vote2018

The three shortlisted Poems  and Poets are:-

Brian Kirk Author Photo col (3)

Birthday 
by Brian Kirk

Brian Kirk is a poet and short story writer from Clondalkin in Dublin. His children’s novel The Rising Son was published in December 2015 and his first poetry collection After The Fall was published by Salmon Poetry in November 2017.

You ask if there’s a gift I’d like to mark the passing year,
but how can I demand – no more than you can give –
the turning back of time to when I knew you first?

Not back to the doorway of the Red Cow Inn, when drunk
I pecked you on the cheek and mumbled happy birthday;
not, one year later, when we sat with friends in the Green Man

on St. Martin’s Lane and I stayed quiet, sober. Not back
to when you met me from the train at Euston after my father died,
or sometime after that, when we moved to Highbury on our own;

when we began to drop our masks and make our true selves known.
I think of how we wallowed in our love for years
before the kids arrived and stole our time but gave us

so much more. I was always stealing things,
books from shops, kisses in the backs of taxis,
always wanting something more when I had plenty.

I feared love then, considered it a failing, a retreat, until
I felt it. Though it was buried deep you disinterred
it, breathed life into its musty lungs and made it sing.

I see you as Prometheus, a kind of Doctor Frankenstein
to my ignoble monster, but you did not abandon me when
I reverted to base nature, when others bayed for blood.

You took me back to Dublin and the children came;
they taught me over time to do new things,
to stay up nights and cool a fever, heat a bottle

or simply sit and let the long hours shorten into day.
I want the long hours back but you can’t give me that.
Sometimes I yearn to go back even further,

to a world defined by family, fields and railway tracks,
the sham abandon of the long school holidays.
I want the days to be mid-summer all year long,

those childhood games that lasted until darkness fell
and twilight was a midnight walk back home with
a ball at my feet and my head completely empty.

Each night I close my eyes and we are young again, before time
dragged us down its hungry maw. On waking I can feel I’m falling,
but reaching out into the dark I find you, hold on tight.

Published in After the Fall by Salmon Publishing

Erin Halliday

Inglis & Co Ltd. 
by Erin Halliday

Erin Halliday has two publications; ‘Chrysalis’ (2012) and ‘Pharmakon’ (2015), and has recently completed the manuscript for her third, funded by an Arts Council of Northern Ireland ACES award and the Ireland Chair of Poetry bursary award. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies in the UK, Ireland, and Australia, including ‘New Poets from the North of Ireland’.

The streets would be black as bread ovens when my grandfather left for work,

the wet flagstones mirrored like glassy oysters underfoot.

The house lulled and purring in wool, flannelette and flock,

he’d step onto Picardy, street lights burnishing the Cregagh route.

 

Woodstock, over the Lagan, to Eliza Street, cobblestones like ostrich eggs underfoot –

or the Belfast Baps he’d watch belted along, ceiling height, with their rock-hard crust.

He’d pass the ‘day men’ at the gates, faces burnished by the bakery light, resolute,

then on with his whites – one of the tabernacle: Aspinal, Ferris, Halliday, McCluskey.

 

Sweet Veda, the powdery Farmhouse, Lodger’s barrel, and Cottage loaf with its garland crust,

the roast and sugared smells climbing the steps to the Bread Department; malty, hot –

millers’ alchemy: Dennis, Bob, and Jimmy, white-shirted, thumbing the flour, breathing yeast.

The milky heat would rise, brimming, stretch spongey hours on the languid clock.

At home, he’d still hear the kneading gears, smell the toasting loaves, watch the clock,

till, ‘piece’ in his pocket, he’d snib the door on the house’s purring kitchen in the dark –

from the languid warmth of bedsheets, to his hours in Inglis’ buttery heat;

the streets were black as the bread ovens when my grandfather would leave for work.

Published in Poetry Ireland Review

John W Sexton

The Snails 
by John W Sexton

John W. Sexton is the author of six poetry collections, the most recent of which is Futures Pass.  He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem ‘The Green Owl’ won the Listowel Poetry Prize  and the Patrick & Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry in 2007.

The snails prove in their individual kettles.
They think you into being.
You wake for the first time but are convinced it is a numerous morning.
The newly minted world looks the way you imagined it always was.

The garden is a square of perfect grass.
You dig it up into a square of perfect earth.
You set a perfect aspirational garden.
You sleep your first night but are convinced there were others.

You wake for the second time but think it is a numerous morning.
The glass in all of the windows is studded with snails.
You look in disgust at their oily bodies.
They threaten to become punctuations to the perfection of your hopes.

The snails are a pestilence upon your creation.
You pick them off the windows and collect them in a bucket.
You pull them from the newly-set cabbages you invented.
You created this world and will not let it be marred.

You sleep your second night.
You wake for the third time but are convinced it is a numerous morning.
On the way to somewhere there is silver writing all over the pavement.
It is a gospel you imagine always was.

Published in SurVision Poetry Magazine, Dublin