The 2014 Strokestown International Poetry Festival Shortlist for the Main Prize were delighted to visit this picturesque town in Co. Roscommon where the backdrop of Strokestown House was a most fitting stage for the new voices at this year’s Festival. Each shortlisted poet gave an engaging reading of their work throughout the Festival as they waited for the final results on Sunday May 4th.
Eilean Ni Chuilleanain and James Harpur launch the latest edition of Cyphers
The winner of the 2014 Strokestown International Poetry Prize was Jane Robinson, with her poem ‘At the Stop Sign’. The prizes were presented at the festival last night (4th May) in Strokestown Park House.
In second place was Ian McEwan, with ‘Touch’, and third place went to Geraldine Mitchell, with her poem, ‘How the Body Remembers’.
is what I want – your soft fingers, that trail
at a pace that I imagine you imagine as yourself
drawing the limits of the skin, just half
solid, you outside moving in, and me pulled
to be all surface, mirrored, still as the whole
orchestra that hangs on every tick of deft
and mathematical command, a faith
expanding through the volumes of the house, the hall,
the almost weightless ash inside the grate,
the air over the frozen roof, the orange
cosmos of the vapour strung along the street
reflected by the tight hard stars – to take
their delicate echoes back, find nothing strange,
and prove each thing for what it is – complete.
- Ian McEwen
Inventory: Recovery Room
A thin yellow curtain shivers around my bed.
On the cupboard, a clipboard displays failing, falling numbers.
An IV stand bows its head from a tall metal stem and sends
a tube from pouch to cannula to vein, drip-feeding me morphine.
A plastic plug lies on the tile, no longer wiring the TV to the wall.
That blank screen is black now and shows only my reflection:
pale face, blue paper gown, surgical socks stretched up to the crotch.
On the windowsill, a row of bottles stare out at rain with dry eyes.
My breasts are funneled into plastic cups. The machine waits.
With each whine-whirr, it stretches my flesh, then lets go again;
the sensation as strange as a pinned and needled leg.
I think of milk, of beestings squeezed from a cow’s udders,
the feel of my fingers in a calf’s mouth: the fierce suck,
wet tongue muscling hard against the ridged roofs of a mouth,
the echo of a mother’s angry bellows from the meadow.
Within my chest, an itch begin to stir, turns to a tingling surge.
The machine’s slow suck and release yields a single drop
of yellow liquid. It leaks from me, drops into a plastic bottle.
Another slow drop forms and falls… Another. Another.
I sit and feed the machine, politely, quietly,
as through some bodily alchemy, electricity pulls milk from me.
By the wall, an empty cot, a hand-knit blanket neatly folded.
On top, a tiny hat and an unused nappy, flat.
Note: Beestings~ the nutrient-rich colostrum of a cow
- Dorieann Ni Ghriofa
AT THE STOP SIGN
On a day like today, with rain
pouring down the windscreen, not
much visible beyond the next car, rain
gathered in puddles by the curb and rain-
water lapping the toes of peoples’ boots
when they try a longstep to avoid the puddled rain
and with one foot trembling over flooded drains
they seem to catch their breath
and float out from the pavement – breathing
air mixed fifty percent with rain –
until they reach the other side and click
their heels back down on the road, they click
their fingers at the leap, and click,
clock, off they go through a veil of rain…
Dreaming at the wheel again, the click
of wipers awakens the driver and she clicks
into action, brain empty, nothing
there but the automated click
of changing gears and revving up, the clicking
accelerator pressed by her boot –
one toe-nail turned black from wearing those boots
a little too tight – and that’s when it finally clicks:
his photos were taken right here… she breathes
in and out more slowly now, each breath
measured as she tries to breathe
her way back to the day when she clicked
open the briefcase lock with a screwdriver, breath
held in case she should find some breath
of the past left behind, perhaps a rain-
spotted note or brass compass breathing
out a faint scent of the sea. But the length and breadth
of his briefcase had been emptied, there was nothing
left, except two photographs of nothing
known. The lid drifted down, exuding a breath
of mothballs while she studied the red boots
of the woman in the photos, her boots
so bright she seemed to float, red boots
gliding three inches at least, or the breadth
of a hand, above the pavement. Those boots
red against grey, an unknown woman in boots
striding along with a clickety click.
As in a diptych, the high-heeled boots
daubed a red spot, drawing the eyes. Boots
crisp against the blurred grey of rain-
drenched cement and fence. Roadside and rain
a background to the day, the scent of those boots
step, stepping their way in two old photos, nothing
to tell her name, or the name of that place, not
a clue about why she was there, nothing
but the set of her shoulders and those red boots.
The oval blur of her face as she caught his eye, no
ties to the future or the past, nothing
now will tell us her name. A breath
of wind shakes heavy drops down and none
of it makes sense any more, nothing
but two blurred photos hastily clicked
from a car, as though the scene clicked
and he wanted to make something out of nothing.
And now, there is more rain
pouring down the windscreen, enough rain
to drench his photo-woman who had drops of rain
sparkling on her shoulders, or mist, or nothing –
its hard to tell at this distance – the red boots
dancing across the page and no breath
on his windscreen, while these wipers continue to click.
- Jane Robinson
How the body Remembers
Last night I was woken by a loose scrap of siren
and found you, face pressed to the night,
watching some drama unfold on our road,
cobalt strobing the silence
the way it lit up the street that September
in Trastevere, washed over you blue after blue
where you lay among fag ends and chair legs
until they lifted you on to a stretcher
and breath guttered back through your lungs
as we lunged over cobbles in a language
unknown to us and you found yourself
back in a nine-year-old body
careening through London’s cacophony
of sirens, bomb flares through blue glass,
the City in flames, your eyes wide
with terror and me holding your hand.
- Geraldine Mitchell
The Crocodile Bag
An African nun tucked it in my cradle.
I grew to love its glossy scales,
side pockets to hide things in.
Mother, dressed in full squirrel
said it made her shiver -
some reptile that once lurked in the Nile.
I yearned to clutch it under my arm
carrying: compact with mirror,
a lipstick called ‘Strawberry Kiss.
I polished its hide with my sleeve,
propped its mouth with a pencil
to keep it mould free.
Released in a drawer, it glided
in eau de Nil seas
of mother’s silk negligees.
shoved in the tallboy of oddities:
orphaned socks, mismatched cufflinks,
rollnig pearls of a necklace.
It surfaced last week on a tide of old shoes,
lay there unravellled -
the hide of a fabulous beast.
- Marie Coveney
November Rain, Swanage
That time we exchanged several emails a week
were the months of visits and therapies I could hardly
even in sympathy for you grasp the fearfulness of.
And now your time has become a more a more ordinarily
work-beset sort of time, while mine, much less
occupied, too much mine, needs urging firmly
towards things, like today this poem-like letter
or letter-like poem, in which I want to say
the thin November rain on Swanage Beach
is moist on the hand still, the chips are warm.
I can easily tread the winding cliff-edge path
and see the fulmars curving there, stiff winged,
easily feel the sand underfoot at Arne,
easily see you without a picture to prompt me
pausing to scrutinise shell, weed, stone,
crouching to see what coded sign the receding
tide leaves, till the sound of small waves breaking
is the sound of you taking the world in.
The walks we’ve had seem one long walk, its speech
one long conversation that won’t be interrupted
till it finishes, one single walk on which at first
you’re in this skirt then magically it’s jeans then
a green rainproof, a new winter coat with lobster-
hued buttons. The photographs are a trail
of illuminations, like a novel with no plot,
just images, of sun and sea, a cliff-edge
with a single poppy, or purple thistle-heads;
a tale of rock, yacht, flower, cliff, pub garden,
a fishing-boat drifting between jagged chalk-stacks
while out on the sea’s shimmering opal, sails
lean white, umber; a story of silent accretions
of place, moment, weather, season, with its own
episodes and diversions, its motifs, like the note
of your footwear metamorphosing: shoes to pink crocs,
to trainers, then boots, their step accompanied once
by stabilising Nordic walking sticks-
one of which you lent me to forestall any possibly
headlong stroll I might take down the one-in-five
slope to the beach at Durdle Door and its rocks.
How strange that with all that light on water, that colour,
The oceanic opals and turquoises, sharp red
highlights of poppy, knapweed’s imperial purple,
Harry Rocks’ dazzling white and croc-pink thrift,
it’s the grey November rain on the beach at Swanage
fills the mind to satiety with its music.
The stumps of the old pier curve into mist,
sad as the wake of a ship on which someone’s leaving,
ghostly with silenced decades of promenading
on summer evenings, its silver bands singing clear
above each quite breve of wave falling.
And when you point at a steam-train pulling out
towards Corfe, as if to show me what a steam-train
is, or lean on a soaking gate, absorbed, smiling
into a vacancy that contains, it must be,
some funny thing you’ve just remembered; or stand
a few feet away, a few years away, with the sea
glinting round you, sumptuously, deeply blue,
foaming obligingly white over rocks, while you
subject a packet of peppermints to the kind of scrutiny-
intent, relaxed – jewellers give diamonds ( it’s the wrapper
you’re focussing on, preparatory to offering me one ) :
you return those places to me, me to those places;
as these words, maybe, when the prints are scattered,
or I’m not around, might return to you a day
when the thin November rain on Swanage beach
was moist on the hand, and the chips were warm.
- Robert Hull
In winter I awaken to the dread
of losing something indefinable,
and darkness stretches out around my bed.
September flips a trip switch in my head
and daily living seems less feasible;
in winter I awaken to the dread.
On All Souls’ Night I’d gladly hide instead
of letting on that I’m invincible,
as darkness stretches out around my bed.
By December, it’s as if the world were dead:
to flight the darkness seems unthinkable.
Each winter day I struggle with the dread.
I wish that I could hibernate instead
of coming to and feeling vulnerable
to darkness stretching out around my bed.
I try to think of shorter nights ahead
though springtime now seems inconceivable.
In winter I awaken to the dread
of darkness stretching out around my bed.
- Amanda Bell
Catherine Cummin, Edenderry Co Offaly - Operation Transformation
Peter Duff, Blackrock Dublin - Hard Station
Peter Goulding, Dublin - Down the forest road
Dee Gaynor, Kent England - The Lament of the Underwear Drawer
Gerry Davis, Birr Co Offaly - Shouldn’t Do That
Martin Parker, Dorset England - Incompatible
Amanda Bell, Dublin
How the Body Remembers
Geraldine Mitchell, Mayo
At the Stop Sign
Jane Robinson, Dublin
The Crocodile Bag
Marie Coveney, Cork
November Rain, Swanage
Robert Hull, UK
Inventory: Recovery Room
Doireann Ni Griofa, Cork
Ian McEwan, UK
The shortlist for the 2014 Poetry Prizes will be announced in the coming fortnight.
I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend; the whole occasion was a very special experience for me. I had heard people speak glowingly of the Strokestown Poetry Festival before but having experienced myself I can truly appreciate what a unique occasion it really is. I certainly hope to be back! Yourself and the committee made us very welcome and the festival is a credit to you. To be in the presence of some many wonderful poets was a special treat. Wishing you every further success. ~ Seosamh Ó Murchú
Harlan and I had an unforgettable weekend at the wonderful poetry festival. Thank you and your committee for your warm welcome to us both. It was a pleasure and an honour to be on the Strokestown shortlist. Thank you, again. ~ Liane
The festival was everything we expected, and more. Now, with the passing of time, I can only think of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: ‘ But it wasn’t a dream. It was a place. And you, and you, and you, and you were there…’ ! ~ Jim Maguire
Fáilte agus fichid! It was my pleasure, and lovely to meet you. I came home after your festival exhilarated. Hoping to get there again soon, as a supporter, participant, or whatever. The festival deserves its great reputation. ~ Ceaití
Well done to you and the whole committee for organizing such a unique event, I could see it was the culmination of a huge volume of work. We met some great people there whom I hope to see again! ~ Shirley
I’ve been telling everyone what a wonderful festival it is! ~ Pete Mullineaux
Thanks is due to you and all the Strokestown team for organising a fantastic weekend. Our only mistake was in not getting there earlier!! The very best of luck and look forward to getting back to your wonderful Festival of Poetry. It was just great to mix and meet all the people and make new friends. ~ Liam Ryan
We really enjoyed the festival, and were reminded once again of how outstanding is its lovely combination of informality and respect for the poetry. 30+ people at 10 am, in a small village (sorry, don’t shoot, town!) to listen to poets who are not big names, is a very big achievement. You and the committee have done great work, and we were delighted to have participated. ~ Paddy Bushe
Thanks so much – I had a wonderful time and was threatening not to go home – it was a real high point for me to be included on the shortlist with such distinguished poets and I know that in the future I’ll look back at that weekend as the origin of some wonderful opportunities. ~ Jessica
I had the great pleasure of attending your festival on Sunday morning. Thank you so much for bringing such a wonderful event to this area. ~ Anne Maxwell
The atmosphere at Strokestown was just lovely, people wanting to encourage and be encouraged. Hey, what a garden! It must be extraordinary in midsummer. ~ Tom McCarthy
‘I’ve just come back from the Strokestown Poetry Festival in Ireland. If you’ve never been, let me tell you, it’s a heady mix of poetry in Gaelic and English…
‘The festival is unique in that it celebrates the best of a wide spectrum of work. Friday’s opening events included readings from shortlisted young poets from schools around Co. Roscommon and performances from an international shortlist of witty and satirical verse writers. It’s not unusual for this final event to spill over into one of the local pubs and carry on into the wee hours. I’m pretty sure there were one or two hangovers for the start of the next day. The last event on the Sunday is a lively inter-pub competition. Never have I heard drinkers go so quiet when a poem is being read out. You’d be hard pressed to find an English pub crowd that showed such respect. Let me say this, loudly and very clearly, Ireland is a very civilized country.~ Pat Winslow
‘…Send poems, send money, send friends and family, send your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe where poetry is FREE. But, most of all, send yourself to help ensure that an event as joyous as the Strokestown Festival can continue to thrive in these increasingly difficult and barbarian times. God love you, Strokestown — town and Festival both — for the warmth of your welcome and for the delights which followed. If you did not already exist it would be impossible to invent you… Thank you all for one of the best weekends of my life.’ ~ Martin Parker
‘Congratulations on a marvellously successful festival… Strokestown is the most convivial and congenial of poetry festivals – literally a fireside gathering.’ ~ Dennis O’Driscoll
‘Congratulations on bringing off such a majestic achievement…’ ~ Sebastian Barker
‘A tremendous festival, such a privilege and terrific opportunity to read with Big Names and meet fellow short-listed poets in such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere in the beautiful but homely Strokestown House. The gold on the wall paper glinting behind the poets reading in the evenings, the lambs peering in during the day-time readings, everyone sitting on the sofas, the lovely garden tour and the last night hoolie in the Victorian kitchen are some happy memories. I loved the way the whole community was involved…’ ~ Stephanie Green
‘A great festival…’ Enda Wyley
‘Thank you for a FANTASTIC weekend of poetry. It was a rich and varied feast of work, so many voices I hadn’t heard before and so many interesting new people to meet… I think it’s a marvellous format giving each shortlisted poet a reading. It’s a terrific festival and I’m having terrible trouble getting back to real life!’ ~ Pam Zinneman-Hope
‘My thanks for the warm welcome, excellent conversations, attentive and literate audiences and wonderful setting of Strokestown last weekend… and the chance to meet like-minded people, Paddy Bushe’s poems about Skellig, the two lambs in the crook of the oak tree, the high hill of Tulsk… Your festival is the most generous and convivial I have attended in many years, characterised by high seriousness and a serious sense of fun.’ ~ Hilary Davies
‘Thank you so much for the wonderful time at Strokestown festival, I thoroughly enjoyed the readings and meeting the judges and poets…a very well run and compact offering of events. Well done to all’. ~ Heather Brett
‘Thank you very much for the wonderful time we had at the festival. Ireland is beautiful, and Strokestown uniquely so. Altogether a great experience.’ ~ Gavin Bantock
‘I have not been to another poetry event that was as well thought out and well run….Only your hard work could have made it seem so effortless… The level of poetry read was consistently high, the schedule was reasonable (and it’s great that everyone can attend all sessions), the participants were invariably interesting and passionate about poetry, the judges handled their duties in a highly professional manner, and so much more. We did not miss a single session of the festival, and we’re awfully glad we didn’t, because every session offered powerful and unique poetry, wit, personality and charm. Since we’d never heard it before, the Irish/Gaelic poetry was a special treat, especially since most of it was translated as well as being read in the original, so we could enjoy the music of the language as well as its English interpretation.
‘We also loved it that the festival opened with the schools’ competition and the delightful humorous poetry competition. As Janet said, public speakers are always told to open their speeches with a joke to break the ice, and the Percy French Prize served a similar purpose for the festival as a whole. Who could not be in a good frame of mind after listening to all that hilarious verse?…
…. You put on such a wonderful festival and made us feel so welcome that we can’t imagine never being there or seeing you all again. Once more, thank you, thank you, thank you’. ~ Lawrence Kessenich
‘Thank you so much for all the wonderful readings, and receptions and the Award Ceremony. It seemed to be such a smooth-running weekend… I enjoyed the festival from start to finish.’ ~ Julie O’Callaghan
‘Just to say how much we enjoyed the festival… Every year it seems to get better and better and it really is a huge anticlimax to be driving back to Dublin in the car. Probably our highlight was Sebastian Barker’s reading. For me, it was a jaw-dropping experience – completely blew me away. Looking forward to next year already. Many thanks for a brilliant weekend.’ ~ Peter Goulding
‘Strokestown poetry festival has forged a special place for itself in Irish life. I can sense a caring for poetry there, with the individual poem at the heart of it. They have an admirably broad concept of the Gaelic, too, that encompasses Ireland and Scotland, and that carries echoes of an older, shared tradition. This offers a treasure-trove to contemporary poets’.
“Tá a sain-ionad féin i saol na hÉireann bainte amach ag féile filíochta Bhéal mBuillí. Airím cúram na filíochta inti: an dán aonair an chloch choirnéil. Tá tuiscint bhreá leathan ann freisin faoin nGaelachas, a chuimsíonn Éire agus Albain agus a bhaineann macalla as seantraidisiún i bpáirt. Tobar domhain é d’fhilí an lae inniu.” ~ Prof. Máire Ní Annracháin
To submit your poems online you need to complete two steps.
Step One: Online Payment
By clicking on our logo below you will be brought to our PayPal page. You will need to make your payment here before submitting your work through Step Two of our online entry system. Make sure to note your Receipt Number or Transaction ID, which will be displayed when your payment is completed in PayPal. It will also be included in the payment confirmation you receive by email. Copying and pasting it may be the most convenient action. If you are entering more than one poem and/or more than one competition category, you will need to use this ID repeatedly in Step Two, submitting it with each individual poem.
Step Two: Enter Your Poems
After you have submitted your payment, you will be redirected to our Online Entry Form.
If your poems include unusually complex layouts, please consider submitting your entries through our postal entry process.
Closing date for the 2014 competition will be 28 Feb 2014.
4. €300 – 3 readers prizes of €100 each
3. €500 – 5 runners up of €100 each
The following rules and guidelines apply to each of the above categories.
Please read these carefully before entering your poem.
1. Entrants may submit an unlimited number of poems, in any of the categories.
2. There are two ways for you to enter: by post or online.
For postal entries each poem must be accompanied by a fee of €5/£5 Sterling/$5 US dollars. 5 poems has a fee of €25/£25/$25. See entry form.
Personal cheques, postal orders, bank drafts and international money orders, made payable to Strokestown Poetry Festival, are accepted – but they must be in Euros, Sterling or US dollars only. Entrants wishing to pay in other currencies must enter only through the online method and pay by credit card or Paypal.
For online entries, which can be paid by credit/debit card through PayPal, and by following the simple two step process, the fee per poem is €6. If you intend to enter five poems, you must first pay €30 through PayPal, after which you will receive an ID number. You must then use this number repeatedly with each of your poems, submitting them one by one with our online entry form system.
Please note that we advise all poets to consider the postal method if they favour unusual formatting in their work. The integrity of idiosyncratic spacing, for example, might not be preserved in an online submission.
3. All poems must be the original work of a living author and must not have been previously published, self-published, published on a website or broadcast.
4. Poems sent by post must be clearly printed on A4 paper, using a single sheet for each page of poetry, no double-sided printing. The poems, and payment, should be firmly attached to a fully completed entry form. The name of the entrant must not appear on the poems themselves. You can download and print a postal entry form here.
5. No alterations can be made to poems once they have been submitted, whether by post or through the online method. We regret that no entries can be returned.
6. The judges’ decisions are final, and no correspondence can be entered into regarding those decisions.
7. The Strokestown Poetry Awards shortlists will be announced in mid-March, and the prizes will be announced and awarded during the Strokestown International Poetry Festival, Co. Roscommon, Ireland, which will take place over the weekend of 3-5 May, 2013.
8. It is a condition of entry that short-listed competitors are prepared to attend the festival weekend. All of the shortlisted poems will be posted on the Strokestown Poetry Festival website after the shortlisted poets are notified.
9. Copyright will remain with the competitor, but Strokestown Community Development Association reserves the right to arrange first publication or broadcast of selected poems as it sees fit.
10. Submission of a poem implies the competitor’s acceptance of the conditions set out above.
11.Entries should arrive no later than 28th February 2014, whether by post or through the online submission method.We are now accepting entries through our online system.