Monday, October 28, 2019


I was delighted that my poem Lecture Near the Ambush Site was awarded third prize in the 2019 Waterford Poetry Prize. I went to Waterford for the presentation on 25 October which was part of the Waterford Writers Weekend/Imagine festival.

The Waterford  Poetry Prize is a little different. It is open to all writers currently living on the island of Ireland, there is no entry fee, and each entrant may submit one poem only. The first prize is €400 plus attendance at a designated writing course at the Molly KeaneWriters Retreat, Ardmore in 2019, second prize is €300 and third is €200. Prize winners also get accommodation in Waterford for the night of the presentation.

The prize has emerged from the influence of the late Waterford writer Seán Dunne whose poetry still continues to inspire.

This year’s judge was Grace Wells who spoke at the presentation about the judging process and the winning poems. I’ve rarely heard more comprehensive and insightful remarks by the judge of a poetry competition. It was clear that Grace spent time with the poems and appreciated the craft and intent of the poet in each case.

The three prize winning poems are quite different in style, form and theme. First prize went to Noel Howley for his poem, Clare Wedding Lore. This has a great opening: Driving West along the old road, into a poem/you said; and then records eight saying with references to time, the weather, relationships, life and death. In one section he imagines a wonderful alliance of Poseidon and the Child of Prague. The poem ends with another great line: At the End of the Land we walked backwards all the way home.

Second prize went to Molly Twomey for her poem, Cassandra. This is a most impressive poem about the current climate crisis, titled for the Trojan prophetess who could foretell the future but nobody would believe her prophecies. What is most impressive is that in twelve lines she creates an apocalyptic vision in the language of pastoral, rural poetry. Gannets will break their necks,/ diving for sardines that no longer exist. She shows, doesn’t preach in spite of using the word preach in the poem.

My own poem, Lecture Near the Ambush Site, is a reflection on writing history about the war of independence period and dealing with tragic incidents, the long lasting effects of which are usually skipped over. How many families grieved for so long over those killed on all sides in that period? Grace Wells said that the poem’s attempt to mix the present and the past was successful and she liked the last line especially: I stopped, could say no more.

Thanks to the judge, Grace Wells, the Waterford Arts Officer, Margaret Organ, and all concerned with the competition and the Waterford Writers Weekend. It was a most enjoyable and worthwhile visit.

Photo Above: Prizewinners Molly, Noel and myself in the front with the Mayor of Waterford. Grace Wells and Arts Officer Margaret Organ behind.

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