iYeats Poetry 2014 Winners
Judges Commentary 2014 by Peter Sirr and Catherine Phil McCarthy:
“I think what you’re after as a judge is a sense of surprise – you want to be shaken a little, you want to see the language used in a bold and exciting way, you want to feel that something is being said that needed to be said. In the case of the iYeats Poetry Competition we both felt that three poems deserved to be commended. ‘Oasis’, we thought, managed to communicate convincingly a striking life-force and feeling. The voice had vividness and humour and the sharpness of pain and sense of abandonment beneath the language. We both felt ‘Telling’ was very good, precise and stark in the way it handled difficult material, combining passion and control in a way we felt deserved singling out. Likewise we were struck by the economy of language and detail in ‘Changing Light’, which charts a significant moment in history in a way that is understated and impressive.
When it came to deciding the winner, the poem that spoke to both of us was ‘Tawnytallon’. Its a quiet and meditative poem, With wonderful, rich phrasing which creates a memorable sense of place and people. We admired the boldness of metaphor and the particular distinctness of the voice in lines like ‘The grassed fort shrinks like an old muscle’ or ‘The house sleeps rough, its small rooms/and careful trunk open to rain and swallows.’ As the poem unfolded we had the sense that we were in the hands of a real poet, and it was a pleasure for us to award it the prize.”
Winner 2014 iYeats International Poetry Competition:Winifred McNulty "Tawnytallon"
CommendedPhil Lynch "Changing Light"
CommendedConnie Roberts "Oasis"
CommendedHeather Richardson "Telling"
Winner 2014 iYeats International Poetry Competition:
Tawnytallon, by Winifred McNulty
Tamhnaig an tSalainn
The grassed fort shrinks like an old muscle,
tired of fighting rain.
Dockens fill the haggard, a ring of sycamore
grows skin and lidded eyes.
Though the redcurrants are gone,
the old woman still tastes berries.
The house sleeps rough, its small rooms
and careful trunk open to rain and swallows.
Fields divided between brothers,
each gift a small parcel of herbs and whin.
The people hard as grit, farmed salt,
they gathered whelk, burnt shells for lime.
Everything was for sale, except this;
their father making letters with a stick in ash,
so words might warm them,
and stories settle in their flint bones.
© Winifred McNulty
Changing Light, by Phil Lynch
It was nearly dark
when he came in from the fields
tired from the toils of the day
ready to complain
about the tilley lamp still unlit.
Would he have to light it himself,
he asked of no one in particular.
In the shadow of an empty space
beneath the stairs
I stood primed.
The men with the magic boots,
their belts heavy as a gunslingers,
had spent what seemed like years
digging holes to plant the line of poles
that stretched across the countryside,
with giant spools of wire unfurled
along roads and lanes and fields.
I marvelled at how they scaled
the heights of those black poles,
like birds that walked up walls and trees,
and worked at right angles to the ground
In the countdown to dusk I waited
finger on the switch
as if to take its pulse
or like some general in the Kremlin
with his finger on the red button
waiting for the order to push.
The pre-determined signal came
from my mother at the table
and with all the strength
in my bony digit
I flicked the switch.
It was as if my finger
had become a magic wand.
Outside, the dusk turned instantly to dark.
Inside, the light would never be the same again
© Phil Lynch
Oasis, by Connie Roberts
For Foster-mother Eileen Sheerin
Back when the collar and the wimple were law,
when you didn’t cross the cassock or the habit,
she stood her ground. When she’d meet the Cheshire-cat
nun in town, she’d nod-nod-nod, then carry on
about her business—put down a few pounds
on that grand set of china in Joe Feeley’s,
pick up an extra roll of wallpaper for
the end room or a few balls of wool
for that Aran jumper. When the Head Nun
wanted to send me, in my 14th year, to the doctor’s
house in Kilbeggan, to house-keep, she told her
she had work around her own house—Oh, I’ve windows to wash,
walls to paint, Sister. But devil a window
I washed that summer, my sun-drenched days spent
traipsing out the Swimming Pool Road—towel and togs
under my arm—my two-and-a-half pence tucked
in my pocket, plus a little extra for the requisite
cream bun in The Oasis on the way home.
When the Head Nun again wanted to dispatch
me (despite my protestations) to my parents’ home,
she assured her she’d deliver me—Oh, I’ll drive her myself,
Sister, after our holiday in Butlins Mosney.
Not a bit of her—she kept me under her red coat,
in her chalet, by the boating lake and the
sunken gardens. And when I aged out of the orphanage
and was released into her care—warned, mind you,
not to sponge off her generosity,
to soak up my secretarial studies
(be a quick brown fox, not a lazy dog)—
she did what any good mother would do when her
pup is hurt by word or world, put her foot on the clutch,
shifted gears; pulled over to the side of a quiet road.
© Connie Roberts
Telling, by Heather Richardson
The surgeon picked his words,
hot and clean from the autoclave,
and introduced me to a
sharper language, a grammar
lacking in a future tense.
His cut provoked a bleed of talk.
I started telling secrets;
Peelers' tales from the old days,
like when we stood for hours
watching a killed informer
in a ditch, looking for signs.
Even the dead could murder,
wired like a bait to cast us
out to the afterlife.
And when at last we turned him,
no one spoke. None of us ever
spoke. As if we could close
the lid on what we saw, and
silence it with our silence.
But I carried it home in
my head, kept a place for it
inside me, invited it
to grow, and now it's spread
into my tongue and I can't stop
myself from talking. The words
that were locked away have found
a friend in the surgeon. They
hook their cursive flicks into
his mouth and make him speak
my last imperfect sentence.
© Heather Richardson