Fingal Poetry Prize 2021

First Prize:  Anne Frances O’Reilly for Shipwrecked

Second Prize: Laurence O’Dwyer for Blanqueta de la col, Pieris rapae (Linnaeus, 1758)

Third Prize: Casey Anne Jarrin for Comorbidities     

On the Saturday afternoon of the 2021 Fingal Poetry Festival, the winners of the Fingal Poetry Prize and An Fiach Dubh were announced during a happy ceremony in the Mills.  Along with the successful poets and their friends and family members, we were delighted to be joined by representatives from our generous sponsors for both awards, Maurice Meade, Managing Director of DHL Global Forwarding, and Michael Hoey, Managing Director of Country Crest, both of whom presented the prizes.

Enda Coyle-Greene, Artistic Director; Proinsias Mac a’ Bhaird, second prize winner An Fiach Dubh; Anne Francis O’Reilly, winner of Final Poetry Prize; Áine Ní Ghlinn, winner An Fiach Dubh – Irish Language Poetry Competition; Ceaití Ní Bheildiúin, Irish Language Coordinator

This year, for the first time ever, both first-placed poets also received a signed print by artist Deirdre McKenna. Depicting the raven, the mythical symbol of Fingal, both are limited edition (the only two in existence!) and were specially commissioned for the Fingal Poetry Festival.  

This year’s judge, Adam Wyeth.

In reverse order, here are Adam Wyeth’s comments on the top three poems.

‘The poem which takes third prize is a piece that is striking both for its singular and strange syntax and psychological enquiry. It’s a poem that brings into focus the everyday domestic detritus, the leftover stuff from our lives… turning these invisible sweepings into a probing and moving meditation on life and death. It’s a poem for me that makes room for the lost aspects of life, literal, metaphorical, personal and impersonal… it’s this combination where the true heart of the poem transcends.. echoing I think critic Harold Bloom’s sentiments when he says ‘strong poems are always omens of resurrection. The dead may or may not return but their voices comes alive.’

I’m delighted to announce that in third place of the Fingal Poetry Prize goes to Casey Anne Jarrin for the poem Comorbidities. Congratulations!

The second prize poem struck me for its compelling pitch, tone and strong sense of narrative drive. It’s a poem that does what all strong poems do – which is set up a strong pitch and tone right from the start, holding its nerve right to the end. It’s a poem full of lucid and filmic details, beautifully balancing a sense of intimate voice, subtle lyricism with great clarity. A poem is a marriage between the seen and unseen, the familiar and strange and this poem effortlessly slips between these elements as it takes readers on a journey to other places. This poem is a synthesis of opposites with its rich sense of teacher/ student, master/disciple.

Poetry is multi-layered. A lot of the strongest poems are often are a commentary or a celebration on poetry itself I think. The mystery and magic of navigation for the speaker contrasted with the experience and knowledge of the guide becomes a wonderful metaphor for the act of reading and writing poetry itself, or any creative activity which entails cunning, experience and craft.

I’m delighted to give the second prize to – Laurence O’Dwyer for his poem Blanqueta del Col Pieris rapae (Linnaeus 1758) Congratulations!

And now we come to the first prize. The winning poem is a poem where every line is brimming with lucid and fresh memorable images and arresting descriptions. There’s a superb eye and ear here. A fluidity, elegance, ease and a compelling voice: Dynamic, conversational story-telling married with economy and precision. It’s a poem of fantastic verbs too, and a great example-poem of how a strong verb can do so much to lift a line. It’s a poem full of rhythm, texture, onomatopoeia, sensory perception and personal feeling. It evokes a life with such fluency and flair, and is all done with such seemingly effortless ease while being honed with stunning craft. It’s also a poem about loss which is timely for the present moment. As well as the richness of language, its ability to always find the mot juste, it’s also a poem with empty spaces which are left open for the reader’s imagination to fill. Another reason I think this is such a deserving first prize winner. It’s an elegy that doesn’t fall into the tired elegiac mode. Rather than over-indulging in nostalgia it again makes the subject come alive through its voice, so an invocation takes place. Carl Jung said that life is a short pause between two great mysteries. Poetry with its deep focus, brevity and metaphor is perhaps the perfect form to describe this short pause. The central unflinching metaphor of the title hangs over the poem reminding us finally of our ultimate democracy, which is mortality.

It’s a singular elegy that brings alive a singular life and recreates for us a little bit of that magic.

I’m delighted to give the first prize of the Fingal poetry prize 2021 to Anne Frances O’Reilly for her poem ‘Shipwrecked’.

Shipwrecked
By ANNE F O’REILLY
The kitchen upside down —
scones and cakes pulled from the air.
I remember her singed hair,
the day the gas whooshed out,

the way she’d magic coins
from old handbags, suit pockets
to buy ice cream, lemonade
a quarter pound of biscuits,

how on a whim she’d pack
a string bag — banana sandwiches,
togs, buckets, spades, a silver teapot,
somehow getting all of us

on a train bound for Howth —
though she hated sun, preferred
north facing rooms, never
owned a swimsuit,

days when exhausted with it all
she’d sigh, saying she felt like
the wreck of the Hesperus —
run aground in some northern sea.

I never heard her sing
though she recited poems
that spirited us to Katmandu
or sometimes made us cry.

Afterwards, at the kitchen table
we sorted sympathy cards, conjured her
with stories, her quandaries and fagaries,
her everyday fiascos.

I thought of the Hesperus
imagined the barnacled hull
like the wreck in Howth visible at low tide,
felt the house list to one side.

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