2016 Poetry Prize – Shortlist

Bailieborough Poetry Prize 2016 (sponsored by the Bailie Hotel)


Solstice, David Butler


Unmaking Eve, Laura McKenna

Local Winner

Treasury, Brendan Carey-Kinnane


Blind Piper, Marie McSweeney
Good Fences, Lesley Sharpe
Dotage, Michael O’Connor
Page,s John Baylis Post
Trying to Walk on Water, John D Kelly
The Dogfish, David Butler
Mermaid’s Song, Lesley Sharpe

Judges: Mairéad Donnellan, Michael Farry


December has cut the throat of another day.
The light bleeds away, westward,
dyeing the clouds in briefest reds.
For a week, a keen wind
has honed the moon to a blade.
There’s barely a sliver remaining;
a white edge that traces an arc
haunted by the memory of the old moon.
The fields are heavy as remorse.
Pools shiver at each splash of air;
cower from the senile wind;
crust around blackened grasses.
Nothing breeds here.

Nothing breeds.
And yet, amidst this baldness –
the urgent snout; the darting beak;
black leaves flicked, stabbed, rifled –
there’s something clandestine abroad:
a rumour. Solstice. A whispered word.
The tidal moon is pregnant with it,
and cradles in her arc the print of the full.
Hedges are raising wicker fingers
to sift the Zodiac’s turning braille
for myths of recurrence.
Even the frost seems cold only with waiting.

It’s we that grow old, not the world.
All about, nature wheels on axes of return.
Our charge is set for a single firing
before we fall to ashes.
Still we blaze up, red in the knowledge
that the maths that governs our span is strictly linear.
It carries within it the term of its own decay,
implacable as treason.

That treason is our glory.

David Butler

RUNNER UP – Unmaking Eve

His fingers play the keys of her spine,
pause at thoracic clefts, count and check.
A twist then, catgut snapping, he takes
her rib, her fifth, leaving her heart unguarded.

Takes her rib, feels the smooth sickled
curve, tongues the long groove that once
held her nerve. Puts the rib to his lips,
blows across, notes to echo in the catacombs

of her bones. Her unguarded heart opens
to the slant of leafy light, colour creeping in skin,
under sun-warmed apple blossom. Keep it,
she says, that rib, my fifth, I no longer need it.

Laura McKenna

Local Winner – The Treasury

Its fragile paperiness surprises,
Startles even. The time-was, inculcating impact
Not at all. After twenty summers,
Unexpectedly from among his things

During a clear-out, smelling
Of serge and staleness like old suit-cloth
And even yet, a whiff of him,
It emerges without warning, glaring skywards,

As if eternally, like an artefact uprooted from the fen;
A corpse intact, fleshy and sinewy
If somewhat changed, the innards crumbly, yet still true
Within the hollow of my now grown palm.

That ancient Psalter stumbled on and exhumed
From Feadán Mór — in his own county —
After one thousand years, its pages open, legible,
Could not have jolted more. “The find of the Century”

They called it and here I am, remembering
Into a different time as time slows to a walking pace:
A glad participant in his favoured readings –
The corners still turned down –

Upon Westminster Bridge
The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk
My Lost Youth…
These, our infrequent “conversations”,

Our father & son times –
Few as they were – recite like antiphons.
I had wished we could have kept
The parley going; sued for peace

But it didn’t happen; somehow we were strangers
To each other. Look upon the sad cover,
For a moment
And for the last time

Hear him read. Now put it by;
The criss-cross threaded scrim –
No jacket –
All sere and withered, stringy

As a sedge-clump down the spine.
The deep interior’s patina, a tea-stain brown
And pocked. Gutter ingrained.
The fly-leaf and the pages, deckle-edged.

Brendan Carey-Kinnane

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