The competition has an overall prize of €500, as well as an Emerging Category for poets aged 16 – 25 of €300, and has won a prestigious reputation for the calibre of both its entrants and judges.
Laura Herlihy was the winner of the Emerging Category, for her poem ‘Capped Boots’. Co-judge Colin Dardis commented on the poem:
“The poem focuses on a man with an undisclosed learning difficulty. The opening line – “When B’s looked like D’s” – is cleverly reflected in the proceeding word choices, such as “labelled” and “dumb”. The image of white-collar school shoes being exchanged for blue-collar work boots is particularly effective. This is the turn of the poem, as well the turn of a life, neatly summed up in just three lines that give a sense of inevitable damnation. The last stanza just cries out wretchedness, the reader being left to digest the image of a ‘fifteen year old man’. Overall, it captures a certain desolation without being maudlin or apologetic.”
Highly commended poets in the emerging category were Sean Flynn for ‘Mnemonic Device’, and Michal Leibowitz, both for ‘May Psalm’ & ‘There Were No Tulips’.
In the main category, Niamh Prior was the overall winner with her poem ‘Lagan’. Co-judge Moya Cannon commented:
“‘Lagan’ is a deeply mysterious poem, surreal and, at times, even playful, but carrying huge emotional ballast. There is a strong narrative thread, sustained by finely textured, sensuous language and a skilled use of imagery. “I skimmed my fingertips over his ribs, / his metacarpal bones, those coral twigs”. The speaker’s combination of detachment and tenderness allows us to accompany the writer on a journey to the depths and back.”
Niamh was also highly recommended for her poem ‘Practising’, alongside David Butler (‘Exodus’) and Breda Spaight ‘(Her Cross’).
The prize-giving and winning announcements were made at the Hawk’s Well Theatre, with the winners reading their poems to the audience at the Summer School.
All of the winning and commended poems are available to read online at the Hawk’s Well website. The winning poems are also on display alongside previous years’ winners in the lobby of the theatre.