Poetry Competition 2016

We are delighted to announce the  winners of the Boyle Arts Festival Poetry Competition for 2016.

1st Prize                          Breda Spaight : The Suitcase

Highly Commended:   Gavan Duffy : Consolations

John Harris : LISP Procedure

Commended:                Amanda Bell : Dreaming

Jackie Gorman : The Nest


The Suitcase        by Breda Spaight

By now, I’m a collector of secrets.

I seek mute corners,

sift dream from the half-remembered,

meaning from the half-known-

staccato night whispers in the kitchen,

the long silence. Bone-white elbow tip, all that’s seen of my father’s

arm under my mother’s skirt in the orchard that sunny day, her toes

clenching grass, the shudder in her voice, nettle-sting shock

ripping between my legs.

I move silently against the scent of their bedroom,

against white light soaked from the sheets

stretched skin-tight, the black suitcase

beneath the bed; the lining, blood-red as blood, dotted with dot-size,

white stars, carnival in scale,

my mother’s old dresses- blues, greens, pinks, black & white stripes, vital

shades in a magician’s trick.

I covet them,

as though knowing the burn of a man’s hand

on a body that looms in me, one I recognise in slim belted shapes

I drag from her raw self, a girl who flirted, jived,

her dress the flared bloom of a foxglove, her core signalling its want for

me in her womb,

not knowing that in giving me life, I will seize everything

from her

time after time.


Consolations           by Gavan Duffy

There are fresh cuts on my fathers fingers,

we watch them burrow under

and lift a slice of apple pie,

the pastry tears where the knife failed to reach.

He rolls it into a sloppy cone, bites away

its harmless point


He seems to forget then,

the remainder still in his hand.

His lips stop moving,

his eyes seem puzzled

by the empty space they view.


This time we are old enough

to offer consolations,

my mother has briefed us,

but still no one says a word.


We had barely known his sister,

I remember her shyness,

how she greeted us by raising her arm

and wriggling her fingers,

as if she were hoping

to hide behind her own hand.


The seconds fall and gather,

like coins counted into a bag.


I wonder what my father remembers,

wonder is he craving the past?

I try to read his face,

like as a young child

I put stories to the pictures

on the covers of his books.

But find instead I look more

to my mother who waits behind him,

one hand on the back of his chair,

the index finger of the other

pressed to her lips,

like a pen left on the page,

to cover what it has just written.



LISP Procedure             by John Harris


Each statement, you know,

Consists of Procedure plus Argument.

Procedures do anything you tell them

Arguments get things done to them.

I am a Procedure

Long and slinky and razor-current fast.

Here I come weaving and flashing

Burrowing my way at the speed of light

Through mountains of binary digits

Squeezing confessions out of helpless Xs


I have made my peace with the powers-that-be

I am perfectly amenable, perfectly psychotic

I will, quite literally, do anything.

If so instructed, I will tear down

A hundred years of symbolic architecture

Mindlessly unthank every other Procedure

Of a named kind

Take away my first thoughts

Delete every millionth move I made.


I will search the serried ranks

For each red-headed recruit

Missing none, triggering no false alarms,

Darting up to each face

For a millionth of a second’s

Perfect photographic record-check.

If you are red-haired

I will pick you out

With a certainty backed up

By a one-thousand year errorless history.

I am never resisted:

The best of them when they see me coming

Bare their necks to my cutlass

If the whim is handed down to me

I will send every last one to the gas chamber.

My hand never shakes

And my nights are filled with dreamless rest.

I can remember everything I have done

Every single last thing done to me.


*Procedures are the basic entities in the programming language LISP





Dreaming                     by   Amanda Bell

(after Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife)


Beating the octopus against a rock

to tenderize its dense white flesh, he sees

the clustered suckers on its arms, and baulks

to contemplate the breadth of what it feels.


Onshore she dreams him diving deep for pearls,

lungs closed, eyes wide, hands combing through the weed

where oysters are concealed, their ridged shells curled

around each tiny iridescent seed.


The artist halts with blade in hand, to think

how images etched into wood with steel

will come to life where paper meets the inked

woodblock: his inner reveries revealed.


The dreamless sea embraces every grain

of sand- more salt than blood, wetter than rain




The Nest               by Jackie Gorman


A nervous bird with a red pointed beak.

The moorhen nested near our house,

at the water’s sunlit edge.

In her nest, I saw my father’s death.

He died when the purple loosestrifes bloomed.

Among the mud and twigs, there was grey hair,

a red cardigan button, a black pen and

a brain haemorrhage.

A clot, the colour of a fire engine.

Cow parsley drowned in the clogged capillaries.

Shock, cold and thalo blue in colour,

bound to the heart.

The perfumed stench of impermanence

hangs over the forget-me-nots.






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