Friday, February 27, 2009


Here's Jimmy the Butler with the almost life-sized bumper edition of the stinging fly
Yip, da new fly (always eagerly awaited in dis castle) was brought in by Jimmy yesterday.It took him a bit longer than usual as it is now a whopping 128 pages.In these hard days of funding cuts it's testimony to the sterling work Declan and the gang are doing that their funding actually increased this year- fair play to them. as the arts council put's it 'The Stinging Fly punches well above it's weight and has been prioritised on the basis of it's extensive and intelligent supports for writers and it's commitment to developing audiences for contemporary, high quality Irish literature.'

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Hello everyone,I'm delighted to announce that Orlaith O'Sullivan is the winner of the 2008 Stinging Fly Prize. Orlaith's story 'A Tall Tale' appeared in Issue 10 Volume Two (Summer 2008) of the magazine.Poet Sinéad Morrissey who judged the award had this to say:'While there was evidence of strong work in abundance throughout all three issues, in both genres, nothing surprised me as much as Orlaith O'Sullivan's 'A Tall Tale', a suicide-story in the voice of a small boy born with primordial dwarfism (MOPD Type II). I was drawn, without even being aware of it, into the boy's mind from the opening sentence, and stayed with him to the end, forgetting where I was, the reason I was reading the story, the time of day etc. I experienced that intoxicating dissolution of boundaries between reader and author that all writers dream of and that very few achieve. Which can only come about when the machine is so carefully put together, its running is flawless and we don't even notice the mechanism.'The Stinging Fly Prize consists of €1,000 and a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmekerrig, County Monaghan. It goes each year to a writer who has published work (poetry or fiction) in the magazine and who has yet to publish a book. Read Sinéad's full Judge's Report here:
Orlaith O'Sullivan is originally from Dublin and now lives in Baltimore, County Cork. She has been writing full-time since 2006 and is in the process of finishing a novel, while also writing more short stories and a screen adaptation of The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox. Her website and blog are at
Copies of Issue 10 Volume Two still available:
The latest issue of The Stinging Fly, now with more pages than ever, is out this week. Copies are now on their way to subscribers, patrons and contributors.
While adding 16 more pages, we've kept the cover price and our subscription rates the same—giving you more new writers and more new writing.
The Stinging FlyIssue 12 Volume Two / Spring 2009ISBN: 978-1-906539-06-1€7.00, 128 pagesSpecial Feature: On First DraftsColette Bryce, Mia Gallagher, Dermot Healy, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Philip Ó Ceallaigh and Peter SirrFirst PassionsJoseph O'Connor on The Catcher In The RyeMy Struggle…to grow up to be a writer by Colm Liddy, author of 40 Fights Between Husband and Wife (Penguin Ireland)Featured PoetMonica Corish (six poems)New StoriesAlistair Daniel, Michéal Donnellan, Michael J. Farrell, Martin Hayes, James Kelman, Alan McMonagle and Máiríde WoodsNew Poems Liam Aungier, Enda Coyle-Greene, Patrick Deeley, Roderick Ford, Peggie Gallagher, Liam Guilar, Aileen Kelly, Edward Lee, Pat Maddock, Paula Meehan, Judith Mok, Sinéad Morrissey, Louis Mulcahy, Gerry Murphy, Michael O'Loughlin, Matthew Sweeney and Brian TurnerPoetry in Translation A poem by Knut Ødegård translated by Brian McNeilReviews David Wheatley reviews Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness by Tim RobinsonDenis Kehoe reviews My Father's Wives by José Eduardo Agualusa and A River Called Time by Mia CoutoGrace Wells reviews Self-Portrait in the Dark by Colette BryceBilly Ramsell reviews Slipping Letters Beneath The Sea by Joseph Horgan and Lost Republics by Alan Jude Moore
To buy the issue:
To subscribe:
Subscription Rates:
One Year: Ireland €20/Overseas €25
Two years: Ireland €36/Overseas €45
More anon… best wishes,
-- Declan Meade

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Words, they are the enemy, never trust them to say what you mean. At best they are limited approximations.Always trying to catch you out ,trip you up. The world is Pamplona thewords are the bullls and we are the twats trying to show how brave we are.26 lousy letters in the alphabet-hardly a cornucopia, sure great things have been done with them ,but this is against the odds ,fighting the enemy, containing,constraining, merely hinting at waht you feel ,what you want to say.There is only one solution, one absolut,one truth, one way ahead ,forget words ,paper ,books ,keyboards, computer screens- the future, the truth ,is telepathy .Telepathic Poetry my friends you read it here first.Can you tell what I'm thinking , can you feel it burn , the intensity , the rage , the anger ?A picture can only paint a thousand words , telepathy is beyond words, as infinite as the cosmos. Embrace it or (creatively) die.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Got this from Barbaras Bleeuugh. Ooutragedanaoffenedby/jealous of shockin releegus mesagges on da soides a busos in Londinium Atheists have been fightin bak wid screed o der own kreed (or lak o it) and why not .some is carryin da hod for God and some is labourin under a different gaffer altogether et quelque avez keine gaffer at all.I Wunder do da conflicting messages mean busos race each other and try to bump each other off da road and doda busso drivers that beleeve in God drive the releegus message buses and do only Atheistz drive d'udders, do they have a row and duffy each other up at tea break?Now ye too can have a go makin yer very own red Londnon busso message innit. Ye Kan ave a go if ye is Atheo or Religio , we iz al gods chillun after all But ye will hsave to go ta B's blog te do so coz I int able to master the computer chemistry witchcraft to set it up here. Have fun,I wunder does it take sweary woids?
As fer me and my views which side do i follow? ? Well I have to confess that it really does sound a lot of mumbo jumbo and I don't really believe there is such a thing as an atheist at all ;)

Saturday, February 14, 2009


BY of late walking the walk to the briny, feeling good ,lokin alive,ponderin the past by ways of figurin the future , the thin veil lifted, the other world on the doorstep of the mind.And it's been grand ,a full moon to guide me in the way of the light. A poachers moon to be precise (and me with a flock o valuable Haggi!)Anyway nothin comin fer me through the trees coz I can see them from the wood in this lunar light.And the briny, when I reach it , is calm, gentle ,benign ,a mild lippty-lapping of the rocks the sole manifestation of it's might and I'm gazing straight ahead ,a pathway o silvery gold caresses the black pond from mooon to me and back again.No matter how I move ,all shimmering paths feck Rome and guide all to me.The Silvery spoon (Moon) in front, the Plough to the left of me ,Bull to the right of me (Fire , Fire , Fire!) and from his hoof back 120 degrees to Jupiter burnin bright as mini-moon-me. So it means everything -and nuttin.Days or nightys later I cant see dat in front o me face(holdin finger 6 inchos in front o visage) walkin de same route and I'm thinkin O me father, nineteen summers old ,brave as fuck, walkin the fields o North-West Tipp to visit neighbours apres midnite and him keepin cool company wit da Banshee and she keepin comany wit him ,no malice aforethought, not a bother to either. Then I'm feelin sumptin followin me ,then i reach da sea and she is ahollerin,roarin ,wailin , coughin her lungs up onto da beach terrified ,methinks, o da dark.And I can't see her ,tis pitch ,but i still have dat feelin, I'm thinkin of all the ghost stories told by the auld fellas round Aunt mary's turf fire, I'm thinkin of how I loved listenin to them -till I needed a piss and had to head out into the black-alone and not so brave. I'm thinkin too ,years later, o the noise the cows made in the fields on the walk back from *******'s bar.I'm thinkin all these things , then I sees a too-tall fella with a top hat blockin me path and I'm startin to panic and he doesn't just go -worse than that -much worse ,he dissappears! And I'm not walkin now ,I'm feckin runnin ! I know every bramble, every dog turd and yet see everythin in the nuttin . Molly, me devoted dog, is strugglin to keep up and Im for once wishing it wasthecrazeebigballedif it movesbiteitBosco wit me,the old heart iz poundin, da lungs collapsin, then I reach the safety o sodium glow. There's a passer-by , and I says a too cheeryrelievedhello and dey hurry off and I'm on da home stretch but I'm still lookin over da shuloder fer fear o da too-tall dude in da top hat and then.............


Dinner with her ex.

New-fangled fancy chilli-vinegar bottles,

I have to say in my defence,

my absolutely necessarily,

absolutely completely deliciously,

rat-arsed defence,

can- almost, in a certain seductive light I swear,

be virtually visually indistinguishable from red wine.

But try telling that amid his histrionic spurting, gagging,

the frantic back-slapping, ruined tablecloth, her

‘I’ll deal with you later’ glancing glares, and me

wondering when I’ll be sufficiently sober to care.


Friday, February 13, 2009


Hurried this evening to buy Mrs Beautiful EEjit a Valentino card in Eason and, once I'd barged me way to the front, found a rale booty wit hearts n flowers and a luverly toon when ye opened it.Before I rushed off to the cash desk I glnaced at the code on the back(They're too wise to price dem) and compared it to da code on da pricey list and came fierce close to a full blown hearty tack, me cardio vascular system whent into spashm and me knees went alls a wobble, EIGHT YO YO's, yes, eight of your earth euros for a square o feckin card wit a musical jingly-me-jangle in it.
'Well feck this' says I aloud , ' I'm off to ye olde pound shoppe in da main straight' and off I went in as close to a huff as I can manage in wellos covered in Haggi shite. I parks de Gullardo on doublers yellers as it's roit outside da poundo an I'll be only a minute-or two.Five minutes laythur I'm back to de kyarr wit 2 valentinos cards fer 2 yo yo's (one fer Mrs B. EEjit und ein fur moi from meself ta keep her on her toes) only to find the trafik wardo has desecrated me Lambo with a parko tickets fines of FORTY euros.So da Total feckin EEjit has saved himself 6 euros at the cost of 40.
Total cost of Valentinos cards 42 euros , the love of a good woman? - Priceless.


For all ye romantics out dere.

Roses are red , violets are blue
we loves dese songs
hopes yez likes dem too

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009


One of the Haggi managed to escape the enclosure in the castle keep this evening and to get out beyond the castle demesne.They are ingenious litte creatures and will find ways out no matter how hard you try to pen them in.luckily I had my camera with me and was able to get this shot from the saddle of the Honda 5o as i laid chase. See from the photo how they would be very well camouflaged against a snowy woodland hillside.Anyway if any proof were needed to verify their existence, then here it conclusively is. I rest my case.


The Haggi (plural) on the castle estate are in their absolute element enjoying the first proper snowfall in many years. Indiginous to the Highlands of Scotland they are a very hardy breed,well used to freezing temperatures and howling winds.Much like The Arctic Hare the Haggis turns a beautiful white in Winter time ,to camouflage itself against the snow.Having had little or no snow here the Haggi have up to now remained a rusty brown colour. Incredibly though in the last couple of weeks they have slowly turned pure white! It is indeed quite a sight to see them run down the hillsides in the evening as i round them up on the Honda 50 ,to put them in their pens overnight. Haggi are much like crows that nest together but pretty much head their own seperate ways through the days ,foraging and grazing ( Haggi are largely vegetarian but will feed on the odd bit of carrion in the winter when food is scarcer) and then like clockwork all flock home again in the evenings.This makes herding them into their pens a doddle, easily done by a single person.The way they flock in unison at dusk is quite a spectacular display of coordination, all acting like a single wave on the ocean ,all turning at speed at the same time, almost by telepathy. Anyone who has ever witnessed a flock of starlings will know what Imean.
The eerie thing though, apart from the sound of their hooves they are completely silent. This only changes in the springtime when the males grow small antlers for the rutting season and the females call to them with a high flat note reminiscent of the bagpipe.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


This post just in from mythical Ireland. (I'm not usually keen on snow on the cooleys and wear an extra pair of boxers to be sure ;)

Hello again to everyone and greetings in this the season of Imbolc. I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere have started to notice a "stretch in the evenings" as we say here in Ireland. From now until Bealtaine, 1st May, you should notice a good weekly increase in the amount of daylight, with the sun's setting position on the horizon moving quickest at the time of Spring Equinox in March.They have also added a new Photo of the Month for February showing snow-covered Cooley Mountains, which they took this morning at Blackrock, County Louth.


The banks aint got no money , honey
put away the swan -off persuader
hang up the stockings
aint gonna shoot nobody no more
Givwe away de get -away car
no more holidays in Ibiza
tired of doin time I'll walk the line
up parade no more love and hate
knuckle treasury read 'em
and weep the setting sun
lookin for the hills
try some new screw
to settle up the bills
Banks have gone bust
the economic viagara fucked the
money lending making money lust
just is done and we all pay
thats da capatalistic way
join the queue Brother, Sister,
read em weep live learn
Tara shannon Corrib
blind eyes wise monkey.


Magma is a great poetry mag ,square shaped , glossy fronted and full of photos alongside the poems.(they were good enough to put a rake of my pics in issue 40)Here are some tips about first lines from the Magma News letter.I've often wondered if a first line can make or break a submitted poem and if you can throw them a juicy worm will they take the hook? Anyway here's what Robo Macko says (I notice they have chosen one of fellow blogger LIZ GALLAGHER 's first lines , maybe Liz, if ye get a minute or two ,you could tell us a bit about it and how you came by it etc?)

What Do We Look For In The First Line Of A Poem?
Written by Rob Mackenzie at February 6, 2009 21:19
What do we look for, as readers, in a poem’s first line? There are many answers to that question. I’ve picked out a few of my favourite first lines from poems in Magma 42

‘Exit my bedroom through cavity walls and fuse box’ (I Decide To Go To You As The Crow Flies by Sally Clark)

‘…I see you on a red carpet, a fresh rose between’ (Sometimes When You Are Bent Over Chopping Leeks by Liz Gallagher)

‘Mother loves Chicken best’ (Hen-House by Sarah Jackson)

‘Where two men heard a boy with a limp had been seen, smelling’ (Retreat by Meghan Purvis)

‘The first man to worship my feet’ (Thirsty-two Fouettés by Emily Berry)

‘Assuming humans work like machines’ (Machines by Carl Griffin)

‘Hunger sends us seeking its cheap white thickness’ (Toast by Rebecca Goss)

In a poem’s first line, we may want a strong, distinct tone, an imaginative description that seems to transform a landscape as we read it, an emotional connection, a unique use of language, the surprise of the unfamiliar…
I also think that a bad first line can kill a poem. If it gives away too much from the outset, or is bland and prose-like, or if it feels as if it’s been used in a thousand poems before.

About Magma,
The poetry magazine with a different editor every issue
What makes Magma unique?
Like all the best poetry, Magma is always surprising. Every issue of Magma has a different editor, either members of our board or a prominent poet acting as a guest editor. It’s that fresh eye in each issue which gives Magma its unique variety.
What kind of poetry can I expect to see in Magma?
Our aim is to promote the very best in contemporary poetry. Poetry that’s alert to the world we livein, that’s honest and above all, unexpected. It may come from previously unpublished or emerging poets or the more established. We make a point of including unknown poets alongside known names, and we’ve published Seamus Heaney, Don Paterson, Sean O’Brien, Alice Oswald, Al Alvarez, Wendy Cope, George Szirtes, Gillian Clarke, John Burnside and Mark Doty among many others.
What else can I expect to find in each Magma issue?
Every issue includes a surprising variety of content. There’ll be prose features, articles as well as reviews, and each with the individuality made possible by our changing editors. The features include:
Presiding Spirits: A well-known poet writes a new poem for Magma inspired by a favourite from the past and then we discuss it with them.
Magma Showcase: Highlights the work of an up-and-coming poet with a selection of their work.
Poetry in Practice: Helpful and entertaining advice on writing from established poets.
Reviews: Recent collections of contemporary poetry are reviewed in each issue.
Guest Choice: A famous person, usually from outside the poetry world chooses a favourite poem and explains why they’ve chosen it.
SatNav: a look at the poetry scene from a region in the UK.
Where else can I find Magma?
Every poet appearing in each issue is invited to read alongside guest poets at Magma Launch Nights which take place at the Troubadour café in London.
Magma appears regularly in Road-Show Events at poetry festivals where we stage readings, workshops and sessions during which editors explain their different approaches.
Magma publishes three issues a year — Spring, Summer and Winter
Contributions and Correspondence
If you wish to contribute to Magma, please follow the guidelines on our Contributions page.
For general correspondence, please write to David Boll at (Do not send contributions to that email address) or to the following address:
David Boll, Magma43 Keslake RoadLondon NW6 6DHUK

Thursday, February 5, 2009


The Plough Prize 2008 closed on November 30th with 1,649 entries in the Open category and 695 in the Short - a total of 2,344 poems. We had expected a drop in entries due to the financial crisis, and they were down slightly: in 2007 there were 1,632 Open entries and 780 Short - a total of 2,412 poems. It's not clear why it was the short category that suffered, but we do know that we had more entrants overall this year, and that the average number of poems entered by each was down. That makes sense when money's tight.
The standard, however, did not suffer. To prove it, here are the winning poems, along with news, comment and the administrator's perspective on the 2008 competition. Before we announce the winners, though, we'd like to thank everyone who entered this year or has supported the Plough Prize in the past. With arts funding increasingly hard to find, the competition's income makes a vital contribution to the work of The Plough Arts Centre, a registered charity bringing a wide range of arts events to the people of North Devon and beyond. We appreciate your support, and hope to welcome as many as possible of you to the Plough for future events.
In this issue:
Results table and winners' poems
Judge's comments
Critiques, free and full
This year's trends
Plough Prize judge 2009 announced
Innovative new poetry competition launched
Light verse thriving at Lighten Up Online
Entrant launches first collection
The Administrator's report

Our judge for 2008 was UA Fanthorpe, and we are extremely grateful to her and to Dr Rosie Bailey for the diligence and efficiency with which they carried out this task. It's not an easy job. Once the initial sifting has been done, the judge is faced with a short list of very strong poems encompassing a wide variety of subjects and styles, and the only way to arrive at a winner is to read and re-read them, sort them into piles, discuss them, re-sort them, lie awake at night thinking about them and generally live with them for as long as it takes. That process took place throughout January, and the results appear below. The poems themselves appear after the results table, along with UA Fanthorpe's comments.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the often overlooked panel of filter judges, who read, discussed and sometimes argued their way through almost two and a half thousand poems to arrive at the two long and two short lists in each category. Without their unpaid efforts, it would be impossible to achieve the level of feedback that the Plough Prize provides.
Short Category
Geese in Market Crowd - Christopher North
Fieldwork - Jane Williams
We will be happy - David King
Commended *
The Charcoal Burner - Dr Frances Green
Small Poem in Search of a Title - John Godfrey

Open Category
Interior with Forget-me-nots (Matisse, 1916) by Jenny Mayor
The Passing of Hay by Virginia Hobart
The Company of the Invisible by Christopher North
Commended *
New Delhi Street Scene- Stephen Beattie
Sandstone - Elizabeth Page
Plums - Clare Diprose
The main competition was judged in four rounds: Long list 1, Long list 2, Short list 1 and Short list 2 (in each category). All the long and short lists can be downloaded from the Plough Prize website.
* Please note that we do not publish or award prizes for commended poems, leaving poets free to enter them elsewhere.
Best Devon poem
Nan's Handbag - Marcus Parnell
Downhill - David Birch
Midnight in the House of Clocks - Andrew Proudfoot
Fallen Angels - Tony Cloke
Landscapes of the Fall - Marion Glasscoe
Devon poems were short listed by the judging panel, and the winners and runners-up were picked by Devon County Council staff. These five poems will be read on BBC Radio Devon (The Judy Spiers Show), one per day in reverse order, in the week Mon. 2nd. to Fri. 6th. of March 2009.

1st, Short category

Geese in Market Crowd

Not a honk, gabble or mutter
as the six thread through chaos.

The mountains seem to be liquefying
this damp and blustery morning,

the sky is hesitant and lacks confidence -
so the geese are a certainty in what is shapeless.

They waddle, chittering in concentration -
their foolish feet, their pert rears

an order in the hopeless tumble
of junk mathematics around the.

Christopher North

2nd, Short category


He and I ferreting on Ben Knowle HIll:
the chase, a scuffle, ears laid back, wild eyes -
the quick chop. A broken neck.

Turns to me, thirteen, in care, challenging,
There! Could you do that, Miss?
No, I reply. Here, I'm the illiterate, at risk,

although knowing too well the trap he's caught in.
Slits the soft skin, a yank, slings it. Reaches for the guts.
Now there's scarlet on green grass. Go on! Take it Miss!

Grins as he offers me this small warm nakedness.

Jane Williams

3rd. Short category

We will be happy

We will live above the cliff
and sleep to the drumming surf.

Our farmyard will be studded
with jaunty metallic cockerels.

Cold nights will crackle with frost and log fires.

You will collect early morning eggs
while I avoid eye contact with the pig.

I will glove your daisy fingers
in my ancient parchment hands.

We will be happy.

David King

Back to top

1st. Open Category

Interior with Forget-me-nots (Matisse, 1916)

Each time she walked into his attic room,
unbottoning her blouse, she would enter
the painting that hung above the wide bed:

among its chalky greens, she could remove
her rings, put them on the three-legged table
next to the bowl bursting with blue flowers.

She'd take off her skirt, her best underwear,
kick her sandals under the curved black chair,
stretch out like a cat on the coverlet.

Beyond the gauzy curtains, the rush-hour
traffic crawled and hooted along the street.
They whispered like thieves; she stayed far too late.

Under his gaze she'd stand on the patterned rug,
one foot out of the frame, gathering clothes,
putting on her watch, inventing excuses.

Jenny Mayor

2nd, Open category

The Passing of Hay

I regret the passing of hay - made of late in the proverbial way while the sun shines
high in the summer sky on dew-dried grasses, purple-grey,
to be cut and turned and rowed and baled, stacked and carted from the field
by every man, woman, child: with breaks in hedges' shade for tea and cake,
and talk of other years' disasters, triumphs, laughter, tears:
then up and on with wagon load to make, and climb on top, and take
sedately swaying, the homeward road.

I regret the passing of jay, but silage is good - or better, they say,
sooner, safer, all done in a day, needing less sunshine, less labour, less pay -
and three crops a year, if you start it in May:
one man, one tyrannosaurus machine roars along roads into fields still green;
rolls up, spikes up, wraps with slick speed, in black plastic
our cows' convenient wintering feed.

I regret the passing of hay - when I forget the sweat of fork and pitch,
thistle's bare-skin prickle and itch, the aching muscles, breaking bales,
swollen hands that can't be mine, split by unforgiving twine:
the anxious watching of the weather: remembering
instead the fun of friends and neighbours come together,
the one-for-all and all-for-one, the showing off, the trials of strength
to clear the meadow length by length; then riding home last load of June
breathing night-sweet honeysuckle beneath the rising moon.

Fast forward, pause for thought - the truth:
is what I miss community, or even more, my youth?

Perhaps, but every time I pass the marrow-stripe of any spring-cut field,
and see, like monstrous black and shiny slugs, its heaped-up plastic yield,
without the smell of drying grass that always spelled a summer day,
whatever kind my other loss, what ever count of more or less,
I regret the passing of hay.

Virginia Hobart

3rd. Open category

The Company of the Invisible

The architect,
who desinged a rejected baluster rail for the Oxo building,
had a drink with Kirsty on the same day a scream she'd made
tripping on some steps delivering software to a recording studio
had been dubbed into a sequence in a Madonna video they were doing.
They used it for a moment when the diva leapt from a car
but it wasn't acknowledged in the credits
- that sort of video doesn't have credits they said.
He also mentioned
a tall and hearty man he'd met at a rodeo in Salinas, California,
who had a short-term contract with Warner Brothers to guffaw
in the soundtrack of a cartoon series they were making about a family
of donkeys; but his guffaw wasn't used. One of the in-house cartoonists
found he could copy it. So the hearty man remained a janitor
but would always produce the guffaw if asked at parties and so on.
He maintained a positive attitude and opined that, after all,
they got to the guffaw they needed by way of his -
he'd been a a link in the chain. He'd played a part and wasn't bitter.
Just another day at the wrong end of the telescope.
And then
there was that ornate conservatory extension with structural trouble
on the back of a house in Amersham that I'd saved by some sound advice
during my surveying days. Every morning I would drive past
and mutely salute my contribution to that corner of Metro-land
until, that is, last week when the whole thing was demolished
to make way for a block of flats.

Christopher North
Back to top
Judge’s Report
First, let me say how very much I have enjoyed reading the poems in this Competition.
The short-listed poems this year were of an impressively high standard, and it was no easy task to come up with a final list of winners. The wide variety of subjects, and the range of technical approaches only made the task more difficult. I wished, indeed, that there had been far more prizes to present.
Open Poem
First: ‘Interior with Forget-me-nots [Matisse, 1916]’ – Jenny MayorThis short poem doesn’t put a foot wrong. It is a quite straightforward account of a visit, but the visit is into the painting, and the poem very economically integrates the details of the occasion with the details of the painting, so that ‘reality’, as it were, and painting fuse. The painting, in a sense, controls the poem. What I most admire is the restraint and delicacy of the piece; the poet allows the poem to say just what it needs to say, and no more, leaving sufficient clues for the reader to do the reader’s necessary work. It’s both satisfying and tantalising, celebratory and uncertain, at once.
Second: ‘The Passing of Hay’ – Virginia HobartThis poem is also very cleverly done. It’s an interesting subject, but there’s no fuss here; it’s a very workmanlike poem. The writer has two problems - how to convey the necessary, quite complex, information, and how to deal with a subtle but important patterning of rhyme and echo. A good reader is expected: one who will have a sensitive enough ear to respond to this pattern. The many details are handled skilfully (‘thistle’s bare-skin prickle and itch’), and the tone is well sustained: the determined, almost pedestrian, long lines carry the argument in a leisurely fashion, and the uncertainty of the writer’s position (‘pause for thought...’) is slipped in without apology. The poem comes to its conclusion neatly, forthrightly. A very well-shaped poem.
Third: ‘The Company of the Invisible’ – Christopher NorthThis poem’s subject is of quite startling originality: it is about what nearly happened but didn’t. And yet, in a way, did... A non-subject, perhaps? but the leisurely, rather random way the tale is told carries the interest along through a mass of chatty detail, relying on a kind of developing intimacy with the reader which moves from ‘the architect, who...had a drink with Kirsty ... ‘ and side-tracks into the anecdote about the ‘tall and hearty man’, returing to architectural details about ‘a house in Amersham’... which ‘last week’ was demolished. The torrent of ingredients offers clues - but bewildering clues - about time and place and significance, and the whole thing comes to nothing in the end: which is exactly what should happen. Well-sustained, absurd, witty; the unexplored edges of everyday experience given a chance to be themslves for a moment.
Commended: ‘New Delhi Street Scene’ – Stephen BeattieA neat, elegantly done piece, a verse each dealing with the cows, the dogs, the boy and in the last verse bring them powerfully together. The physical and the spiritual are deftly dealt with; ‘pale-skinned’ suggests, for instance, a sort of useless pity. The writer simply records the facts: these make the feeling clear. The end is striking and memorable.
Commended: ‘Sandstone’ – Elizabeth PageThis poem works so well because of what’s left out. The detail is important, as in ‘New Delhi Street Scene’; here it is used to sketch a background to the very punchy last line. There are subleties, too, in this carefully-crafted piece: consider, for instance, the hints in ‘sun’ (son) and ‘when I shone...’ It’s a (geographically) tiny domestic infant moment of enormous significance.
Commended: ‘Plums’ – Clare DiproseThis poem is very elegantly done; a really good teacher comes to life in a fusion of plums and ideas. The two elements work together to bring alive, effortlessly but vividly, a remarkable person. The last verse remains in the mind long after the poem is read.
Short Poem
First: 'Geese in Market Crowd' – Christopher North'Geese in Market Crowd' shows just how much you can get into a poem and (more importantly) how much you can leave out. It’s an amazingly skilful piece: not a wasted word, and they’re all the right words. The setting is vast, confusing: the geese, a symbol of order. The whole is so economically done that all the ingredients work together, and every word has earned its passage.
Second: 'Fieldwork' – Jane WilliamsAnother very economical piece; we depend much on the stacccato hints for an understanding of what’s going on.. We aren’t even introduced to the rabbit, and the description of the boy is minimal. But it is a very dense little poem, and the writer uses words strikingly to echo among the tersely recounted facts: she is ‘illiterate’, in this situation - though she knows his need for murder. As the boy ‘grins’ she identifies with the rabbit. And the boy knows, too, what he’s doing to her. There’s a lot of very significant material in a very few lines; it’s full of challenges, and disquietingly predictive, too.
Third: 'We will be happy' – David KingAll about an idyllic, detailed future. Again, there is a lot of information - the setting, the surf, the cockerels and log fires - all triggers for contentment. But despite this precision not a lot is known. What’s the relationship? Those ‘parchment’ hands? Why is it set in the future so firmly ? ‘Will’ (repeatedly) suggests some resistance, some conflict. So a nice tidy neat little poem has perhaps hidden depths, and although there’s a light-heartedness (as he avoids ‘eye-contact with the pig’) we can’t quite be confident. A teasing little piece that exploits the brevity of the regulations well.
Commended: 'The Charcoal Burner' – Dr Frances GreenA faithful, detailed patient evocative account, by a writer with an ear for sound and a strong sense of atmosphere. The poet has cunningly allowed his ten lines to be long lines, which gives the scope for the appropriately detailed and generous description, and his love of words and sensitive use of echo and half-rhyme make this a very satisfying piece.
Commended: 'Small Poem in search of a Title' – John GodfreyThis is a very appealing little poem. The reader has no idea at all what’s coming: it’s a (very short) journey of discovery. The scene is set with care, suggesting such a lot of possibilities: it’s almost a romantic, even a faintly spooky, scene. It doesn’t attempt to be deep - but it does its jokey work very neatly. Witty, enjoyable, successful - a cheering use of nine short lines.
U A Fanthorpe
January 2009
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Best Local poem

Nan's Handbag

Was an open house,
inviting little hands and little eyes.
Adjusting to the darkness and its source
a nose full of her Barley Sugars - atomised.
The hiding place of Crawfords and Peak Freans,
the studded Lincoln, sugar crusted Nice.
A leather barrel rolled in from a dream
A sack of joy where all were free to feast.

Handkerchiefs that fragranced us with safety.
the blunt, friendly ends of knitting needles.
A cotton reel, a British Rail diary.
The scent of warm milk before it curdles.
Far to heavy to carry in any weather,
Grandad was always threatening a trolley.
But somehow, Nan and that handbag
with their reassuring bulk,
held us all together.

Marcus Parnell

Critiques, free and full
Owing to unexpectedly high demand this year, we still have a few full critiques to complete. They should be posted out soon. If you were expecting a free critique but have not received one, please get in touch using the form on the Plough Prize website's 'Contact' page - but please only do this if you are sure that you requested it before the Oct. 30th deadline and (if entering by post) sent us a stamped, self-addressed envelope marked 'TB' and ticked the appropriate box on your entry form (if using one).
If you sent us an SAE that was not marked either 'TB' or 'results' and didn't tick any of the boxes on the entry form, we assumed that you wanted us to send you the results by post and will use your SAE to do so. These should all be in the post by February 14th.
The free critiques, which were new last year, have proved enormously popular - around a thousand were requested this year. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough hours in a day to allow us to complete both the free and paid-for critiques within a reasonable time frame, so we will not be offering paid-for critiques in the 2009 competition. Free, tick-box crits will be available as usual. One of the aims of the competition is to help new poets to find their feet, and the free crits allow us to offer a helping hand to more of those who really need it than the full critiques can.
Our ploy of offering free crits only to those who entered before Oct. 30th did, as we'd hoped, help to reduce the workload in the competition's final fortnight (when the majority of entries usually arrive), and enabled us to clear a substantial number of the free critiques before the competition's close. We'll be making it a permanent feature.
This year's trends
Fruit (mainly apples) was a recurrent theme in 2007, with angels closing on seagulls in the popular symbolism stakes. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, these and many other hugely popular subjects for poetry (bereavement, cats, the seasons) were eclipsed in the 2008 entry by what might be termed 'what is the world coming to?' poems. War, street crime, corrupt and uncaring government, failures of the system to look after the vulnerable - these were overwhelmingly popular subjects this year in poems often heavily laden with rhetorical questions, and a general feeling of hopelessness and doom made for some pretty depressing reading at times. Happy poems have always been in a minority, probably because without a leavening of sadness and a suggestion of impermanence they can seem rather bland --but the least depressing of the doom and gloom poems turned themselves around with messages of hope and empowerment, usually at the end. On the brighter side, there were fewer 'shards' about, and archaisms (O'er, thou, 'twas) were not as much in evidence as in previous years.
Layouts were more conservative this year, compared with the explosion in regularly or irregularly indented layouts in 2007. Centred poems seem as popular as ever, and our free critiques always warn poets that judges and editors generally dislike them. Fewer poets are making extensive use of odd spacing within lines, and correctly used punctuation seems to have made a bit of a comeback - though exclamation marks are still overused (and brackets seem to have become inexplicably popular).
This year's entry included a fair sprinkling of 'after' poems. These pose a problem for judges, particularly when they are 'after' the work of another poet (as opposed to a visual artist or composer). How much of a poem based on another poet's work can be said to be the work of the submitting poet, and how much belongs to the original? It's very hard to know, especially if you can't identify the poem that inspired the entry. If the judge is in any doubt that a poem is the original work of the entrant, all she/he can do is pass it over in favour of those that are unequivocally within the rules, so perhaps 'after' poems don't make the best competition entries.
Last year saw a dramatic increase in titles ending in question marks or enigmatic ellipses. That trend seems to have passed, though there were still some among the 2008 entry. The words Autumn (always popular), Granny/Grandad, last, old , waiting and of course the ubiquitous I cropped up a lot in titles this year, and there was a long list of titles beginning with Winter. Words, Time and Spring were the most popular one-word titles. Among the 'B's, there were a great many titles beginning with beneath, beyond, behind and below, and the poetic form most often named in a title was the sestina.
If you're in any doubt about the importance of titles, have a look at the long and short lists and imagine that you are an editor needing just one more poem to fill a space in your magazine. Where would you start?
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Plough Prize judge 2009
We are delighted to announce that Alison Brackenbury, who judged in the very early days of the competition, has agreed to return in 2009. Alison is published by Carcanet, and her collections include: Dreams of Power (1981), Breaking Ground (1984), Christmas Roses (1988), Selected Poems (1991), 1829 (1995), After Beethoven (2000) and Bricks and Ballads (2004). A collection of her ballads for the modern age, first read on BBC Radio 4, was published last year as Singing in the Dark (Carcanet). She received an Eric Gregory Award in 1982 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1997, and her work has been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She judged the National Poetry Competition in 2005.

The 2009 Plough Prize will open for entries in April, and all previous entrants will receive details by email or, where no email address is available, by post. Entry forms will be downloadable from the website, but if you'd like us to post you a batch for your local writers' group, arts centre, college or library, please let us know via email at .

Innovative new poetry competition launched
The MAG Poetry Prize is a new online competition in which the entrants are also the judges. It will employ a knockout system in three rounds, and any entrant who doesn’t participate in the judging will be eliminated. £2 of each £6 entry fee will go into a prize fund, and the three highest placed poets will receive 50%, 25% and 10% respectively. All profits go to the Mines Advisory Group, a humanitarian organisation clearing the remnants of conflict worldwide. Closes April 30th, details from
Don't forget, also, that Writers' Forum Magazine (where our administrator is poetry editor) runs a monthly poetry competition with a £100 first prize. Details and entry form from the website at , or from the magazine.

Light verse thriving at Lighten Up Online
In last year's results newsletter, we reported on the launch of new light verse webzine Lighten Up Online. It's editor is former Plough Prize winner Martin Parker, whose own light verse has appeared in The Spectator, The Oldie and the Daily Mail, and who has recently been published in sampler form by HappenStance Press, with a further full chapbook collection due out soon.

Lighten Up has gone from strength to strength over the last year, and there are now four quarterly issues available on the website featuring work from the likes of Matt Harvey, Bill Greenwell, D A Prince, George Simmers, Helena Nelson, Frances Thompson and many more. It's well worth a visit, and email submissions of light verse are welcomed - but read the guidelines first.

First Collection from Maureen Gallagher
2008 entrant Maureen Gallagher had to withdraw her two entered poems when Irish small press WordsontheStreet decided to publish her debut collection Calling the Tune. It was launched in Galway on December 11th, and is available from, where you can also hear Maureen reading her poem New Walk at the launch of Crannóg 16 in the Crane Bar, Galway.
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The Administrator's report
In every one of my six years running the Plough Prize, I've been hit in about the middle of October by the absolute certainty that the competition is going to fail spectacularly: there won't be enough entries to cover the enormous cost of all that advertising, I'll have to explain to a distinguished judge that there's nothing for them to do this year because no-one's entered, and ultimately I'll have to leave Torrington in disgrace, to be remembered forever as the person responsible for bankrupting the town's beloved Plough. I have these regular anxiety attacks because only a tiny proportion of the total entry arrives before mid-October, or even mid-November - most entrants leave it until the very last possible moment to send in their poems, and every year a few leave it too late.
If that's how I feel in a normal year, you can imagine how nervous I was in 2008. The country - the world, in fact - was in the grip of an economic crisis, the price of everything was going up, employment was going down, investments were worth less every day. Why would anyone spend anything that they didn't have to on something that they didn't actually need. But of course I shouldn't have worried so much. The usual rush happened, just as it always has, in the last two weeks of November, and though a slightly lower number of poems were entered overall, we actually gained a healthy number of new entrants.
Clearly, a lot of people all over the world see writing poetry, and then getting their poems out there to find an audience, as something that they do 'have' to do, and the opportunity to enter a prestigious competition and gain feedback on their entry as something that they do actually 'need'. And I mean all over the world: this year we received entries from all parts of the UK and Northern Ireland, Albania, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands and the US.
Once the entries start flooding in, there's no time for anxieties - we just have to pitch in and get everything done. Offering critiques to entrants makes for a lot of extra admin - everything has to be stamped with a unique serial number, a variety of envelopes, critique copies and so on all have to be filed in the right place, and the entrant's details have to be entered into a database so that we can trace poems and answer queries efficiently. After six years in the job, I've developed a system that makes all this as quick and foolproof as is humanly possible, but that carefully honed system breaks down when entrants don't send us what we ask for in the way we ask them to send it - when they don't read and follow the rules, in fact. We even had one entrant who contacted us several times to complain that the rules were very 'off-putting', and then sent us an entry that deliberately flouted them. We sent it back.
In 2007 we realised that we'd have to be less forgiving, and we carried that through in 2008 and disqualified every entry that significantly contravened our conditions. Haven't we always done this? No - in previous years we have spent a great deal of time and effort, and even gone to some expense, contacting poets and trying to sort out their entry idiosyncrasies - but all these mistakes are avoidable simply by reading the rules, and that's part of the competition. Doesn't it make sense that the poets who have taken the trouble to get everything right should have an advantage over those who haven't? We think it does, and we'll be sticking with our less flexible interpretation of the rules in future years.
Something else changed this year. Over the competition's first five years, I can only remember ever having been contacted by one or two poets wanting to withdraw poems that had been accepted for publication elsewhere. This year it looked for a while like becoming a regular occurrence. Are Plough Prize poets becoming more successful for some reason, or are multiple submissions becoming the norm? I'm not sure, but although we wouldn't actively encourage poets to send out their work simultaneously to all and sundry, we do understand how difficult it is to avoid multiple submissions when long, long waits for acceptance or rejection are commonplace. Luckily, our system allows us to find and withdraw individual poems quickly and easily, so as long as the withdrawal comes before the short lists have gone to the final judge it's not too much of a problem.
Perhaps standards have risen. Certainly this year's short listed poems were very strong, and I'm sure that many of the entries that didn't win will find success elsewhere. One of the things I like best about the Plough Prize is the fact that we can very often spot good new poets at an early point in their careers, and sometimes help to bring them to the attention of the poetry world and the public. Because we don't have the enormous prize funds of the Bridport Prize or National Poetry Competition, the 'usual suspects' of the competitive poetry world tend to leave us alone, opening up the field tor the 'unknown but good', as Alison Brackenbury put it. We're happy to be in that position, and we're not planning to change things any time soon.

Sarah Willans
Plough Prize Administrator
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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Just got the latest edition of Revival the poetry journal of The White House Poets down in Limerick.Haven't read it yet but I like the new size(Taller and narrower)overall much better quality and the nicest front cover so far. I like Revival , it seems to do it's own thing without pretension and caters for the good the bad and the ugly meself included (issues 3, 6, and 8.) They go from strength to strength down in Limero , good luck to them.We would love to go to one of their wednesday night sessions sometime, but in all honesty sure we never really leave the castle demesne here at the peoples republo as we only have enough petro to get to the end of the drive and back again unless I'm doin deliveries on the Honda 50 but the Limero or Dubbo or anywhere is a long way 2 up on d'auld yoke.

Getting older is shite

Mr and Mrs EEjit before they became Mr and Mrs EEjit in da car I loved so well.

I wanted to have The Jam singing 'when you're young' to this post but dey wasn't vailable so I hadv to chooose Derry's finest, but Teenage aint d;'age to be, too troubled ,too confused ,too angry, but being young is da Weller's lyrics put it:

'Life is timeless, days are long when you're young
you used to fall in love with everyone
any guitar and any bass drum
life is a drink and you get drunk when you're young.'

See it's been rainin and snowin und feezin da last many days et je have been up to ninety coz d'auld car (a 00 be da way , Oh dat iconic numberio plate dat everybody craved back in da good times, the new times, and I got my 00 plate alright, d'only troublo is iz got it in 2007, seven yeras too late!)has been leekin sumptin wickid, up to 4 inches of rainwater every morn in de passengers footwells , front and back, and I has been bailin uisce to bate da band.its been having it's own tidal waves as ye drive along and da whole yoke has been in danger of submergin-kanno drives anyplace at all in de rain witout SCUBA equipo.Any ways de gist o de crap I iz wafflin iz dat dis situation has almost been da deeth o me, yet many moons ago when I wiz young i had a car wit no roof, nay doors, nay heater nor nuttin likesa radio and it used fill wit water when it rained and alls we did woz laugh and drill a holes in da floorpan so dat the water drained away.We used that car winter and summer, come rain, come shine and dit nuttin but laugh.I have da rheumo and tinitus/deafo(Mucho loudly exhaustio) to proves it, but look at me now an olding craytur cryin at da least bit o trouble or discomfo.Life's a bitch aint it ?

Monday, February 2, 2009


Despite the pitch dark, piercing cold ,intimidating distant lightning out at sea and the fact that the beach was completely covered in snow DaEEjit with his brave general beside him .achieved their goal against all odds and found a shoe on da beach as promised.People of the people's republic rejoice and be glad, your leader has once more proven himself capable of tasks that mere mortals would balk at and nervous dogs would bark at.


The writer and musician Colm Liddy has a great debut book out with Penguin Ireland called '40 fights between husbands and wives' The launch is tomorrow (Tues) night at 6.30 in Dubray books on Grafton Street.Best of luck to Colm for the launch and I'm sure the book will be a big success.You can listen and watch (totally rapid dude ,tune in and have a laff) at or read the Irish Times review at

Sunday, February 1, 2009

ONE OF LIFE'S MANY MYSTERIES (If they're red , blame da angels !)

Listen, at least half of ye readin this postio is wearin only one shoe.And how do I nose dis? Because of all da feckin shoes on da beach, thats how.Never a pair mind you, only single shoes and generally the left one.Now I can do without socks, I can manage without a Jumper , a coat, a hat, a scarf, a tie,a jacket. Hells bells i coul;d go out in nuttin but me neddy's come rain or come shine,so long as i had a pair o shoes on me feet. So riddle me dis, how in the name of all things soley do people walk, limp , lumber, stumble home in one shoe? Specially when said shoe is a 6inch wedge , they'll be pogoing up and down the road like a jack hammer, do they not notice? I had huindreds of pics of single runners , shoes , stillettos (Barbara!) left on beaches, all lost in the cold dark electronic diabolic soul o me dell from Hellzibub,that could have illustrayed this post, but I guarantee ye i will be able to go to da beachio tomorrowio and find agus potopgrafio a single lonesome shoe and post it up here 2 moro eve- or i will eat my computer, and that's a promise! In all honestio eider way I cannot lose. WATCH dis Space and no underhand cheetio will be involved I promise.DAEEjit is always an EEjit but he always speek da troot.