The Limerick Writers’ Centre Announce the Winner of the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Competition 2020.

The Limerick Writers’ Centre Announce the Winner of the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Competition 2020.

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The winners, and commended poems, of the Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Competition 2020 were announced tonight by judge John Liddy. The winning poems will be posted on the  Limerick Writers’ Centre website, with the judge’s comments.

Judge for this year’s  competition, poet John Liddy, said he “felt the stirrings of pure and honest voices behind the words”.  Of the one hundred and fifty poems entered this year sixteen of the poems were of such quality that every one of them would be a worthy winner.  “They speak to us in quiet ways and powerful, their subjects and themes handled with a surety and control only good poets know how to do because each poem turns, as O’Grady wrote, ‘for the safest healer/To a clean and bandaged silence of the heart’’ he remarked.

Of the winning poem, making hay by John D Kelly, he said “I chose Making Hay as the winner because of its understated simplicity concerning a rural scene that is viewed through cinematic and painterly eyes, magical in the daily round of mundane chores, a dawn epiphany in its sudden realization for the need to make hay as the sun shines.”

The Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Competition is run every year by the Limerick Writers’ Centre. Their aim is to promote the work of the late Limerick poet Desmond O’Grady by keeping his name prominent in poetry circles worldwide.

Desmond O’Grady was born in Limerick (1935 – 2014). Poet, professor, Harvard teaching fellow, editor, translator, Aosdana member. Widely travelled, O’Grady left his Limerick home in the 1950’s to teach in Paris, Rome and America. Reputed not only for his seventeen collections of poetry and his linguistic prowess, O’Grady was a founding member of the European Community of Writers.  He was closely associated with the revival of poetry readings in the White House pub in Limerick in 2003 with Barney Sheehan and Dominic Taylor.

First prize – John D Kelly (Nth Ireland) for Making Hay

John D. Kelly lives in Co. Fermanagh. His work has appeared in various literary publications including Poetry Ireland Review, Magma, Skylight 47, Boyne Berries, Crannog, The Honest Ulsterman, O’ Bheal Five Words,
The Stony Thursday Book, The Blue Nib, The Cormorant, The Galway Review, Fish Anthology, Poetry NI, etc. His manuscript was highly commended in the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award 2016. He was awarded Silver Medal in the International Dermot Healy Poetry Competition in both 2015 and 2014 and won first prize in Hungry Hill’s, Poets Meet Painters, competition in 2014.
His debut collection will be published by Summer Palace Press in 2020.


Making Hay 

The sun shames the moon’s night of reflected glory
as it rises again to begin this early side of brightness.
Diluting darkness slakes a farmer’s honest thirst.

Light pours into black pinholes constricting
in deference, and into this pretentious hocus-pocus –
a familiar fumbled refocus.

A clapperboard’s beak snaps at a recent memory.
A director shouts “Action!” again, for a second take.

A hard-edged wake-up-call for a new day’s frustration
like the single caw from a parliament of startled rooks
feeding nearby on a newly cut meadow.

An exclamation! A synchronised aggravation!

Is today to be just another badly rehearsed roll call
for other would-be stars
in front of close-up cameras not culpable
for the blindness of this confederacy of dunces;
or for the fool who tries to capture it for projection
later in the darkness of a room on a silvered screen?

I dream of another crazy man who once − in oils −
got the best of this golden light, as my eyes too
are dazzled and almost get lost in a myopic frenzy.

And I too nearly miss this moment’s majesty
in the distance: the mist-filtered, mighty backdrop
of soft-focused men making hay.

Second Prize – Felicity Sheehy (UK) for Conditions for Survival

Felicity Sheehy’s work appears in The New Republic, The Yale Review, Narrative, The Adroit Journal, Poet Lore, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Southern Indiana Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. She has received an Academy of American Poets Prize, a scholarship to the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize for U.K. residents under 30.

Conditions for Survival

If the lock holds. If there is a lock.
If the keys are in her pocket. In the door.

At the bottom of her bag, a purse-drag
away. If the children stay under

their desks. In the closet. In the dark
warmth of the bathroom, pushed

against the walls. If one can stand
on the toilet lid. If two. If my mother

fits. Or sits. Or waits by the coatrack,
listening. If he goes left. Or right.

Through the cafeteria. Over the back
fence. Past the garden, fresh-plowed.

The hand-printed walls. The pairs
of plastic chairs, tucked into corners.

The desk installed just last year,
the sheet where you sign your name.

Whatever paper or plan or glass door
that keeps back disaster. Or doesn’t.

Whatever the parents of Lucy and Mike,
and Stella and Rose, and Kumar and Connor,

and José and Pilar and Anna and Taneisha
and Niall can say. This morning, or the next.

If they can pat their children dry and tie
up their shoes. If they can bundle

the binders, the bags, the library dues.
And answer the questions voiced

from the backseat, the little face
in the glass. Say of course. Or yes. Or no.

Highly Commended

Kate Ennals (Irl) for Raving

Lucy Norman (UK) for Atlantic Shore – Finvara

Special Mention

Sven Kretzschmar (Germany) for The shapes of words within us

Noel Newell (Irl) for  Patriarchal Punches

David Butler (Irl) for Liffey Boardwalk

Rory Duffy (Irl) for A Francis Bacon Print

Nathanael O’Reilly (Australia)  for Homescape

Michael Farry (Irl) for Bulbs

Despina Katsirea (UK) for Option

Marguerite Doyle (Irl) for Sea-Snail

Anne McDarby Beck (Irl) for  Lightening

Kathryn Slattery (Irl) for The Prisoners of Cell Block K

Christopher M James (France)  for Confirm Humanity

Siobhan Flynn (Irl)  for No fields were fought over in the making of this poem





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