Browse our presentation of images shot during the 2024 Festival.

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Here is the Strokestown International Poetry Prize 2024 Shortlist, presented in alphabetical order of poet name, as judged by Enda Wyley.

We sincerely thank everybody who took the time to enter this year’s competition, well done to one and all.

Our photo shows (left to right) Enda Wyley (Competition Judge), Thomas Brezing, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Catherine Ann Cullen & Joseph Woods (Festival Director).

 

1.

Living with Tomas                           

The book lice love Tomas Tranströmer.
When they sprint across his pages
I can hear them sing in Swedish.
His words make them joyful
and for a moment they forget
with every page-turn their lives
can be wiped onto the paper
to the silence of a blood clot.
What decides their death
is how long I linger on each poem.
They act goofy on the page,
like commuters wearing lifejackets,
or carrying packed suitcases to a dry country.
All of them are just born, starting new lives
except for the five-week old elders, who lie
listless, face to face, in an endless buffet of eggs.
The bedrooms are located in the spines of the books
where they keep their kitsch, where they ride
on fungi deposits stored away for winter,
play king of karaoke and warm dancing,
kiss each other goodnight on the forehead
and sleep knotted like briars. When retiring
from eating glue and disfiguring pages,
their organs speak in clicks to new words learned.
This close to Tomas Tranströmer they fall
asleep in the pages as in sheets of sugar.

                    Thomas Brezing

 

2.

Storm Damage                     

When I went to collect my bicycle                              
from the hospital where you’d withered,
the storm had recast it as an autumn sculpture.

The grooves between frame and tyres were choked.
Wheels vanished into flares of amber and yellow.
Here and there, a green frond interlaced the spokes.

It almost took my breath away

this blaze of light in the half-dark.
I took time to trundle my bike down the path,
loathe to dislodge the gifted leaves too fast.

With each turn, they fell away, singly or in huddles:
behind me, a trail of fire,
before, the way home.

                    Catherine Ann Cullen

 

3.

Old Macken                

We came across the green Beetle, upside-down,
wheels revolving, by Ransom’s gate
at the foot of Kilpeacon.

‘Where is he driving in this weather?
Old Macken. Boot to the floor’,
my father addressed no one in particular.

I had never seen the world more pristine.
Sunlight on the rimed windscreen,
crystals glistening on the tips of holly leaves.

Who wouldn’t want to drive this morning?
Frost tickled our throats.
Father crossed the slippery road

to force open the driver’s door
jammed beneath the bonnet’s weight.
He shook the herring-bone wool sleeve

of the ninety-six-year-old slumped
beneath the steering wheel
who lifted his bare scratched head,

rubbed watery eyes, realised where he was.
Like a child he wriggled out,
crawling on hands and knees

regained wobbly feet, eager to investigate
how they could roll the car over,
so, he would sit in and proceed.

Instead of having to take a back seat,
be landed home into the yard and face
court, before son-in-law and daughter.

                    Catherine Phil MacCarthy

 

4.

Mirror                                    

A shadowing of the glass, a sudden misting
as of a breathing past, the turn of a powdered cheekbone
caught on the off-chance.

How she’d lean in to smooth her hair at night,
glisten her lipstick in the hall’s half-light, softly
cursing all tight-fisted landlords from here to eternity,

And always stopped at the door to flutter me a kiss
as she departed at odd hours in high heels. How
I’d never have swapped my ma for one of those boring ones.

How even now I find myself seeking the wells of her eyes
in the watery light of other halls, only to be offered
the mirror’s smooth return of me to myself.

                    Denise O’Hagan

 

5.

Port-Vendres             

Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1868-1928;
Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh 1864-1933

 

Chequered tables are laid for lunch
on the rue du Soleil,

from the street’s upper windows
geraniums flame through ironwork,

rooftops climb the town’s foothills
where we walked from the Quai Forgas,

vine terraces grip the outer slopes
basking in their Pyrenean suntraps.

A bottle of Collioure for company,
and we’re busy with our daybooks,

your hat tied on with string,
sea wind lifting my skirt

as the weather closes in.
I pack away crayon and pens,

suddenly alone on a headland
with the echo of goat bells.

People say I don’t mention you much,
but I’ve come back each spring

to sketch freighters along the wharf,
the lighthouse you loved at Cap Béar,

café awnings where Malon’s yard
used to sing with saws and hammers,

the spit of a welding torch.
I catch my breath, it’s festival time,

and we’re parading with strangers
through the torchlit streets.

Soon we’ll laugh among friends
in the hotel bar after supper,

your eyes alive with cruel wit.
For so long I watched you

wasting at your work-board
over buildings never built.

At least you found a place to paint
before surgeons stole the summer.

So, here’s to you, Toshie, as I scatter
our years from the quayside,

fishermen preparing their boats
before heading out tomorrow.

                    Victor Tapner

END