2015 Dermot Healy Poetry Prize winner – ‘West’ by Tom French

So it was, I stood with my living kin

in the walled-off acre where my name

is engraved on a tilting cross,

and our children, ringing from the tall grass,

changed into their Hallowe’en costumes,

and I stood and waited at the gate for Grace,

dressed as a skeleton, to make her way

over the broken ground, to take her hand.

I was moved then, and I am  moved again

to hear my father’s sister Mary tell of the time

she saw her father cry, speaking of nine of his

mother’s people – the Kingstons – taking ship

in the bad times at Cobh, of the eight sewn

into their clothes when the spirit left them,

to be buried at sea; of the one who arrived

where they’d been bound, dumbstruck with grief.

On what winter had left of the coast road

we met a Sherpa van with English plates,

the driver pointing to the gate we’d passed,

for us to reverse to and let him pass.

With the sun at his back, as we sat in the centre

of that road, he could have read her lips

when she said, “I won’t be told what

to do in my own country by English.”

I thought I should have known her all my life

when she told me I had her father’s silence,

and tried to make up for our lost time

by taking to heart what she said about the tide,

and what she said about poetry that I got

second-hand from her friend, when I sent her

my poem made of townland names –

“What is it, now it doesn’t have to rhyme?”

Now my youngest son comes from school

and says they’re learning about The Fields of Athenry

and what it means, I tell him of our Kingstons

and the one who vanished in the New World,

repeating verbatim what I was told,

fearing embellishment, remembering, when I asked

to record her – “Just because my father cried

telling it, doesn’t make it true.”

When she took me for fish and chips to Casey’s

the day after reading poems in Skibbereen

and introduced me as her brother’s son,

and the man behind the counter said

he knew me, I dined in Union Hall, my people’s place,

in my father’s sister’s company, and gloried

the whole road back to where I call home,

in being – a stranger in a strange place – known.

Names of Longlisted Poets and Poems 2015

POEM POET
STILL LIFE IN PERPETUAL MOTION STEPHEN PELCMAN
HYPHENED JOHN D. KELLY
A FAILURE I’M IS JOEL SMITH
THE BOYS THROW ROCKS AT SWANS AND I WATCH ADAM ROOKE
LOUGH GARA PERSPECTIVE SEAN GOLDEN
DEAN LEANNE SIMON LEWIS
A DIFFERENT LIGHT PHILIP LYNCH
THE WOUNDED HERON KATIE NEWMANN
CAOLAINN ELIZABETH COSTELLO
SPEAKING OF THE PAST EAMON LYNSKEY
FROM THE MAINLAND (TO THE MEMORY OF GEORGE MACKAY BROWN) ANTHONY WATTS
THE LETTERS JOAN MICHELSON
LAGAN NIAMH PRIOR
WEST TOM FRENCH
WHEN HE WAS YOUNG KATHLEEN O’BRIEN
THE DANCERS ON GRAVES PATRICK TANNER
THE CUSP OF HISTORY GEAROID O’BRIEN
SISPHYUS DECIDES CIARAN PARKES
PHOTOGRAPH OF WATER JACKIE GORMAN
THE AMARYLLIS CHARLES EVANS
ENCORE EVAN COSTIGAN
THE BOAT MOMENT JOHN D. KELLY
INTERLUDE NIAMH PRIOR
THE TRIUMPHS OF PETERS PEAPOD PLONK LOUISE COLE
BACK THEN EAMON LYNSKEY
RED PAINT ELIZABETH COSTELLO
INTRUDER BREDA RYAN
THE DROWNED MICHAEL O’CONNOR
MINSTREL JOAN SULLIVAN GRAY
FATHER DAVID BUTLER
AFTERGLOW KEVIN GRAHAM
SEPARATION MAURA JOHNSTON
INTENSIVE CARE CHARLES EVANS
CONKERS MEL MCMAHON
CARESS GERALDINE CLARKSON
THE SEA SHANTY SONYA GILDEA
THE CAVES IN HER MIND KATHLEEN O’BRIEN
LI BAN ELIZABETH COSTELLOE
BIOGRAPHY GERALDINE CLARKSON
REMEMBERING DANNIE AND JOAN ANTHONY KEATING
JANUARY MORNING, EAGLE ROCK MAURICE DEVITT

MAKING STRANGE

SIMON LEWIS
FLESH AND BLOOD CARLOS ANDRES GOMEZ
MOUNTAINEERING COLIN DARDIS
IN THE ARMOURY OF THE KNIGHTS OF MALTA GRAINNE TOBIN
SURF SESTINA NIAMH PRIOR
SENSELESS BRIAN KIRK
PARTY GAMES GERALDINE MITCHELL
THE HARE JACKIE GORMAN
LOVERS IN FIELDS MEL MCMAHON
WHEN THEY SAY CONNEMARA GERALDINE CLARKSON
AN IRISH AIRMAN JEREMIAH GERARD CURTIN

THE DERMOT HEALY POETRY COMPETITION 2015 LONGLIST

Horseshoe

Still Life in Perpetual Motion

Hyphened

A Failure I’m Is

The Boys Throw Rocks at Swans and I Watch

Lough Gara Perspective

Dean Leanne

A Different Light

The Wounded Heron

Caolainn

Speaking of the Past

From the Mainland (To The Memory of George Mackay Brown)

The Letters

Lagan

West

When He was Young

The Dancers on Graves

The Cusp of History

Sisphyus Decides

Photograph of Water

The Amaryllis

Encore

The Boat Moment

Interlude

The Triumphs of Peters Peapod Plonk

Back Then

Red Paint

Intruder

The Drowned

Minstrel

Father

Afterglow

Separation

Intensive Care

Conkers

Caress

The Sea Shanty

The Caves in Her Mind

Li Ban

Biography

Remembering Dannie and Joan

January Morning, Eagle Rock

Making Strange

Flesh and Blood

Mountaineering

In The Armoury of The Knights of Malta

Surf Sestina

Senseless

Party Games

The Hare

Lovers in Fields

When They Say Connemara

An Irish Airman