Belfast poet Jim McElroy wins second prize in the Bridport Poetry Awards

Read McElroy’s prize-winning poem, Hoor

Jim McElroy, a poet from Dechomet, near Katesbridge, Co Down, has won second prize in the Bridport Poetry Awards, a major international poetry competition judged this year by Hollie McNish, for his poem, Hoor.

McElroy was first published in 2018, but his work led to his selection by Poetry Ireland as one of Ireland’s emerging poets for their Introductions Series 2019. He is also the recipient of an Individual Artists Award from the Arts Council NI and The National Lottery to support the completion of his first collection, which muses over the first and second age and stares into the third.

Hoor; Irish: Used in both friendly and derogatory contexts.

He called Widow Welsh that poor oul hoor
in winter he'd send me up with fresh eggs;
next door, Joe McNab was tight oul hoor,
said he would count every bleedin' penny;
the right oul hoors lived on the Rock Hill,
I was let play with their right wee hoors:
passing pedlars, scammers – all cute hoors;
the tax man, a connivin little hoor's bollix.


I followed his hobnail crunch, oily overalls
round the farm – annoyin his hoorin head:
too many questions, go ask your mother;
at school, if I passed exams, he gave me
right quick wee hoor. Out on the moor,
neck veins bulging like baler twine,
he'd scrum hug boulders into position,
build ditches; at stubborn stones, sleeve
off brow sweat, stare at its granite belly,
christen it a heavy oul hoor; over lunch,
on top of stones, he'd share out soda farls,
cheddar slabs, pour our cuppa tay, tell me
to thank your Mother; as he lit his pipe,
he'd point out hedges needing trimmed,
the opening crops – ripening corn, barley.

When I left for the city, autumn's thresher
was gulping wheat sheafs; I watched him
grimace as he kneed obese seed bags up
to the trailer; through the belt slew, thrum,
he yelled mind yourself – to watch out for all
them cute hoors. Later that winter, the switch
put her call through, told me, your mother's
on the line
– I was to come home quick.

Still in his overalls, he lay on the bed; fresh
muck clung to his hobnails; right oul hoor
found him slumped over granite; I bent down
for our first kiss – his hoorin head, cold as stone.