Hennessy New Irish Writing: December 2018’s winning poems

New work by Siobhán Mac Mahon and DC Fitzsimons

Siobhán Mac Mahon

Siobhán Mac Mahon



Sometimes, a poem
enters you
in the middle of the night,

saying things
you wouldn’t dream
of admitting

in your saner moments.
Saying things
you could never tell

your mother; insisting
on the truth
of a voice

blazing in the dark
of your body

in tongues of fire.
Taunting you
with glimpses

of the Promised
Land – like a gift
from dangerous Gods.


You might want to weed the garden
now that the days are growing longer
and the weeds are beginning to choke
the young shoots in the vegetable patch.
That rose bush, which you planted
over the placenta of your first child,
needs dead-heading, if there is to be any hope
of new blooms in the Spring.

The house needs a tidy: all those odd socks
at the bottom of the laundry basket
need sorting into pairs; the fridge needs a clean –
half-eaten dinners mouldering
under saucers, the cheese growing a blue fuzz.
And that drawer, needs clearing – stuffed full
of Sellotape and string, single earrings and keys
to doors you have never opened.

You might want to light a candle –
the one you have been saving since your birthday;
perhaps some incense. You could offer a prayer
to propitiate the Gods – if you still remember
any of the words. The Hail Mary is handy;
you used to know it by heart.

Then lay the brown envelope down
on the kitchen table, take a sharp knife
and slit it open.

Siobhán Mac Mahon is a poet, studying for an MA in creative writing at UCD. She has been performing her poetry and creating Spoken Word projects for many years, combining poetry with music, dance and with film. Winner of the 2017 Womad poetry slam and the Ilkley Literature Festival open Mic. Her poetry has been published in a Bloodaxe anthology, Hallelujah for 50 Foot Women, and in Skylight 47


DC Fitzsimons
DC Fitzsimons


I shaved your hair onto the living room floor.
Alone, together, for the first time
since I was ten, when we took the train
to Portlaoise Prison to visit Uncle Eddie.
I thought your tumour would teach me
to accept the years we lost while you too were inside,
and the other years you retreated
deeper and deeper inside yourself, and to forgive.
My hands caressed the familiar shape
of your head. Your skull
I held like a precious stone.
After I lifted you up
to the dark of your room to rest,
I swept and gathered the thin,
grey, dusty clumps.
Now you are no longer with us.
All that remains: the silver urn on Ma’s fireplace,
your hair in a jewelry box under my bed.

DC Fitzsimons is a Dublin-based writer and IADT graduate. His work has been published in the Stinging Fly, Upstart.ie, The Guardian Poetry Workshop. He is working towards his first collection of poetry and a book of short stories

How to enter 

Hennessy New Irish Writing, edited by Ciaran Carty, and appearing in The Irish Times on the last Saturday of each month, is open to writers who are Irish or resident in Ireland. All stories and poems published in Hennessy New Irish Writing will be eligible for the 2018 Hennessy Literary Awards.

Awards are made annually in three categories: First Fiction, for writers publishing their first story; Emerging Fiction, for writers still to publish their first book; and Emerging Poetry, for first-time poets or poets still to publish their first collection.

The winner of each category will receive a Hennessy trophy and €1,500. A Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year, chosen from the winners of the three categories, will receive an additional prize of €2,500 and a trophy.

Stories submitted should not exceed 2,200 words. Up to six poems may be submitted. There is no entry fee. Writers whose work is selected for publication will receive €130 for fiction and €65 for poetry.

You can email your entry, preferably as a Word document or pasted into your email, to hennessynewirishwriting@irishtimes.com or post it (with a stamped addressed envelope) to Ciaran Carty, Hennessy New Irish Writing, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2. In both cases include your name and telephone number; if you are entering by post, please also include your email address if you have one.

The illustrations for the Hennessy New Irish Writing award-winning stories are created by students on the BA (Hons) Illustration programme at the National College of Art and Design, the country’s only dedicated illustration degree, led by Brendon Deacy. For more information: ncad.ie