Hennessy New Irish Writing: March 2018 winning poems

The Syrian Violin maker and Myopia by Mairéad Donnellan; Goldfinch by Fergus Hogan


The Syrian Violin maker

After the voyage
he needed a home for the soul,
an instrument that might sing
of his history.
Aged maple was a gift,
as were the tools he used
to carve out the body,
making a place to cradle survivors,
whose names are written inside.

Beneath the veneer there is a space
aching for the gentle stroke of a bow
to coax out the chanting of children,
sunbirds, humming jasmine,
the drone of scooters in the street.
Yes, there is an elegy for all this,
the slow sawing of a life divided,
the frenzied tempo of a father’s heart,
breast beating, wailing, sirens
rising to a crescendo
until there is nothing
but the welcome resonance
of waves breaking
on another shore.


After “I don’t see anything,” he said, a painting by Elena Duff

A high-handed tide has carried away our plastic bucket and spade, set our building things adrift, bright kites have slipped from our grip, pedigree breeds have disappeared, cut loose from long leashes.

The swim-suited child who had us dizzy with her spinning has run from the shore, hurried indoors to see on screen the saga of castles flattened, soldiers stranded in their garrison.

The kings of these dominions are hidden below the horizon, still at the helm of their caravels. The sky has fallen down and we are left to walk amongst the clouds, searching for songbirds.

  • Mairéad Donnellan lives in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan. A member of Lit lab writers’ group, her poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Doire Press Chapbook Competition in 2013 and the Cúirt New Writing Prize in 2014. She won first prize in the Francis Ledwidge Poetry Competition, 2013, the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland competition, 2016 and Laois Leaves Poetry competition, 2017. She is working towards her first collection



The Goldfinch came to visit The day you left for hospital.

You saw it first As a fleck of yellow flower On the Japonica by the gate; You held it in your eyes ‘Look’ you said - With a breath that Hardly stirred your lips

Then you turned and Smiled for both of us

Later, alone A wind blew from the East; It ruffled new life Through its feathers - Lifting it high through the fir A golden dart of light Heaven-bound

  • Fergus Hogan is a qualified social worker and family therapist. He lectures full time in narrative therapy and storytelling as healing at Waterford Institute of Technology. His first book The Wisdom of Fionn was published last year and is a retelling of the great Irish tale with a focus on masculinity and Celtic spirituality. He is currently working on a collection of poems in relation to men’s lives, nature, and spirit.