Hennessy New Irish Writing: September’s winning poems

Monsters by Jennifer Matthews; Kiosk No 6 and Poet in a Train Station Bar by Órla Fay


My daughter's monster wakes her with a slap. Sometimes I encourage her to fight back, other times I tell her a story about reality, with a cuddle.

He's not real, and you are stronger.

As she burrows her head into me, believing I am safe and powerful, she falls asleep. And I turn to look at my own monster so small he can fit in my hand.

He arrives through an uncanny blue light the type that stimulates a false day, wreaking circadian havoc.


Experts have warned me not to look at him, at least in the hour before bed and, always, I'm woken in the middle of the night.

I don't yet know how to fight back: spells, prayers, wishes are crushed under his lumping steps, and my stomach turns at the sight of his rheumy eyes, at the grimace of his tiny, terrible mouth.

It barely moves during his most notorious magic trick where words dive, spiralling from his lips, canaries in the noxious fug of his breath.

He advises me:

Check your sources! Any fool knows I’m not real. Shut down. Care only for yourself.

It’s better for all of us if you sleep.

Poetry by Jennifer Matthews has been published in the Stinging Fly, Mslexia, and the Penny Dreadful among others, and anthologised in Dedalus's recent anthology, The Deep Heart's Core (2017). Rootless, her poetry chapbook, is available to read free online at smithereenspress.com

KIOSK NO6 after Banksy, Death of a Phone Booth

Before I had been the epitome of style and technology, classical with those communicative features, a vermillion gentleman, dashing as Superman and sharp as the Doctor travelling through time.

Eighty years have passed. I can be adopted and adapted by the community for one pound and privately owned for three thousand, your very own curiosity, a piece of cast iron art – or I can be cast out to the scrap yard, a graveyard for millions of now unheard voices.

They held a public funeral for me, my death was announced on a Soho street. Knocked to my side and bent to an L shape, crumpled over I bled red paint to a pool from the pick-axe lodged in my side, out-dated, no longer useful, void, a footnote in the tale of I.T.'s meteoric rise.


I come across you unexpectedly as you sit, hidden behind the stairwell, typing on your laptop. I have walked onto a filmset where paper doors are punched through or sliced to reveal their artificiality, or into a hall of mirrors. I am not sure which reflection is real.

I do not believe you have noticed me. I choose to sit very far away and I wonder what it is you are writing, so clean-cut and groomed, a winner, a man who takes himself seriously, comfortable in your own skin but with something renegade attached, a note to your childhood perhaps

or a slighted card dealt driving frightful ambition, a Scarlett Pimpernel or Count of Monte Cristo lost to this Parisian place now, sailing past rugged Gallic coast the bow crashing up and down on swelling water as you gaze, knowingly, to horizon.

I digress, look up from newspaper headlines, atch the back of a figure leaving through darkened doors. I doubt anyone has traversed the furthest corners of you, your hankering for the wild and solitary places, disappeared, known only to God in this nameless humanity where we struggle for connection.