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.
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.

Jennifer Matthews. Photograph: John Minihan
Photograph: John Minihan

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


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.

Órla Fay is the editor of Boyne Berries. Recently her work has appeared in Honest Ulsterman, Crossways, Lagan Online, The Bangor Literary Journal, Cyphers, Quarryman, The Pickled Body and Skylight 47. In 2017 she was longlisted in The Fish Poetry Prize, The Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition, The Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award and shortlisted in The Dermot Healy International Poetry Award and The Redline Book Festival Poetry Competition. She is currently completing the MA in Digital Arts and Humanities at UCC. She blogs at orlafay.blogspot.ie