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The 2016 Strokestown Poetry Prize, for poems in English.

Competition Results 2016

1st Prize John Murphy ‘As if she were close’
2nd Prize Beatrice Garland ‘The River’
3rd Prize Jed Myers ‘Birds Over a Marsh’

Beatrice Garland 2nd, John Murphy 1st and Paddy Bushe (Past winner)

Beatrice Garland 2nd, John Murphy 1st and Paddy Bushe (Past winner)

The Strokestown International Prize Shortlist

Pat Borthwick, England          ‘The Stroll’

Anne Marie Connolly, Scotland          ‘Gallop and Froth’

Beatrice Garland, England                 ‘The River’

Jane Kirwan,   England                  ‘The Antikythera Boy’

John Murphy, Ireland              ‘As If She Were Close’

Jed Myers, USA       ‘ Birds Over a Marsh’

Christopher North, Spain        ‘From an Armchair’

Janina Osewska, Poland          ‘a woman in a button-back dress’

David Smith, England      ‘Cameraria Ohridella’

Eilis Stanley, Ireland     ‘Midnight Call’



The Stroll

Pat Borthwick was born of an Irish mother and Welsh father, in the flat fenlands of Lincolnshire and now lives on the High Wolds of East Yorkshire (David Hockney country).

Formerly a ceramic sculptor, Pat started writing poetry in the early 90s or rather it started writing her.

Pat has four full-length collections of poetry and several pamphlets.  She has won some prestigious competitions including the Keats-Shelley Award, The Basil Bunting Award, The Ted Hughes Elmet Prize , the Amnesty International Human Rights Prize along with the Templar Pamphlet Competition.

She is a founder member and Chair of NAWE (The National Association of Writers in Education) and has twice been awarded an International Writers Hawthornden Fellowship.

Pat became dogged by ill health in 2008 but after a bad fall last year her system seems to have been restored almost to its former self . The medical world has no explanation for this so she’s content to call it a miracle and is very happy to be writing again.



We’re both agreed it’s not the best day for a walk.

Clouds hang lopsided over the fields, huge blots


darkening our afternoon. But we’ve remembered

what the doctor said and wrapped up well, you,


in your cap with earflaps. Me, my mohair slouchy.

Silence, except for the crisp woodpecker tap – tap


tap of your stick. We smell slow water in the ditch

alongside us. It must be shuffling along like we are.


It smells sweet, interesting. We’re not close enough

to see the steep banks, the exposed hawthorn roots


like our gnarled fingers. Now those rain clouds start

to hurry away as though the emerging sun has seen


them off and there, on the bank top, a constellation

of gleaming buttercups. Look, you say, as you swing


your stick towards a dandelion clump, even they have

silvery hair, but nothing as lovely as yours has become.




Gallop and Froth

Anne Connolly is an Irish poet living and working and being a granny in Scotland. Her poems have been widely published in a variety of journals, magazines and on-line. She was the Makar for the Federation of Writers (Scotland) 2013-2014, has taken part in a couple of radio features and participates regularly in the Performance/ Spoken word scene. Her work features on the beautiful Corbenic Poetry Path in the Camphill Community near Dunkeld. Love-in-a-mist”, her first collection, was published by Red Squirrel Press in 2011. “Downside Up’ and “Not entirely beautiful,” her two pamphlets, were published by Calder Wood Press and Stewed Rhubarb respectively. “A Ravel of Yarns,” Anne’s second collection from Red Squirrel Press, was launched in September 2015.

                Gallop and Froth


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides

his mane afloat in the phosphorous tide

that duels with sword-fish and lures the moon

to a sickle and a segment and a full-blown tune.


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides

an octopussy octopurring by his side

in eight part harmony with singing whales

who gurgle-gargle moistly up and down the scales.


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides,

beats a pair of card-sharks, bets on the side

in the coral emporium where skates speed by

and the longest odds are spinning on the silver fry.


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides,

bubbles a necklace for his sea-born bride

reaps pink anemones for her bouquet

to hula-hoop her heartstrings on their wedding day.


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides,

pony-sits his offspring as they seek and hide

scally-waggers urchins with their punk-rock hair

as they tickle and they tackle and they flaunt their flair.


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides,

frolics in the Gulf Stream, then decides

to find a gloomy alcove way down deep

for cocktails with the Prawn King when he’s not asleep.


Gallop and froth the sea-horse rides,

circles an electric eel. Woops! Collides.

Somersaults with static. Runs his final race.

Canterleaps and canterloops through Neptune’s pearly gates.


The River

Beatrice Garland lives and works in London, though most of her poems are about life and death in the natural world.   She has published one volume of poetry (The Invention of Fireworks, published by Templar in 2013), which was short-listed for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.  She is a previous winner of The Strokestown International Poetry Prize.  She is currently at work on a second collection.


It’s true.  I haven’t told you everything.

You pull a face and turn your head, seeing

encounters in foreign hotels, laughter, heat,


a half-drawn blind.  It’s not like that.

It’s just that my past wasn’t yours –

and what can be done or said to alter that?


Sometimes we’d bring the children to this river.

In those days the track petered out

at the top of the slope and a long field


ran down to the edge of the water,

ending in a little stony beach held

in the crook of the river’s arm – so


we’d carry the basket and a chequered rug

down to the poplars at the water’s edge

and splash about with no clothes on.


There was never anyone else around,

though sometimes I saw an old man, fishing

from a flat-bottomed boat moored


the far side of the river, the boat the same

dark green as the water, the duck-boards

that lined it creaking as he altered weight.


His wide straw hat would make a horizontal

line across the slanted pole, which

bent at the tip, turning without pause


into the long drift of the line downstream

to the scarlet float like an exclamation point.

I’d wonder when we swam if we disturbed


the fish, for I never saw him catch anything –

and I imagined he went there to dream, to think

of nothing in particular, half-noticing


the coil of buzzards mewing overhead,

or this young family turning up on Sundays,

its children the colour of apricots,


learning to skim stones across the water

where it quickened and turned hard and black.

Later in the day we’d walk downstream,


the boys always a hundred yards ahead,

scrambling up the track again to where

a few fields farther on there’d be a house


or two with a barking dog and a pail of plums

outside the kitchen door and unpegged sheets

held on a line by their own damp weight –


and I’d walk past slowly, looking,

feeling the small ache of the outsider,

wanting to stare in through the open windows.


As you stare through these windows to my past.

If we don’t walk on the light will go, and

we’ll have to find our way back in the dark.


Over the next bridge there’s a village

with a few tables set out under the trees.

We’ll see the serious priest, books


under his arm, hurry towards the church

whose bell – you can hear it now – seems

to carry for ever in such still air, through


every pigeon-loft and bramble patch,

a thin, high, repeated stroke that speaks of

change and order simultaneously:


births, marriages, death, the ends of wars,

all overlapping in concentric rings

of sound, like water rising, flowing.


The Antikythera Boy

Jane Kirwans poetry collections Stealing the Eiffel Tower (1997), The Man Who Sold Mirrors (2003) and Second Exile (poems with prose by Ales Macháček) were published by Rockingham Press, a Czech version Druhy Exil in 2011 by Novela Bohemica. Born in the NHS from Hippocrates Press was written with Wendy French. She won an Arts Council Writers’ Award in 2002, and a novel, Don’t Mention Her, about an Irish medical family, is due out this summer. She divides her time between London and the Czech Republic.

How many sanded the marble

                                     not imagining this

or was there only the one

to help the boy stretch from the stone?

One who was in love, and anticipating.

The right side is smooth, his expression ecstatic, his right leg,

right arm creamy; the rest, most of his left, is eaten.

                                   Reaching out for two thousand years.

Many have been lost, some like him dragged back

by chance, part-ruined.

Who made him?

His face she remembers. How

in the dry heat of night, under stars, a land without trees,

she took up her mallet, chisel

and he held out his arms.



As If She Were Close

John Murphy’s first collection, The Book of Water, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2012. His second collection, The Language Hospital, is forthcoming from Salmon in September, 2016. He is a past winner of the Strokestown International Poetry Prize (2015), and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize three times (Fiction Prize winner 2013). He has been shortlisted three times in the Hennessy award for fiction (2007, 2016) and poetry (2011). He was a finalist in the 2016 UK National Poetry Competition. His poems and short stories have appeared in many journals and magazines.


My mother is chasing me. All over the house.

No. This is not a nightmare. It happened.

Thirty or so years ago. She is waving an

empty cigarette packet I’d neatly opened up

to expose a blank writing surface. This is where

I wrote my first poem. A knot of gritty phrases

about war in Vietnam or Iwo Jima.

I can’t remember where, but I’d dropped it

or thrown it away and forgotten about it:

my spider pencil crawl of a treatment;

a Sunday afternooner, a black and whiter.

The kind my mother liked, as long as Garfield

or Cagney starred. But my poem has no stars.

Just a blunt jungle of men killing each other

in childish, thrilling ways. She finally catches

me, arms crossed like a corpse under her bed.

John! It’s very, very good! You wrote a poem!


I’m seven or eight years old, and I know

whatever the thing I’ve done, it has a power

to frighten, a frightening power. One to shunt

aside until years after she’s dead. Where I find

myself in the departure lounge at Heathrow,

waiting to connect as my American bosses say.

My slim ticket ready in my hand, and hours

to kill before boarding. And it begins again.

A full thirty years since I nipped it in the bud.

As if she were close. I’m writing a poem about

my mother in the space on the back of the card.

Something very simple about us walking along

the quays on the long way home from the auction

she used to love. It’s straightforward, honest, plain.

But there’s a powerful feeling, too. Like my heart

is physically moving to the wrong side of my chest

where it should not be. And the bloody thing makes

me cry. God damn it, but I can’t stop writing it now.

I keep going on with it, on and on. What else can I do?



Birds Over a Marsh

Jed Myers lives in Seattle. His poetry collections include Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), the chapbook The Nameless (Finishing Line Press), and a chapbook forthcoming from Egress Studio Press. His work has received Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Literal Latte Poetry Award, Blue Lyra Review’s Longish Poem Award, two Pushcart nominations, and a Forward Prize nomination. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Harpur Palate, Crannóg, Cider Press Review, Atlanta Review, Quiddity, and elsewhere.


Like most, I quit my babbling

quick—the oral machinery worked

the local syllabic tricks. Lips


permitted puppet and ball. It took

the tongue for love and drink. I sprouted

teeth and could think. Made for this


aren’t we? So I can tell you

my sight. Those small black birds,

scarlet bands on their wings—those


the males, of a few who’ve stayed

though the sun called them south—scan

from the taller cattails and twigs


surrounding the pond. They traverse it

in forays, for the hatch of tiny bugs

risen this first warm late-winter day.


I have the words. So why is it

these last years I’m again mouthing

nonsense? I stand here on mud


to spy out over a baffle of reeds,

and spout a lilting scat to capture

those dashing dark holdouts’ dips


and rises. In my undiscovered language

I say they’re bold, praise how they sport

those yellow-fringed blaze-red epaulets


over the cold pool below. I call them

forgettable things, for no one to know.

But approach unnoticed, and you’ll catch


my gibberish, close, I suppose, to Yiddish,

much like the noise of the air I inhaled

while I still crawled. Right off


my errant tongue, through lips

relieved of their civic duty, tumbles

this mix of sonorants and obstruents,


inflected as might be a very young

child’s, prattle meant for no ears

but my own. Though in it at times


I hear the old ironical plaints,

the immigrants’ worried wishes, late-night

solicitudes to a chill-wakened toddler


in my grandmother’s arms—such feeling,

but without the about. Is this now

my report of an ornithological sighting,


or do I mourn the migration of young

who tramped this thicketed wetland with me

to christen these prince birds? It could be


both, and more, and this heart’s broadcast

crossing all distance and death, no matter

the others’ awareness. Or do I mutter


what somebody might have said descending

the tower God didn’t want built? Maybe

I’ve salvaged this early music to manage


spouseless after so long in a house

of purposeful utterings. Have I gone

back at last for the mumbling creature


I left in my urge to belong? I keep up

a burbling, like a stream—sounds

like it trickles over its cow-licked stones


along the edge of a field, somewhere near

the Volga. The song will not leave me

alone. Someone young has moved in-


to the bone hut again, now

that the broken-glass promise is broken,

all the kids flown, the old gone


earthen—I come to wander

this wilderness home, to savor

the unnamable swoops of wonder.


From an Armchair

Christopher North’s first collection ‘A Mesh of Wires’ published by Smith Doorstop was short-listed for the Forward Prize in 1999. He has published two collections since: ‘Explaining the Circumstances’ (2010) and ‘The Night Surveyor’ (2014) and a joint , bilingual collection ‘Al Otro Lado del Aguilar’ (2011) with Terry Gifford         – all with Oversteps Books. His most recent pamphlet collection is ‘Wolves Recently Sighted’ Templar Poetry 2014. is most recent pamphlet collection is ‘Wolves Recently Sighted 2014He has been published in Poetry Review, the Independent, Acumen, Smith Knoll, Brittle Star, Wolf and many others. With his wife Marisa, he facilitates poetry writing retreats and courses at, Almassera Vella in Relleu, Alicante Spain (www.oldolivepress.com)


Beyond the range of the Tsar’s photographer

the Tanguska forest of the meteorite

and its flower of blasted pines;


beyond the islands of the Gulag

and the road of bones through endless forest

where winter is norm, lives pass unrecorded,


epics unfold their progress in silence,

towns work through unknown narratives —

all outside the great conversation;


beneath sky-scapes lashed with stars

and the unfolding green of borealis;

through Yakutsk to Sakha and ice crushed bridges,


between frozen mountains lies Omyakon.

And here they say in winter words freeze

as they leave your mouth to fall forgotten in the snow.


They make a tundra littered with gossip,

cries of love, argument and greeting,

speeches and shouts petrified in depths of ice


until one midday when larch are greening

and Golden-root makes brief smile at a low sun,

words fall into air as if from a door flung open


to fill the town like birdsong and running water.



a woman in a button-back dress

Janina Osewska – poet and photo artist. Graduate of a technical university, IT and Pedagogy post-graduate studies. Author of three poetry volumes: Towards Silence (2003) and To the Future (2007), Tamto (2015) and photography album “Elements” (2011). The organiser of literary projects including „Augustów in Poetry” and „Augustów in Poetry and Prose” which culminated in the publishing of an anthology Directly to Augustów (2007) and Tales of Augustów (2008). Her poems have been translated into English, German, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Czech Republic. In 2004 she won The Grand Award and in 2006 The First Degree Honorable Mention both in the international competition of poetry organized by the Polish American Poets Academy in the US.She has published articles from her travels, „The pulse of Manhattan” and „Gunpowder and Incense – The Lebanon” and many other travel articles. Publishes her photographs in poetry anthologies and volumes, magazines on tourism, education, culture and touring. Photography projects in Poland, New York, Lebanon, Syria, Australia, and New Zealand. Author of 21 individual and 10 collective photography exhibitions. She lives and works in Poland (Augustów).


two women on a platform


one of them looks

as the top button of the other’s dress in the colour

of dust from Hierapolis and of the sunset over Ephesus

comes undone – its orange-gold seams

step by step reveal the body

the black sail of underwear

rises and falls on the waves of words –

your button has come undone

would you mind …

and strange hands join up the borders of the dress like two worlds –


since he left me – says the woman –

to button the dresses on angels’ transparent bodies

buttoning hurts

like the sight of an empty pillow at dawn

like the anxiety about an invitation arriving for two

and like the arms of a woman bent back embracing

only herself as she tries to button her dress


you must then – says the first woman – say goodbye

to dresses with a button-back fastening

and those with zippers from the waist

to the nape of the neck flooded with kisses

so they – like him – depart and stay there


until the time to come





Cameraria Ohridella

David Smith lives and writes in North Yorkshire UK, where he teaches
creative writing, poetry  and is active in local poetry groups.

He has work published by Assent and Squirrel Press and was short listed for Sid
Chaplin Short Story Competition.

For many years he has reviewed the work of Arthur Miller for The Arthur
Miller Society in New York.

He has published two anthologies- “Corset Pink Wall” and “Unnatural
Workings” his latest “The Stencil Room”
is due out in May 2016.

Cameraria Ohridella

Is a leaf mining moth that can’t fly


So has hitched lifts on lorries and cars


All the way from Macedonia,finally finding


My boyhood chestnut tree.



It stands in Joe Wilson’s former farmyard


Where he kept a cow, a sow and a few hens


Opposite the bulge in the church wall.



After sunday school we hid amongst leaves bigger


Than our heads,and dropped conkers on choir girls.



Today is the first of August, Autumn has come early.


Her once magnificent spars, stark as the Somme


Are bare, black against blue.



A retired executive is sweeping


Shrivelled brown-edged fingers


Into his bright red wheelbarrow and


Trundling my childhood away.



Midnight Call

Eilis Stanley is a poet and writer living in Co.Wicklow, having returned from San Francisco to Ireland in 2000. Her poetry and prose have been published in the UK, Ireland and U.S.A. She has founded and been an active member of a number of poetry groups, over the years, and has read and performed extensively. She is a member of the well established Dublin Airfield Writers, based in Airfield house at the foothills of the Dublin mountains. In 2011, she won first prize for Short Poem Original at Listowel and was shortlisted for the UK Bridport International Poetry Prize in 2012. Currently, Eilis is working on her first collection and pulling the threads together for a Memoir. She is passionate about reviving poetry readings especially at local community level.


Her heart cracked at the call

and splinters of black stars


caught in her throat, as the

room swayed losing its walls


and her breath in an ocean

of fear, held his life by threads.


Two broken boats cast off into

a glassy night towards a country


with no name, but dread.

Already the wave that was Daniel


was breaking on a far shore as the

motorway lights like snapped silk


shot around the speeding car.

His hands on the wheel were a prayer


Hers entwined were the world as it dropped

beyond their grim city horizon, and


a chunk of continent sheared from its

towering height into a glacial blue roar.


In time, they watch switches being cut

one by one and his body flutters like roses


in a warm wind and drops into heaven’s ground

with a sound only the gods can hear.