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Monday, January 2, 2023

Little Fires of Brigid Poetry Competition

St. Brigid’s Cross

To honour St. Brigid’s Day and the inaugural Bank Holiday in Ireland celebrating Lá Fhéile Bríde, Drawn to the Light Press is pleased to announce a poetry competition. The competition opens on Sunday, 04th December and closes on Sunday, 08th January.

Send poems to using the subject line Little Fires of Brigid Poetry Competition 2023. Poems should be 40 lines or less and previously unpublished. Poems should be on the theme of Brigid, Spring, Fire and Renewal. 

Poem are judged anonymously and the poet’s name must not appear on the poems themselves. Details should be included on a separate page. 

The overall guest judge is Siobhán Mc Laughlin, a poet and creative writing facilitator from Co. Donegal, Ireland. Her poems have appeared in Drawn to the Light Press, The Honest Ulsterman, The Waxed Lemon, Bealtaine magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, The Poetry Village and recently made the longlist for the Bangor Poetry Competition in September 2022.  She has a MA in Creative Writing and works as a creative writing facilitator for adults, both online and in person, hosting writing classes and a series of writing for wellbeing workshops. She has previous editorial credits on the international literary magazine, Beyond Words and curates a collection of seasonal poetry on her blog

The winning poet will receive €200 and be published in Issue 8 of Drawn to the Light Press. A runner-up will also have their poem published in the February Issue. 

There is an entry fee of €5 for a single poem entry. Poets may submit as many poems as they wish. Please include your PayPal reference number in your entry email. Those who wish to enter by post may do so by contacting the email address above. 

Winners will be announced on Monday, 6th February 2023. 

Enter here

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Poem for Thanksgiving


Freedom from Want Norman Rockwell

Since it's Thanksgiving on Thursday, I've edited an older poem to share. I know that in the world there are too many who are not free from want. 

Thanksgiving Invictus


-          after Wilde & Henley


Struggling for grace in morning’s prison

he wipes sleep from eyes, stretches

yet-darkness before lighting a candle.


Enthralled by beauty, the warbling flame,

dancing shadows cast, he hums an old, familiar tune,

remembers a friend he loved, heard joy,


sonorous bass in lifeblood,

drumming heart. This same ritual,

performed for centuries. The pilgrim, home.


Day stirring, frees herself, maiden

white with mist, gowned for occasion,

her grey veil gradually lifts, and there is bonniness


in simple tasks while robins chirp reminders:

make coffee, make toast, mix the Christmas cake,

how good it is to breathe, taste, see.


There is no gallow anon, no plank to walk.

This is no Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Stronger than any epoch is the resolve


that spring will return, jungle of cornucopia.

Snowdrops, previewed through dew,

in New Year’s baptism, rise renewed.


Orla Fay


Ed. 22/11/22

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Tinder Stick Road


Ulysses 31 1980's cartoon

Hey blog, as usual it's been too long. So here's an update. I was delighted to win Fingal Libraries Poetry Competition 2022: Travel with Joyce:1922-2022, commemorating the centenary of the publication of Ulysses in Paris. The winning poems can be read here. Thanks to the judges Enda Coyle-Greene & Máighréad Medbh. I was also grateful to have been granted an Agility Award by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Issue 7 of Drawn to the Light Press can be read here. I had a poem published in Meath Writers' Circle Annual Magazine (The Tinder Stick Road) and I have another forthcoming in The Stony Thursday Book, edited by Annemarie Ní Churreáin. Currently I am working on my debut full collection with Salmon Poetry's Jessie Lendennie. I'm sharing The Tinder Stick Road below and I'd also like to dedicate an older poem to my constant, and inspiring, Sarah. 

The Tinder Stick Road

Do not expect the way to be easy,

that branches will not sharpen like knives,

that thorns will not adorn the middle ground.

From a past you no longer serve

be free. Set one naked sole after another

on the coals until they are doused.

Imagine the end, all the little endings

of the journey, the daily living.

Imagine that comfort in the hold of the rose,

the soft pink, and red, petals and folds.

Did any voyage ever begin with certainty?

Not Ithaka! Not Bethlehem! Not Jerusalem!

Look to the stars, to Polaris and Orion.

Never be dissuaded, so that they may orbit you

when seeking them in the glittering beyond.

Let the heavens swarm like bees in the godlike centre

of your existence, your heart writing clefs and quavers

in love for yourself, this life, this humanity.

I remember (love)

- After Rilke's  You, You only, Exist

So long it has been but now and then

(and on dark winter nights)

it is with gladness of heart

that I greet the form of you

come back for an instant

to make me smile

like the flame from the fire

or a forgotten voice


but you are gone,

far down the river,

whispering back so that I know

you were true, shadow

that cut deeper than any blade,

that raised my eyes to the sun

and laughing, suddenly you were done!

No thanks could be given. None at all.

But I take you with me to a blue sky

to the calligraphy of the birds

with pounding chests

drenched with rains of light

on their wings.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Cork International Poetry Festival 2022


I'll be reading from Green Carnations, an anthology of LGBTQ+ poetry next Saturday afternoon at the wonderful Cork International Poetry Festival. The festival begins on Wednesday, 18th May and runs through to the 21st. Thanks very much to Patrick Cotter, director of Munster Literature Centre and John Ennis, editor of Green Carnations for asking me to be involved. I'll be sharing the stage with fellow contributors Diarmuid Fitzgerald and Leah Keane. The event will be moderated by Kate Moore at 4.30 in Cork Arts Theatre. More information here.

Tickets can be bought here

Full programme of events here

“Why the green carnation?”

The short answer is that it’s a symbol of Oscar himself. In 1892, Wilde had one of the actors in Lady Windermere’s Fan wear a green carnation on opening night and told a dozen of his young followers to wear them too. Soon the carnation became an emblem of Wilde and his group—no doubt aided by his having scandalized critics after the play by appearing on stage smoking a cigarette! Indeed, an amusing parody of Wilde was published in 1894 called The Green Carnation—and which the horrified author withdrew from publication during the Wilde trial because he felt it had helped bring Oscar down.

One poem I'll be including from Green Carnations is...

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Washing Windows Too: Irish Women Write Poetry


Washing Windows Too: Irish Women Write Poetry has recently been published by Arlen House and is available from Books Upstairs. It contains 100 new poems, selected by co-editors Alan Hayes and Nuala O'Connor, by women who have not yet published a full collection. It is the successor to Washing Windows? which was published in 2017. 

Alan Hayes’ preface on ‘Poetry, Power and Privilege’ makes for very interesting reading. In it he details the inequality of opportunity between male and female poets. He writes that 'from the 1950s onwards, conservative powerbrokers chose to champion their male peers, and in most instances female voices were silenced.' He believes that women authors today owe a debt of gratitude to Catherine Rose (founder of  Arlen House, Ireland's first feminist press), Dr Margaret Mac Curtain (feminist activist and seer), and Eavan Boland. Apparently, Eavan Boland travelled Ireland in the ‘80s giving workshops to women. One woman didn’t want to ‘go public’ as a poet because her neighbours would think she didn’t wash her windows. Hayes calls for a more open, independent and honest arts world.

I'd like to thank Nuala O'Connor for her introduction, 'A Voice Answering a Voice'. She opens 

'...let the soft animal of your body/love what it loves' Mary Oliver wrote in her poem 'Wild Geese', and what a pleasure it is for a reader to see what subjects new poets love enough - feel urgently enough about - to be moved to create poetry.

What subjects these are, you'll have to have the joy of discovering for yourself within the pages. I was more than delighted to get a mention in the introduction (along with many others) in the same paragraph as Virginia Woolf's Orlando. It was a book I read in my late teens and I've never really recovered from Woolf's soaring stream of consciousness and oft beautiful imagery. She left an indelible mark on me. She's still one of the most stylish writers out there.

Available to order here

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Bitumen and Pitch by Eithne de Lacy

Thanks to Dr. Cathy Fowley of Silver Thread for asking me to launch Bitumen & Pitch by Eithne de Lacy. Silver Thread believe in the power of stories. Their mission is to listen and encourage older people to tell their stories, and to publish them as part of their legacy.  Their ethos is to be inclusive and person-focused. Silver Thread was founded in Spring 2017 by Dr. Cathy Fowley and Carmel Conroy, who both had a background in education for older people in third level institutions.  

In her introduction de Lacy says, "The cover of the book depicts a woven basket placed among reeds on a river, an image taken from the Book of Exodus... The Bitumen & Pitch were used to make the basket of Moses waterproof, thus ensuring his safe journey on the Nile." Further she notes, "Bitumen & Pitch ensured Moses' safety as he was passed from one mother to another...just as I was."

And so we begin the journey with the poet in this exploring collection. As a 43 year old de Lacy discovered, before her mother's death with dementia, that she had been adopted as a baby. The collection pays homage to her mother, Moyra, and her birth mother, freshly discovered, Bridget. She writes, "My pen refused to stop. It led me into an exploration of my two mothers, Moyra, the mother I knew, and Bridget, my birth mother who had died before I discovered I had been adopted. Two secrets. A hidden birth, a hidden adoption. Secrets, always secrets, the backdrop to many lives." Such words of truth. In the poem Rúnda (Irish word for secret) we find 

She named her baby

Rúnda, and though

She never suckled her

She kept her close,

And held her tight,

Cradling her in the

Pulsing chambers of her heart.

Lovingly written and produced, the collection is divided into 5 sections; Childhood, Unearthing, Mothers, And Now, and, Finally. In the last poem of the book, On Elephants, fittingly de Lacy writes

'Well done to you

And to your women folk.

So very well done.'

Bitumen & Pitch is a poetry collection and memoir of a woman relearning who she is. Calling on the Irish language, religious iconography, myths, stories and childhood, these poems, filled with scents and sounds, colour and wonder, are an exploration of a daughter, the mother she knew, and the mother she never met.

Available here.