June Fest Poetry Competition

Shortlist 2021

In association with Farrell & Nephew, Glenveagh Homes & Leinster Leader


The Shirt by Mary Linehan (1st Prize)

I see my mother ironing out the creases

Of her son’s blue shirt,

Erasing the little rivers of tension in the fabric,


Like the furrowed brow,

The knots dissolve

And she is left with a sea of calm on the ironing board.

Comfort in the air.

“It’s important to air things properly” she said.


The next day, I see my brother

Dressed in the blue shirt and good suit,

A miraculous medal pinned on the inside pocket.

All 21 years of him,

Laid out in his coffin

And I place the memory in the bleak room of the heart

Where sadness lives

“It’s important to air things properly” she said

Lazarus by Daniel Slevin (2nd Prize)

 I was sitting in Mass last Sunday,

And the Priest was rattling on.

All about the good life of the Saviour,

And the wonderful things He had done.

Like at the wedding feast in Cana,

 He changed water into wine,

And he called poor Lazarus out of the grave,

Just a few days after him dying


Then I had a eureka moment

I wondered with eyes open wide

Did anyone think to ask Lazarus,

What’s it like on the other side.

What’s God really like in person,

Is he different than you and me.

Does he bring all the newcomers in for a chat?

Over hobnobs and cups of tea.


And with all those who went before him,

There must have been massive crowds.

Did he meet anybody he knew up there,

Playing harps and floating on clouds.

But the big thing I would have asked him,

Something I’ve always worried about.

Can they see everything we’re doing down here,

Even after we’ve turned the lights out.


He had plenty of time to look ‘round him,

And suss out the place for us all.

Is it worth our while being good all our lives,

Or should we be having a ball.

Now that‘s a thought that will fester,

Should I boogie or keep saying the prayers.

Why did nobody ever ask Lazarus,

What it‘s really like up there

The Selkie by Jude Olurotimi (3rd  Prize)

For years I have been slave to 

The land. My skin, stolen from me by those who put me in

My place. Under bruising pressure and scorching words, I smiled

And nodded. My songs hold no note, no harmony anymore.


The coarse earth and snickering brambles nipped and slandered my feet 

Who never paid mind to them. The jagged stones unmovable, the walls 



The earth casts no reflection for me, but what should I care?

For I am of the waters; vast, abounding and untameable. 

Cold but nurturing. Ferocious, then loving and back again. 

Do not mistake my silence for weakness. Do not

Be deceived by my beauty, for the tempest thrives in me

And it does not forgive.


One day, I will reclaim what was stolen from me. I will leave no trace of my endeavours on the earth. I will cross the jamb between this world and the next and 

ride the tides back to my eternal abode, for from the waters I came

And back to its depths I shall return. 

Then, will you know that the sea is not a man, but the woman

What Will Become Of Me by Hughie McGinley

I started my training I was very young

A competent nurse I would become

Dublin City was the place to be

and I fell in love I know he adored me.

Our son so handsome was lost at sea

We cried and cried a body we would never see

Surviving that, we never moved on

Gardening and cleaning, painting the time.

I heard on the radio we had better stay in

It’s Covid 19 that might do us in.

I’m eighty-five he is ninety-three


He’s getting sicker and sicker, what will become of me.

I feed, wash and clean him his heart won’t give in

I trained to do this to others not him.

I ring for our food, it’s dropped at the door

They forgot the milk, I can’t even go next door.

The roses are dying my garden is a mess

It kept me busy kept away the stress.

Over the wall I could talk to a friend

A message for help to no one I can send.

They came for his body I knew it was them

One of them coughed, his mask it flew off.

Three days later they came on the phone.

He was buried alone no one to see

I’m beginning to fail, I know what it is

I must write my will,


I’m getting so tired I must leave all we have 

to people like me.

Lonely and tired, afraid to go out.

That woman who called about a year ago.

She worked for a group I think it was?

My fever is high, the cough is much worse

Grief by Paula Leyden

It takes you unawares, grief

Oddly so. 

It’s in the suddenness of the absence.

The no more

A voice gone. Forever.

It’s in the silence that’s left behind,

and the nothingness of it.

The tiny minutes between living and dying.

The same face, but empty.

The same person, but not.

But mostly it’s in the never. 

Never again to smile. Never again to laugh.

Never again to be cross, or funny

or impatient or loving

or even confused. 

It’s the never that takes you unawares. 

The Sum of the Parts by Sean O’Neill

His grandad’s a magic man, takes money out of his ear

This time it’s different, no cards and no coins and stuff here

Just a big cup of flour, some water, some salt and some oil

And some dirty brown stuff in a jar looks about fit to boil

It’s a magical potion his Grandaddy found in the fridge

All throw’d in a bowl and more flour – just a smidge

And he’s watching the spoon in the gloop and it’s sure looking good,

And he says to his Grandad, “It’s messy, as messy as mud.”

Then big hands scoop it up – it’s harder like an old party balloon

And they squish it and squash it – he says “Son, you know pretty soon

We’ll be eatin’ the bestest bread we’ve ever had”

And it’s true, it was and it’s true he’s the bestest granddad

When the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts

There’s a magic at work – comes from not trying too hard

And the angels are smiling down – lending a hand

When the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts

There’s a girl up there singing, song – sends shivers through the hairs on his neck,

Another slug from the bottle, he asks himself – how the heck

Can some words and a tune and a beat hit him this way?

Just what it is gets him? He asks, and he just can’t say

When the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts

There’s a magic at work – comes from not trying too hard

And the angels are smiling down – lending a hand

When the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts

I’m standing before you – I’ve got nothing to offer but me

And I want nothing more than you – and I hope you’ll agree

We’ve got something more special than we’ve ever had before

One me and one you – add up to something that’s more.

And the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts

There’s a magic at work – comes from not trying too hard

And the angels are smiling down – lending a hand

When the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts

And the whole thing adds up to more than the sum of the parts.

Rainbows & Gold by Sean O’Neill

Sun and rain make rainbows

Everybody knows 

They come out of nowhere

And silently they go 

When the sun comes out 

Or the rain pours down 

As the weather makes up its mind

 As the weather makes up its mind 


Once I chased a rainbow 

For a pot of gold

Always just a step away

And now as I grow old

I see the pretty colours 

And, like the moon and stars 

I wonder at how beautiful they are

I wonder at how beautiful they are 


We all chase our rainbows

Real or in our heads 

Some folks even chase them 

Till they wake up dead 

And it’s too late then 

To see the beauty all around 

In every tree and every single flower 

In every tree and every single flower 


You’ve walked here beside me 

Sunshine or in rain 

We laughed and smiled at rainbows 

That won’t be back again 

And now I realise I’ve more than gold 

And all I need, I see it in your eyes 

All I need, I’ve found it in your eyes 


Like sun and rain make rainbows 

You and I make gold.

Under 18 Entries (Also eligible for main prizes)

In Heroes We Trust by Emma Counihan (2nd Prize)

From the dawn of man, to present day,

Through times, since turned to dust,

Always throughout our hardships,

In heroes we did trust.

Through war and peace, and love and pain,

Through our struggles and our strife,

We always turned to heroes

To help us find the good in life.

From Pearse, to Crean, to Robinson,

O’Connell, Boyle and Hyde,

De Valera, Hume and Casement,

All fought on the people’s side.

Though sands have blown, and mountains moved,

Rivers turned to rust,

Even now through hardships

It’s in heroes we still trust.

Whether it’s Dr Tony Holohan,

Or kind, young Adam King,

Thanks to all our covid heroes

In the rain we learned to sing.

Crisis can bring out our worst,

But for some it shows their best,

Heroes rise from normal ranks

To help us pass our tests.

The few bad eggs make us lose hope

For the future of our days,

But heroes take us by the hand,

And bravely light our way.

We really don’t deserve them,

But need them, still we must,

For always and forever,

It’s in heroes that we trust.

Love In The Wind by Jack Mills (3rd Prize)

If only I could climb a tree and view the world from above.

If only I could roll down a soft grassy hill and remember

that moment forever.

If only I could grasp a piece of cloud and ride it like there

is no tomorrow.

If only I could see a circus of bees dancing on a flower.

If only I could sneak down to my garden at midnight and

swing till I reach the stars.

If only I could feel the wind on my face and feel that

someone loves me.

The Gardener by Peter Rafter

No vase of white orchids, no chest of jewels, diamonds or rubies could fill the void,

A void as deep as your love, for what is yours. 

Regardless of your daily duties, you prepare a meal,

Serving half the portion, to half the person you see before you, 

My plate is empty, but yours is full, and always will be.

Faced with endless challenges, forever unphased. 

In your well-kept garden, a flower is struggling to grow,

Its petals and blossom are not as bright as the others, but it is nonetheless elegant. 

Upstairs, a tree has lost its leaves of spirit, but you refuse to let it hollow,

You relentlessly water it, encouraging it to burst into life again. 

Your exhausted mind can find no rest.

Filled with crippling thoughts, you toss and turn at night, though I am a wall away, 

At the silent table, you see a shadow, a flower of potential, a clueless jester,

The seeds you have planted, cry out for help, but the rain muffles their beckoning call. 

You will let no winter gale blow them away, no hopping thrush pluck them from the earth.

The flower will gloriously bloom, the shadow will return to light.

You Are Not Alone by Stephanie Dunne

I know it feels like the world is ending,

However, in reality the world is mending

Free from the poison of the modern world

The treatment of which we have simply observed 

For countless years we have abused

Ruined, overworked and overused 

This place that we refer to as home 

We have taken control of, called it our own 

So one good thing that we can’t recreate 

Is that the world is returning to its primitive state


I know it feels like you’re in danger

You’ve become scared of every stranger 

Unable to sleep, the nightmares seep

From the unforgiving night to the day 

Listening to what everyone has to say

The news reports telling you the virus was contrived 

The news reports telling you it was a complete surprise 

Turn off your TV, switch off your phone 

You’ll be ok, just stay at home 


I know it feels like you’re alone, overwhelmed defeated 

Your hope has been completely depleted

Lost in a swirl of chronic anxiety

In this unfamiliar society 

Watching the ruthless devastation

For which there is no consolation

The ones who are struggling to survive

The ones who didn’t make it out alive 

An issue that just will not be held accountable 

And it seems to have become insurmountable 


But throughout this crisis, remember not that but this 

The nameless heroes who fight against this pain 

Who continue through the incessant rain

The people who fight day and night 

So that another soul can see the daylight 

The efforts made by each and all 

To bring this to a complete stall

The ones who died shall always be remembered

Their lives and memories forever treasured 

I know it all seems cruel but you must see

This is the greatest show of humanity 

Congratulations to all the winners and a huge thank you to everyone that entered the competition. We received an incredibly diverse range of poems this year from all over the country.

We would like to thank all the staff at Farrell & Nephew Bookstore for helping run this competition and their generous prizes. Thanks to Theo Dorgan for selecting the winning entries and also to poets Tracey Connolly & Steve Denehan and teachers Edel Mulligan & Emma Scully for taking the time to help judge the initial shortlist.
Thanks to Glenveagh Homes for sponsoring the prizes. June Fest is supported by Kildare County Council.