Belfast Book Festival announces the Mairtín Crawford Award

The Belfast Book Festival has announced the launch of the Mairtín Crawford Award, aimed at both published & unpublished poets.

Poets that have not yet published a full collection are invited to enter, the winner receiving a six month mentorship, the mentor supporting the winner with editorial advice, and endeavouring to help them achieve significant breakthroughs both creatively and professionally. The winner will also be invited to read live at a designated slot during the Belfast Book Festival in June.

Fellow poet and friend of Mairtín, Moyra Donaldson, has been instrumental in the setting up of the award and will lead the judging panel. “Mairtín wrote as he lived, with a combination of intelligence and daring, revolutionary spirit and generosity of heart.”

Before his unexpected death in early 2004, Mairtín Crawford was a well-established figure on the Northern Irish poetry scene. At the time of his death, he was working on his début collection. The work that forms ‘Selected Poems‘ was edited by Naomi Foyle, and published by Lagan Press in 2005. LO editor Colin Dardis looks at two poems from the collection below.




I’d riddled the entire back wall,
cut it to bits, and then I’d ran
up the stairs and down the hall
the black taxi and the can
of worms I’d left unopened,
as an alibi. There was no trace
of the driver, who’d been subpoenaed
and I was sure I was no place.
It was bound to backfire —
the gun jammed and ‘you’
were close behind me,
calling me a liar.
Perhaps the fiction’s true,
through, as I


How high did you go, Christa, before
you knew you were starting to fall?
Were you thinking of some dead star
in Betelgeuse, of gamma rays, of life out there?
A hero’s homecoming awaited you.
You were Amelia Earhart to us.
You challenged us all.

We still find pieces of you
washed up on the shore.
They tell us we should not look for you.
But no cover up can cover up this —
I love you, Christa, for all I’m worth.
Send me into space. Leave me there.
And who’s to say those voices on the Internet
are not yours, or mine, or theirs?


Challenger‘ is addressed to Christa McAuliffe, one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, although parts of the poem could be read as addressed to the actual shuttle. It is taken from a series of ‘Space’ poems inspired by an Arts Council funded trip to NASA. The ‘voices on the Internet’ could refer to the transcript of air-to-ground and mission control voice communications, but could also concern the ongoing reaction to, and analysis of, the disaster. It is a verse full of empathy and mourning, a love poem to exploration and possibilities.

As abruptly as Challenger malfunctioned, the poem ‘Backfire‘ cuts off in mid-sentence. It leaves the reader at a tantalising point, where we believe an explanation is forthcoming. Yet we are left hanging with that ‘as I’, almost as if the poem itself has backfired and jammed before it could complete its execution. Naomi Foyle notes in her introduction to the collection that the poem, along with others, “questioned the whole idea of a finished work”, something which is wholly appropriate given the sad circumstances in which ‘Selected Poems’ was completed.

Read Damian Smyth‘s review of ‘Selected Poems’ on Culture NI.

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