Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics have announced the winner of their 2017 poetry competition.
Retired teacher Gerard Madden won with his poem, ‘Strikemark’, receiving a prize of £200 for his effort. The poem concerns the impression left behind from a fired bullet, not just on brickwork, but on a companion of the speaker in the poem.
Five poems were also highly recommended in the competition:
Hegira by David Smylie
Once Upon a time in Belfast by Liam Parker
Magnetic North by David Atkinson
Unravelling by Heather Lowry
Picture: A Corner of the Western World by Therese Kieran
The competition asked for short poems (no more than 10 lines and 100 words) on a political theme, noting that “Poetry and politics go well together and there is a powerful tradition of poets shedding light on social, cultural and economic issues. Particularly in times of uncertainty, poems can appeal to the imagination and provide a creative context for revealing and understanding changes in society.”
On his winning poem, Gerard commented: “I wanted to explore how a place can hold the memory of an event, especially a violent event, but be lost on the passer by.” One of the judges, Chelley McLear, commented, “Strikemark was the standout poem for me as it does all the things a political poem should – tells a story, avoids abstract statements and hits with a turn.”
David Smylie: “My poem Heigra carries a simple message. If we ignore the plight of our fellow humans then we leave the door open for our past mistakes to re emerge. No man/woman is an Island.”
David Atkinson: “I have recently been exploring the relationship between science and poetry in my work, and politics has been a recurring theme. This poem simply uses magnetism as a metaphor for the two parts of the island we collectively inhabit. It talks about ‘differences attracting’, about an invisible natural force that pulls us together despite labels that are given to us, or lines that are drawn on maps. Now, more than ever, I feel it is important to emphasise what brings us together rather than words that define us as different.”
Therese Kieran: “The subject of my poem has been gnawing away at me for quite some time. The way I see it, the more we acquire, the more we want and yet nothing (literally, no one thing) can bring us true happiness. My poem aims to be a snapshot of the modern day: conspicuous consumerism, lifestyle living, messiness versus perfectionism and our seemingly endless search for contentment.”
Imagine have taken the unusual step of publishing all the competition entries alongside the winning and commended poems, all of which can be read on the festival website.