Westport Poetry Competition 2014 and Poem: Seven Seas

Background to the Poem entry:

In August 2013, I went to Sligo with two friends to stay at the Gyreum, eco lodge. It was on this weekend just over one year ago that I visited Dooney Rock for the first time. My friend Anne-Marie a beautiful teacher, healer and artist lives near there and on the last day of our retreat, we went together to sit and ponder by the lake. This weekend was the first time I shared with anyone (other than my husband) that I felt my life’s purpose appeared to be coming through poetry. Anne-Marie was due to be married a year later in August 2014 to Jason, alongside their three beautiful children.

Prior to the wedding day, a get together of female family and friends took place in May in Blessington in Wicklow, a ‘yoga retreat hen’. In preparation for this, Anne-Marie’s sisters asked that we each share a story, a poem, a song, a picture or anything that reminded us of Anne-Marie, about how we came to know and love her. I wrote a poem about the love that exists between Anne-Marie and her husband Jason. The poem contained references to Dooney Rock and Strandhill.

When we were gathered in Blessington, overlooking a glowing lake, surrounded by the vastness and beauty of rural Ireland, we each shared our inputs to the memory/story book, an emotional out-pour. After this, Anne-Marie sent us hand designed invites to a ‘surprise location’ where they would be wed. I was asked if I would read the poem at the wedding ceremony and hesitantly I agreed.

As luck or fate would have it, Dooney Rock turned out to be the ‘secret venue’ for the wedding blessing. Once I read the poem, I received great encouragement to ‘do something’ with the poetry that I write. My husband David made it known that I have several books stacked full of written poems and I received many kind words about pursuing this passion.
For this reason, I decided to do just that and on 19th September 2014, I entered the Westport Poetry competition which I had found online.

To my surprise I received an email to say that I was in the top 3 and to attend and read the poem on the opening night of the Westport Arts Festival. Needless to say I was delighted.
On this very special night in memory of Dermot Healy, many wonderful words of his work were recited in the Creel restaurant, particularly from his last collection ‘a Fool’s Errand’.

To receive first prize was an honour especially because Dermot’s wife Helen came down from Sligo to present the award.
The above photo was taken by me just before the event on Wednesday 1st October in Westport on the Quay. The one below by David after the winners were announced.
I intend to begin transcribing some of the poetry that I have already written, while I continue to write, as always. With this long winded background to my competition entry, I set out below the poem:

    Seven seas

    She swam fast just under the surface
    In darkness
    a fish, a trout or an eel.
    Elegant, and out of reach. Masked
    By her fins, her scale, benevolent.
    She seemed to sweep the floor of the river
    Bed. Like a keenly lit neon sign in Tokyo.

    I second-coated the floor in our bedroom-
    to-be, starstruck blue. The fireplace hovered
    above it. Old tiles, coving around the heads of the
    Walls. Pen stuck through my ponytail.
    A fish’s tale. Hunger.

    Stripped the walls. Gingerly, you return.
    I yelped when I saw your face.
    Arrive home. Bones protruding.
    Gaunt as hell.
    Lipstick red. Fuller lips somehow.
    Sandals show even skinny toes.

    You swam to me. Thick waters, wading with
    Feet. Flourished from knee-high. Went in
    full tide. Leaked at the river side.
    Smiled, came back for me.
    Sensitive to my un-webbed feet.
    Environment washed. Astonish us.
    Eyelashes drip wet. Blue eyes.
    Clear to me, the sky permeates.
    Full flow of a dish. Painted in glitter.
    My mermaid, pulled a rug over her
    shoulder and sank into the chair
    by the window. Sat on the floor,
    the bed, warmed my shins, flecked
    Sole on my knees, felt skin peel
    Tremble with eels.



    From left to right, Winifred McNulty, Paddy Bushe, Helen Healy, Helen Gatenby Holt, Denise Nagle, Ger Reidy
    From left to right, Winifred McNulty, Paddy Bushe, Helen Healy, Helen Gatenby Holt, Denise Nagle, Ger Reidy



  1. Catriona Holt

    So proud of you. x Beautiful words Helen x

  2. avondaleretreat

    Thanks so much Catriona.

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