The winners of the annual Poetry Aloud competition, organised by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and Poetry Ireland, in partnership with UCC, were announced on Friday 7th December 2018 at the national final of the competition, held at the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. This year’s competition drew over 1,700 entries from 143 schools nationwide.
Poetry Aloud is an annual poetry speaking competition for post-primary school students across the island of Ireland. It has grown year on year since its launch in 2007.
The competition has three categories: junior, intermediate and senior. The prescribed poems for this year were ‘May’ by Kerry Hardie (junior); ‘Bogland’ by Seamus Heaney (intermediate) and ‘The Rain Stick’ by Seamus Heaney (senior).
The late Seamus Heaney was a significant supporter of the competition. In 2009, he was presented with the David Cohen Prize for Literature by the British Library. In addition to the main award, the winner of this prize each year nominates the recipient of a subsidiary prize of £10,000. Seamus Heaney nominated Poetry Aloud for this subsidiary prize, citing the extraordinary way in which the competition seeks to celebrate the joy of speaking and listening to poetry, as well as the fact that there is a strong North-South dimension to the competition. This prize was invested to ensure the long-term future of the competition.
Speaking at the final, Bríd O’Sullivan of the NLI’s Learning and Outreach Department said: “Poetry Aloud aims to celebrate the art of poetry speaking and to nurture the talented second-level students who practice it. The competition has been a highlight in the National Library of Ireland calendar for more than a decide. We keep the manuscripts of some of Ireland’s greatest poets in our collections, and it is wonderful to hear their works recited with such emotion and skill during the Poetry Aloud competition each year.
“The volume and quality of the entrants continues to surpass expectations. We travelled the length and breadth of the county for regional heats in 2018, and are delighted to welcome all successful participants here to the NLI for the final. We congratulate them all on this remarkable achievement.”
The Poetry Aloud competition comprises three stages: the regionals; the semi-finals; and the final. A national winner is chosen from each category by a panel of esteemed judges and receives a prize of €300. The 2018 judging panel comprised of Director of Information Services and University Librarian at University College Cork, John FitzGerald; Director of the Estate of Seamus Heaney, Catherine Heaney; and Director of Poetry Ireland, Maureen Kennelly.
The 2018 Poetry Aloud national winners are:
Junior category: Palesa Hlongnane, Presentation Secondary School, Tralee
Intermediate category: Loretta Ojo, Salerno Girls Secondar School, Salthill
Senior category: Majella Votta, Mercy Mounthawk, Traleee
From the three national category winners, Majella Votta was chosen as overall winner and awarded the Seamus Heaney Poetry Aloud Award. The perpetual trophy is designed by Meath-based sculptor Fiona Smith-Darragh. The overall winner receives an additional €300.
Each winning school receives €300 in book tokens for the school library.