National winners of Poetry Aloud poetry speaking competition announced

13th December 2019

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 6 December 2019 at the national final of the competition, held at the National Library of Ireland, Dublin. This year’s competition drew more than 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’s final were ‘Cast Away’ by Nikki Griffin (junior); ‘In Lieu of Carols’ by Frank Ormsby (intermediate) and ‘The Wild Swans of Coole’ by William Butler Yeats (senior).

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. Each winning school receives €300 in book tokens for the school library.

The 2019 national final judging panel comprised of Director of Information Services and University Librarian at University College Cork, John FitzGerald; Director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Sandra Collins; poet Luke Morgan (who previously participated as a student in Poetry Aloud); and Director of Poetry Ireland, Maureen Kennelly.

The 2019 Poetry Aloud national winners are: 

  • Junior category: Ellie Reynolds, Lismore Comprehensive School, Co Armagh 
  • Intermediate category: Lara McDonnell, The King’s Hospital, Co Dublin
  • Senior category: Michael Tient, Marino College, Dublin

From the three national category winners, Ellie Reynolds 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. 

The three runners up are:

  • Junior category: Siollan Doran, Lismore Comprehensive School, Co Armagh
  • Intermediate category: Murray Sheehan, St Gerard’s School, Co Wicklow
  • Senior category: Seán MacCurtáin, Gaelcholáiste Chéitinn, Co Tipperary

L-R: Michael Tient, Murray Sheehan, Ellie Reynolds, Siollan Doran, Lara McDonnell and Seán MacCurtáin

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.