The muse of poetry is a fickle creature, favouring some and eluding others. But, in the steadfast belief that everyone has at least one poem in them, Poetry Ireland and the Irish Men’s Sheds Association embarked on the world’s first men’s sheds poetry contest.
The contest attracted entries from dozens of sheds, drawn from a total of thirteen counties throughout the island. The onerous task of selecting the winners fell to acclaimed poet, author and playwright Dermot Bolger.
“This competition gave me a true feel for the great sense of companionship and bonding which men feel with these unique spaces. So many poems explored these feelings of support and camaraderie that it was a difficult task to pick out winners”, said Dermot.
“On a Cold Winter’s Eve”, Eoin Moynihan’s evocative meditation on the starkness of winter and the meaning of home, was ultimately selected as the overall winner. Dermot Bolger was effusive in his praise for the work of the Granard Men’ Shed member: “What I loved about the poem was how it conjured up a twilit desolate winter landscape and then the expectation and sense of warmth that any wanderer feels when they come within sight of home. It manages the deft feat of being about isolation and about companionship at the same time”
Second place went to Donald McKenna of Keady Men’s Shed in Co. Armagh, who caught Dermot’s eye with a lively and amusing composition entitled “Living in the Past”: “It juxtaposed two worlds and different times so that, after conjuring up the here-and-now companionship of the shed, it then deftly launches us back into a tour-de-force description of a vanished way of life – told not just with nostalgia but with wonderful flashes of sharp wit”.
Donald is well-placed to evoke the spirit of decades past, having been born in 1929. At 89 years of age, he is one of men’s sheds movement’s elder statesmen, and an immensely popular fixture at his home shed.
The prize-giving ceremony was hosted by Poetry Ireland at their handsome and historic offices in Parnell Square. Director Maureen Kennelly said: “Our job is about connecting people to poetry, so to be connected to a very well-regarded organisation like the Irish Men’s Sheds Association is a source of great delight for us. We’re about public engagement and promoting excellence, whether that’s through reading, writing or listening. Encouraging new writers and new readers is really important to us”.
Speaking at the ceremony, Irish Men’s Sheds Association CEO Barry Sheridan said: “The quality of the poems shows the creativity and the range of knowledge and experience that exists within the men’s sheds movement, and we were delighted to partner with such a prestigious organisation as Poetry Ireland”.
John Walsh of Oranmore Men’s Shed in Co. Galway took third place with his poem “The Shed”, and all three winners were presented with framed copies of their compositions, along with subscriptions to Poetry Ireland publications and a range of rare, vintage and signed poetry volumes from Ulysses Books of 10 Duke St., Dublin 2.