Poet Laureate: Noelle Lynskey

Noelle Lynskey is the Poet Laureate for Strokestown, Co Roscommon. She is now living in Portumna, Co Galway, but is originally from Strokestown, where she still has many connections.

“I am honoured and delighted to be invited back as Strokestown’s Poet Laureate, the small town where I still feel deeply rooted to and where my love of words all started,” she says.

Noelle is former judge of the Strokestown Schools’ Poetry Competition and is an ongoing advisor to the committee. She says she is looking forward to the role as Strokestown Poet Laureate as she says her “poetry inspiration stems from her Strokestown teachers, Sr. Brigid and Jim Gibbons.”

Noelle’s bio

Noelle Lynskey, now living in Portumna, Co Galway, is originally from Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Director of Shorelines Arts Festival, she is facilitator of the Portumna Pen Pushers as well as a member of Ballinasloe Peers. Readings include Galway’s Cúirt Literary Festival, Baffle, Inis Cealtra Arts Festival, Terryglass Arts Festival, Clifden Arts Festival, Group 8, Galway 2020 and Cos Cos.

Her work is published in many anthologies and literary magazines including The Irish Times, Bloodaxe, Crannóg, Skylight, Scríobh, RTE Sunday Miscellany, Roscommon Anthology and West 47. Awards include Baffle, Scríobh and the Hannah Greally award. Noelle was former judge of the Strokestown Schools’ Poetry and is an ongoing advisor to the committee. She is currently a student at the University of Limerick where she is enjoying the MA in Creative Writing.

Noelle presented Strokestown’s Town Poem at a special event on 17 September. You can find the full text of the poem below. 

Strokestown, My Town.

Steeped in your rushes and bogs, a town to pass through on the way to the west
your Big House stands alongside the new Famine Museum.
Strokestown, you shaped me, giving me the run of your wide streets,
my young legs sweeping from your Bawn Gates to the inkwells of Scoil Mhuire,
your long incline to the Turn of Farn
the perfect runway for your Westward fleet of Scania trucks.
My town. Fashioned by a straight rule, home to processions, confessions,
fair days, show days, holy days, the witness to all my firsts: kiss,
fall, medal, loss. First place to leave, first place to miss.

Up the town, from Tanner’s Turn,                          
I’m four year’s old, my milk can                           
spilling as I roll down into your                             
Hollow, where Bernie Feeney                                
leans forever over his farm gate.                            
Arm in a sling puts a short halt                              
to the schoolyard hopscotch                                   
among your melody of McCormack,                    
McDermott, McPhillips and McHugh.                 

Out of town I cycle, at seventeen, with
phrases of Virgil, Kavanagh and Parnell,
gleanings from Morahan’s printing press,
lilting from Thady’s on fleadh day,
jigs trebled on the stage in the Magnet,
embroidered with threads from Donlon’s,
taps and laces in Shevlin’s, Connolly’s
shiny buttons and hemlines refashioned
in Molly Larkin’s smoke-filled room.

On days the Rossies win, John McManus pours his smile across his butcher’s block,
the long length of his cigarette ash between his lips, a mesmerising trick,
just like the zipline of money whizzing across the ceiling of Jimmy Henry’s hardware store
and Nell Flaherty’s Drake that floats away over Anthony Beirne’s bar.
Sweetness lingers in the paper-coned bonbons from O’Neill’s;
the promise of a barley stick from Sheehan’s; endless ham sliced across Greene’s counter
and sleeves of scallions and ribbons of rhubarb, fresh from Pat Collins’ garden.
In Berna Chapman’s mural , Paddy Reilly sits alongside Percy French,
He’ll never make it back to Ballyjamesduff,
never leaving you……….. Strokestown……….. never leaving me