Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry 2017

Congratulations to Nevin McCone, who has won this year's Senior Poetry Prize, presented in memory of Old Columban Peter Dix, who died in the Lockerbie tragedy in 1988. Here are three of his poems.


Connecting trains sever hearts,
Ending stories before they’ve even begun.
On lonely platforms lovers depart,
Two separate journeys, both ending one.

Palms on glass that never quite touch,
“I’ll write to you,” lies, he’ll miss you too much.
Smiling you hear him, tightening your disguise,
Yet he can see through you, to the tears in your eyes.

As the train pulls off, amongst smoke and commotion,
Your heart skips a beat; cardiac locomotion.
Suddenly he’s gone, far back in this distance,
But you think of him still, savouring his existence.

Alone he stands at the connecting train station,
Yearning for you in romantic desperation.
On the lonely platform, lovers have departed,
Destroying the journey they’d only just started.


We bump into strangers, mumbling hello,
And ignore some, letting them wander by.
Yet we pick up others, as friends to grow,
For these few join us, companions for life.
To be in close proximity of friends
Is a foundation, which friends deeply need;
Though hearing their tales of love and love’s end
Is the actual meaning, note, take heed.

Seeing joy (a result of your presence)
And joining up with different people,
Is addictive, despite rare occurrence.
A monumental social upheaval.
Savour these beings, place them in your heart.
Never lose them, or let them drift apart.

I went fishing with grandad,
Once upon a time,
To catch memories in the cove.
Grandad never lied.

We walked down together,
Both hand in hand
To that quiet stony inlet,
The sun splitting the sand.

“There are mermaids that live here,
Believe me I’ve seen them.
It’s said they emerge
To brave hearted sea-men.”

So with laughter as bait
We cast out our lines,
Disturbing the tranquil
With a twinkle in our eyes.

Yet the day still grew old
and the light, it defected,
But we made our way home,
Feeling evermore connected.

“What did you catch?,”
Inquired mum when we arrived.
“Memories in the cove,”
Grandad never lied.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

'Hamlet' resources

This post summarises useful resources for our pupils studying Hamlet as their single text in the Leaving Certificate. [updated May 2017]
  1. The whole text of the play: put it on your own computer...
  2. A series of 15 video/audio analyses of moments, using the ShowMe app for iPad.
  3. The whole text of Hamlet as a Wordle (click on the image for a bigger view). \
  4. A recording of the 1993 BBC radio version with Kenneth Branagh.
  5. SCC English revision podcasts are here, on 'The first soliloquy','The first scene', and two ones which gather the 10 Characters series (below).
  6. 10 Characters in Hamlet: our 5-minute podcasts on 'lesser' characters: Fortinbras, Horatio, Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Polonius, Ophelia, The First Player, Osric, The First Gravedigger.
  7. An excellent resource: the BBC Archive Hamlet.
  8. Miriam Poulton's review of the excellent National Theatre Live production, starring Rory Kinnear.
  9. Radio documentary by 'This American Life' called 'Act V' on a prison production of the play.
  10. Links to six press reviews of the Kinnear Hamlet.
  11. Shakespeare Searched: a 'Google for Shakespeare' - terrific resource for looking up quotations, self-testing and so on.
  12. The Ten Best Hamlets.
  13. The Hamlet Weblog.
  14. Alan Stanford's Hamlet masterclass, on RTE Radio (4 programmes in January 2011).
  15. A quotation auto-test (and below; see the first slides for instructions)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Minds Made for Stories

One of the essential books for English teachers is was Thomas Newkirk's The Art of Slow Reading. Another excellent read is his 2014 book Minds Made for Stories: how we really read informational and persuasive texts. Newkirk's central idea is that all good writing has narrative at its core, and that narrative is not a discrete 'genre' (despite the crude divisions of our English Leaving Certificate course).

He starts 'Our theories are really disguised autobiographies, often rooted in childhood. That is the case with this book', and there are plenty of good stories and interesting references to back up his own theory. His writing, also, is blessedly free of educational jargon.

'We need stories, not simply for aesthetic pleasure, but to reassure ourselves that we live in a comprehensible world'.

'Narrative is not a type of writing. Or not merely a type of writing. It has deeper roots than that. It is a property of mind, an innate and indispensable form of understanding, as instinctive as our fear of falling, as our need for human company.'

There's lots more to explore. English teachers should do so.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Dragon

Emma Hinde from First Form wrote this poem for the Junior Poetry Prize recently:

The Dragon 

The dragon
Coiled like a loaded spring
Preparing to pounce

His till-now dormant energy
Going to hit reality
Ready to jump

His leg muscles relaxing
His tail up for balance
Leaving the ground

His wings spread wide
His eyes ever alert
Up in the air

His mighty mouth open
Revealing huge, toothy jaws
Breathing a flame

His ruby red belly
Now visible to all
While he’s spiralling lazily

O what a majestic beast
To take to the skies

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

There Will be a Time

For the recent Junior Poetry Prize, Aleksandra Murphy wrote this poem:

There Will be a Time

There will be a time
When the earth will be drained
Depleted of fuel, that was yesterday
It will be empty and pained
Leaking from its punctures and hollowing everyday

There will be a time
When there will be nothing left to burn
Gases clog the atmosphere, a major concern
Your permanent footprint
Embedded in the sky forever will exist

There will be a time
When there will be no more green
Where vegetation was once seen
It will be barren and bare
Left in dried despair

There will be a time
When you won't distinguish night from day
There won't be any stalking shadows following your way
None of this worries me, you said
You will be long dead.

Monday, May 08, 2017

The Moment of a Force

This runner-up for the recent Junior Poetry Prize is by Eliza Somerville:
The Moment of a Force

Over the crest of the hill
I came, making steady progress.  
The sun beat down; the air became
A heavy weight upon my shoulders.

I crashed through the heather and bracken
On the hilltop, bright purple and dark green.
The scent of yellow gorse hung in the air,
Making the journey sweeter.

Finally, I reached the highest point;
A heap of stones marked the peak.
I turned to face the valley for the first time
Allowing myself to look back.

On the far side I saw houses, cars driving by.
A small stream snaked down the hillside,
Shining and rippling like a silver ribbon,
But my eyes came to rest on another sight.

There they were, perched atop the furthest mountain,
Wind turbines, gleaming blindingly white in the sun.
Their pointed arms cut through the air,
Steady and constant like the beat of a drum.

As they moved, a swishing noise reached my ears.
Making energy from air; an immense power.
They harness the forces of nature,
Allowing life in the valley to use their energy.

My own energy was depleted from the long climb
But the turbines will never tire.
Turning round and round, their cycle goes on,
As they create power for us all.

A comforting thought, somehow.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


One of the runners-up in the recent Junior Poetry Prize was Aurora Higgins-Jennings, and here is her poem 'Burnout'.

The light went out
All energy gone.
The life in her eyes,
Lost for far too long.

Impossibly certain
Unnervingly sure
All the commotion -
Too much to endure.

The life heartbeats and energy
Left her existence so suddenly.

How was I not to crack,
If she would not be coming back?

Eyes once flames of fire.
Hers were dead,
Not just tired.

Shakespeare Prize

Congratulations to Harry Oke-Osanyintolu, winner of this year's Willis Memorial Prize for Shakespeare. The exam for this was held last term, and Harry wrote very well on the unseen sonnet, as well as in the general question, using mostly his knowledge from studying Julius Caesar earlier in Transition Year.