Monday, April 30, 2007

Junior Poetry Prize, 2007

Congratulations to Fiona Boyd, winner of this year's Junior Poetry Prize.

The judge, Liam Canning, writes : "Her body of poems was most impressive, particularly 'Dunloughlan' (see below). There were a lot of entries this year. 24 pupils put in a total of 57 poems. It was not only the quantity of poems and entrants that was gratifying, but the overall quality and maturity of style that was so very impressive. There were so many excellent entries that it was difficult enough to choose a winner, and I felt that it would be invidious to rank such excellent work any further. What is very clear is that there are some very special and talented poets in the junior school."

Here are two of Fiona's poems from her winning portfolio. More shortly, and more by other entrants during this 'Poetry Week' when we are publishing plenty of poems.

'Dunloughlan', by Fiona Boyd

I raced to the rocks
Abandoned everything
And ran
Leaving footprints in the sand
So the others could follow
And as the sun said its daily farewell
I splashed
And dived
I tried to run through thigh-high waves
But it was like running in slow-motion
I lay flat on my board
Facing the late day’s sky
And I hummed softly
Letting time pass me by
Not ignoring their laughter
But wanting me to myself for a while
Finally I felt one
A ripple in the bay
A mummer of warning from the seaweed
And the dying seagulls’ squawks told me to get ready
I was full of energy and anticipation
And then it came
A high wall of water
With cappuccino foam sliding down its water bricks
I cried out
Long and loud
As the rush of summer brought me inshore
Where I lay in the shallows
Wanting this feeling to myself for a while.

'Summer', by Fiona Boyd

Maybe we are all butterflies,
And I’m catching fireflies,
And this lazy summer day will never end.
It’ll live with me,
And the sunset is the first splodge of honey-gold,
And the last burst of burnt crimson.
In my mind
Night hasn’t come yet.

A Path; The Storm; Changes

Three more poems entered for the Junior Poetry Prize - two by Molly Sanderson, one by Robbie Hollis :-

'A Path', by Molly Sanderson

Somewhere along this rocky road,
I shall find a path.
A path that is only filled,
with the blooming flowers, of the cloudy skies.
A path that only has the sense of happiness,
peace, pure tranquillity.
This is where I shall bathe in the silky, silver lake.
Lie in the blades of green grass.
This is where I shall smile,
cry with the thought of joy and laugh at the evil.
This will be my point of happiness.

'Changes', by Molly Sanderson

The smile has gone, and the tears have finally come.
The face that stands before me looks dead, although alive.
The soul inside has faded away.
The person that was once there has gone into hiding,
Climbing cautiously up and down the hills that stand in the way.
Every second fighting.
Fighting for the happy person that was once there,
Inside fighting for a life.

'The Storm Rolled In', by Robbie Hollis

The storm rolled in across the sky,
and lightning came from way up high,
the rain was very sharp and stung,
and afterwards the mist just hung,
in the air was so much dampness,
it left the garden in a mess,

A gust of wind came and blew,
every drop of morning dew,
and then the sun started to shine,
and I could see the daffodils standing in a line,
the sun reflected off the green lawn,
the dark and violent storm was gone.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Poetry Week

In the coming week we will be posting plenty of poems. As a start, below are two of the poems from Ben Russell's winning portfolio of poems for the Senior Poetry Prize. Some from other candidates will shortly follow. There have also been a lot of excellent entries for the Junior Poetry Prize, the result of which will be announced shortly. On Wednesday in Chapel the Department will launch its 'Poem of the Week' scheme.

'The Long Cry', by Benjamin Russell

It was a long, narrow corridor
With many doors.
The wind came in through the cracks

In the old, paint-faded windows

And tittered and whistled and echoed
Off the walls, worn by fingers:
Generations of children

Sliding along,
Their faces black and white and silent.

And then the piano,
That music

So soft and slow and lilting; the beauty of slender Slavic fingers.

So steeped in woe as it was, I could barely hold back the tears.

And with my voice low and still

I began to sing.

'Pride of Place', by Benjamin Russell

Dipping your fingers
In my eyes,
Like little pots of finger paint,
You painted the most awkward picture ever.
Such a dull brown colour.
And I still couldn’t see.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Peter Dix Memorial Prize for Poetry 2007

Congratulations to the winner of our Senior Poetry Prize, Benjamin Russell. We will post some poems by entrants shortly.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


A new link in our Shakespeare section in the sidebar is to Playshakespeare, which launched on April 23. It calls itself 'the ultimate free Shakespeare resource', and includes the texts of all the plays, useful links to a huge variety of Shakespeare organisations, companies and festivals, a discussion forum, and reviews of new productions, including the new Kenneth Branagh film of As You Like It - 2 stars out of 5 :-

"It is a shame that such a fine cast has been wasted on what finally amounts to a superficial and sloppy artistic vision, especially when Branagh is so well-known for his attention to detail in other Shakespeare films such as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet. In the end, As You Like It is an unfocused, misguided, and meandering mess. A shame, really, because at its heart lies a core group of actors who bring a lot of joy and freshness to the table."

There is also a fact page, including the biggest parts in the plays - by % of lines, in order, the top six are Hamlet, Timon of Athens, Henry V, Richard III, Iago and Vicentio of Measure for Measure, and by number of lines are Hamlet, Richard III, Iago, Henry V and Othello.

You can vote on your favourite play - the poll is currently headed, in order, by Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Junior Certificate Examiner's Report

The report by the Department of Education's chief examiner on the 2006 Junior Certificate English exam is now online here. Sean Flynn, education editor, writes about the report on the front page of the Irish Times today, commenting that "the emergence of the mobile phone and the rise of text messaging poses a significant threat to writing standards in English, according to the chief examiner."

And : "The popularity of text messaging may also explain the penchant among the Junior Cert students for short, sharp answers with little elaboration. The examiner complains how many candidates were 'choosing to answer sparingly, even minimally, rather than seeing questions as invitations to explore the territory they had studied and to express the breadth and depth of their learning and understanding.'"

The report also includes in an Appendix the list of most popular texts studied for the literature paper at Higher Level and states : "Work presented for examination is almost certainly a mere sample of what is more widely met in the classroom. Nevertheless, the dominance of two Shakespearian texts, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice (85.4%) and of one modern text, The Field (71.7%), combined with similarly narrow – even if less striking – options across Poetry and Fiction, raises the question of whether the inclusive aspirations of the syllabus – as a vehicle for the promotion of broadly grounded personal, social and cultural literacy – are being best met at this level." By far the most popular novel is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

This appendix (page 77 on) lists by percentage the fiction, drama and poetry being studied across the country. The poetry list is dominated by the early work of Seamus Heaney -
Mid Term Break : Seamus Heaney : 18.2%
Dulce et Decorum Est : Wilfred Owen : 17.0%
The Lake Isle of Innisfree : W B Yeats : 14.2%
He Wishes for the Cloths : W B Yeats : 8.0%
The Daffodils : William Wordsworth : 5.1%
Digging : Seamus Heaney : 5.1%
The Early Purges : Seamus Heaney : 4.5%
Base Details : Siegfried Sassoon : 4.0%
Blackberry Picking : Seamus Heaney : 2.8%
Epic : Patrick Kavanagh : 2.8%

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Willis Shakespeare Prize

Congratulations to Ben Dunne, winner of the 2007 Willis Memorial Prize for Knowledge of Shakespeare. This has been awarded following the exam at the end of last term, which tested the candidates' ability to respond to an unseen extract from a play, ditto the sonnets, and to write a more general essay about the playwright. Two pupils from lower forms, Sophie Haslett (V) and Rebecca Feeney-Barry (IV) have been awarded extra book tokens for their entries.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Trinity Term

The Trinity Term starts today, and continues until Friday 22nd June (later than for other Irish secondary schools).

Of course the most important English-related events are the Leaving and Junior Certificate exams on Wednesday 6th June. Among other events, we will be reporting on
  • shortly, announcements of the Senior and Junior Poetry Prize, and Shakespeare Prize, winners. And the Senior and Junior Drama Prize winners in two weeks.
  • Our 'Voices of Poetry' evening on Sunday 13th May.
  • the III form scholarship exams in mid-May.
  • the Poetry Aloud final at the National Library.
  • the Language Plays on Sunday 27th May.
  • the Transition Year English Evening on Tuesday 29th May.
  • the Actiontrack Transition Year drama week from Tuesday 12th June
and much more.

We will continue to post work by pupils, particular poetry from some prize entries, and the creative work by TY pupils for their Work Portfolios.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Birthday Shakespeare?

Today may be Shakespeare's 443rd birthday, rather than April 23rd, which is the usually accepted date. Rene Weis's new biography, Shakespeare Revealed, suggests that April 22nd was a special day for the family. Read more here. Weis's book is reviewed by Robert McCrum in the Observer today, here.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Derek Mahon

Derek Mahon, one of the poets on the Leaving Certificate cycle (he's back on for the 2008 and 2009 exams) has just been awarded the prestigious David Cohen Prize for his lifetime achievement in literature. In addition, his fine publisher, Peter Fallon's Gallery Press, was given the Clarissa Luard award. Mahon's poems on the LC course include 'Antarctica' (about Captain Oates on the famous doomed Scott expedition, a villanelle built around the famous words 'I am just going outside, and may be some time'), 'After the Titanic' (spoken by the self-justifying owner of the White Star Line, Bruce Ismay) and his best-known poem 'A Disused Shed in County Wexford'.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

3000 visitors

We've just had our 3000th visitor since starting two terms ago. Traffic has steadily increased, and did so especially during February and March.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Donne, Frost, Longley

Articles seen recently on three of the poets who are on the Leaving Certificate cycle :-

Andrew Motion (British Poet Laureate) reviews John Stubbs’s new biography of John Donne (also recommended by us here) in the Guardian :-
“His evocation is at once highly readable - because it's dashing as well as detailed - and sombre: although the poems may sometimes be playful, they arose from circumstances that were often frustratingly difficult. By giving these problems due weight, Stubbs manages to make Donne seem recognisable and sympathetic, and also the inhabitant of a world that has long since disappeared.” continued …

In the LA Times, Meghan O’Rourke reviews the newly published Notebooks of Robert Frost :- “Patient readers will discover plenty of the pith of which Frost was capable. Cumulatively, the fragments are almost poignant; they underscore the privacy of the human mind and remind us of the labor that goes into the apparent transparency of Frost's poetry.” continued …

And last autumn’s Collected Poems by Michael Longley are reviewed in the Guardian by David Wheatley :-
“In his truest and most enduring poems, Longley manages, in Yeats's words, to hold justice and reality in a single thought without doing violence to either. The many poems in which Longley succeeds in this aim are among the great poems of our time”. continued ...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Shakespeare on the brain

Researchers at Liverpool University claim that reading Shakespeare makes your brain 'light up'. Apparently it works for Chaucer, too.