Thursday, May 31, 2012

Junior Poetry

Two more poems from the recent entries to the 2012 Junior Poetry Prize:-

'Time is a Notion' by Kirsten Higgins (I)
As we traverse the milky way
Bound to our sun
23 kilometres per second they say.
Fast enough for any bay.

Our axis spin is timed in segments
Broken down into simple seconds
Our moon hauls round the other way
Slowing us down each year they say.

We lose the moon eventually
We change our speed of spin per day
The seconds get longer of course.
So what is time?

True space travellers we already are
Round the sun in one earth year
Round the Milky Way takes time
Combined, our time is truly fine.


'Time Means' by Thomas Lyster (II)
Time means having time to enjoy.
Time means patience.
Time means tolerance.
Time means not having to rush.

Time means not having to push.
Time means having time to gaze.
Time means having time to laze
Time means relaxing.
Time means what we want it to mean.
Time can mean anything.
Time can be precious.

Time is precise.
Time is significant.
Time is extraordinary.

Time is strange.
Time goes too fast.

Time goes slowly.
Time means everything.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

TY English Evening 2012

Last night our Transition Year came to the end of their course, with the annual presentation evening to pupils, parents and staff, which featured the usual mixture of pupils' work and an address by a distinguished guest. We were delighted this year to welcome the well-known journalist and author Tom Doorley (pictured), who taught History and English at St Columba's in the early 1980s.

Six varied pieces of writing from the Work Portfolio were read out: William Wood opened up with a powerfully-delivered reading of Rebekka Kehrwald's vivid 'Being Underwater', followed by:- Pia Gromotka's letter from a grandmother, passing on an heirloom to a granddaughter; Brendan Dickerson's vividly imagined 'In the Aliens' Zoo' (read by Ugo Onwurah); Sadhbh Sheeran's declaration of her feminism (prompted last week by this article from the Irish Times, '10 Good Reasons to be a Feminist'); Jessica Scott's reflection on her very busy and productive Transition Year (read by Molly Dunne); finally there was Helene Peters's half-comic, half-horrific and scarily-delivered piece imagining the thoughts of a deranged individual with 'a plan'. Some of these pieces will be posted on this blog in the coming weeks.

Tom Doorley opened his remarks with attentive, perceptive and complimentary comments about this small selection of the work done this term, including a comment that Helene Peters's piece would not have been out of place on Radio 4. He then reminisced about his teaching life at St Columba's, with many highly entertaining anecdotes much enjoyed by all. He said that the College has a special spirit and a particular sense of community, and that although he left teaching in the 1980s, he still misses the particular rewards of the classroom. Tom's career has taken him to advertising, copywriting, journalism and authorship, and he emphasised to the pupils the importance of using language precisely, and of reading widely. You have to be able to write in a variety of forms and about many subjects (he told us that later in the evening he had to sit down to write an article on broccoli...).

Tom concluded by urging pupils to join Twitter and learn the discipline of writing effectively in 140 characters - no better way to start than by following the man himself at @tomdoorley. Coming soon: his new website at

Finally, congratulations to the four pupils out of 56 who were given Premier Awards (80% or higher): Siobhán Brady, Alexandra Owens, Helene Peters and Sadhbh Sheeran.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Voices of Poetry 2012

Last night in the Big Schoolroom, we had one of the highlights of the year, the annual Voices of Poetry evening. As Mr Swift said in his introduction, it is the 'essence of summer'. The well-tried format worked its magic again in a warm Big Schoolroom illuminated only by a single spotlight. The evening provides us each year with a particular kind of mental space at the busiest time of all.
Douglas Boyd Crotty opened with Blake's 'Jerusalem', which he recited in the Poetry Aloud semi-final; he was followed by Samuel Clarke, with his poem 'It is Time', winner of the 2012 Junior Poetry Prize. Then came the first batch of foreign language poems - Italian (Dante, from Albert Kyd-Rebenburg), Latin (Catullus, from Friedericke Wagner), Spanish (Sophie Lamotte), French (Quirin v Blomberg). Hollie Canning read the first Irish poem of the evening, and then Primary as a group performed Rosemary Dobson's 'Folding the Sheets'. The first staff member to read was Mr Jameson, with Billy Collins's 'More than a Woman' (video link of Collins himself reading it, with commentary).
Noelle Knight read excellently a poem in Jamaican patois, followed by Bethany Shiell (Portuguese) and Russian (Ilya Zyzlaev). Two unusual languages followed - Azeri (Ricki Barnes) and Farsi (Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi). Further eastwards we went - Chinese (Julia Xie) and Korean (Sun Hee Hwang). Then back to English - next year's tennis captains, Hamish Law and Kezia Wright performed Roger McGough's shape poem '40-love' as 'players'. Shannen Keogan, Second Prefect, chose a Máirtín O'Direáin piece in Irish. Mr Girdham contributed Sylvia Plath's poem about parenthood, 'You're'. Poems in German (Helene Peters) and Catalan (Anna Herrero) followed before the final cluster - Senior Prefect Jack Cherry contributed Rudyard Kipling's 'If' and a poem by his pal Angus Johnson from some years ago. The winner of this year's Peter Dix Award for Poetry (pictured), Sadhbh Sheeran, read 'Solstice', for a good friend lost recently. Finally, Chance Gustafson ended with American English.
Many thanks to Mr Swift for again providing us with another memorable evening.


Another poem from Sadhbh Sheeran's winning portfolio for the Senior Poetry Prize 2012, one about a dear friend lost recently, 'a beautiful person' as she said at the Voices of Poetry evening, when she read this out:-


Not even standing room, so we gathered outside,
Unconscious of the cold.
Hundreds of people, well known faces,
Yet each of us alone.
Hands touched my back but all was numbed.

I couldn’t see,
It didn’t matter.

All was broadcast to us by speakers,
The penultimate moments, projected to the world.
I focused on the backs of heads in front
Of me, following the voice.

Couldn’t see,
Didn’t matter.

The scent of flowers passed me, made my stomach churn.
Mother pulled me round and we followed
His family.

Could it matter?
Didn’t I see?

A hillside, lined with people,
Each to their own.

Tight against the graves of others,
All faced one.
I stood below his open grave.
Hands deep in my pockets,
Feeling the cold now.

Didn’t matter,
Could see.

Sounds of mourning fled the hillside,
No longer a need for speakers,
I searched for friendly faces,
Not brave enough to look to those i knew best.
I found two, far up the crowd,
Recognised them well, they projected the hope.
The relief was great, softening the loss.

Seeing matters.

It was Winter Equinox
Growing dark, on the hillside lined with people ,
For one it would be the last time the darkness grew.
But the hope was there, within us all,
The people on the hillside.

See, it matters.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Joanna Tottenham received a Commendation for her recent entries to the Senior Poetry Prize. Here is one of her poems (inspired perhaps by Sylvia Plath's 'Mirror'):-


I am precise and square. I do not forget
When I am told, I remember
Untainted by my preconceptions
I am an elephant. I never forget.
The mind of an academic, ink stained.
I pass my days collecting dates.
I am ordinary. I have taken so many.
I think I will explode. But it changes:
Months and days end with a band.

Now I am afresh. A new face appears,
Exploring my seasons for a time.
Then she succeeds and blesses me
With a note. She smiles and leaves.
I am her time keeper
Every day she visits me and stares.
I tell her the secrets and remember hers.
Her memory and mind are mine.
She grows and soon will be out of reach.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Peter Dix Prize for Poetry, 2012

Congratulations to the winner of this year's Senior Poetry Prize, Sadhbh Sheeran, and also to Joanna Tottenham, who receives a Commendation. Over the next week we will post here some of the entries (and continue posting Junior entries too).

The Senior Prize is in memory of Peter Dix, Old Columban, who died in the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1998. The trophy stands in the Library (above).

Here is one of Sadhbh's poems from her winning portfolio:-

My World

My world is a box,
Two by two,
Flat floor, flip roof,
Damaged with age.
Inside, a butterfly,
Pressed flat,
Wing torn.
A stamp,
From someplace far,
A single sock,
Hole in the toe,
Missing its friend.
A feathery flower,
Orange in the centre,
Brown edges,
Slowly rotting.
My world is a box,
So obvious,
Yet unimportant.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

'Gatsby' in 3-D

Baz Luhrmann's 3-D version of The Great Gatsby comes out at Christmas. The official trailer has just been released, and here it is. Luhrmann's previous of a literary classic, Romeo and Juliet, was widely acclaimed, and his visual style suited that story well. Given the interior nature of Fitzgerald's story, told entirely through the vision of Nick Carraway, this will be a different sort of challenge.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

'The Danger of a Single Story'

Here is the full video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk 'The Danger of a Single Story', the first five minutes of which Mr Girdham played in Chapel this morning, and which prompted thoughts about the importance and value of reading - click here for the text.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Hollie Canning wrote this poem for the recent Junior Poetry Prize:


Sometimes I wish we could just
Slow life down, embrace the moment...
Capture the scene, the clock ticks,
A memory stored.

Seconds you must cherish,
They will never return.

The clock is our leader.
We eat when it chimes.
We sleep when it ticks.
We wake when it rings.

Time defines us;
   Small cute and sweet,
   Tall, obnoxious, dismissive,
   Old, wrinkling, shrinking.
A baby born, an elder dies.

Our time will soon flash by
Like a ticking time-bomb.
         Until BANG.




Saturday, May 19, 2012


Over the next week more entries from the Junior Poetry Prize will be posted here. Mark Russell (a previous winner) was Commended for this poem:

'Time' by Mark Russell

From the pudgy pink face
of a smiling little child
To a grey hunched
figure, warped by
wrinkles and furrowed brows

From a vibrant green leaf
sprouting proudly from a branch
To a dried out brown husk
crunched underfoot
on a cement path

From a rust-coloured fox
bravely facing a road
To a slumped pile of matted,
bloody fur
To a cloud of swollen
turquoise flies.

The passing of time
can be savage,
But the here and now is

Friday, May 18, 2012

2012 Drama Prizes

Many congratulations to the winners of the annual College drama prizes:-
  • Senior Drama Prize: Robin Fitzpatrick, for his work in the Shakespeare Society production of The Comedy of Errors in November (playing Antipholus of Ephesus).
  • Fry Prize for Stagecraft: Opeline Kellett, for her contributions to College drama.
  • Junior Drama Prize: Lydia Johnson and Mark McAuley, for their work in the Junior Play, The Field, in March.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Junior Poetry Prize, 2012

Congratulations to Samuel Clarke, who has won this year's Junior Poetry Prize for the poem below, 'It is Time', which is seen through the eyes of Padraig Pearse, leader of the 1916 Rising (and headmaster of St Enda's School just down the road from the College).

It is Time


The soft, threaded light of morning                                                                                                   
seeps through the window’s rusty bars,
trickling down into the dampened darkness,                                                                     
and envelops its pale folds into the cell in which I lie.

The time I have so dreaded is approaching.

The cry of a twisting key,                                                                                                       
sounds from the cell’s door handle lock,                                                                                
and a screech shatters the peaceful silence,                                                                                   
as solemn faces pull back the whining door and beckon my exit.

Precious little time is rapidly slipping my grasp.

My hands now clasped in metal cuffs,                                                      
I trudge slowly down the sorrowful corridors,
and out into the dawn’s prevailing dazzle                                                                            
that casts shadows from Kilmainham’s high prison walls.

The ticking clock draws me closer still to the fate I am bound to face.

At the Courtyard’s far end,                                                                                                              
six green uniforms stand, with gleaming guns,                                                              
awaiting to part my lifeless body from my fearful soul,
that now shakes me viciously in agonising despair.

I have few seconds left.

Wrists wrapped to a wooden pole,                                                                                                     
my eyes turn to the crimson-lit sky,                                                                                    
and to the veils of light which spread their fan-like rays.
I witness the sunrise that has signalled my end.

It is time.

They concentrate their sombre gazes,
and point their rifles with steady stares.
"Lord Jesus Christ receive my soul",                                                                                                 
And a thunderous crack splits the air…

Time comes to a sudden halt.

Yet lifeless as I may be,                                                                                                            
though I will lie cold in a lonely grave,                                                                          
A pulse of pride still strongly beats,                                                                                                       
Through the man condemned in Ireland’s name.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shakespeare's Restless World

Anyone interested in Shakespeare - pupils, students, teachers, theatregoers and more - should listen to Neil McGregor's superb series on Radio 4, Shakespeare's Restless World, which has just been completed. Each episode last 15 minutes, and, as in his acclaimed series A History of the World in 100 Objects, takes as its starting point an object to present a portrait of the world the plays came from. The series can still be listened to online, or via podcast. Its microsite includes lots of further information, including illustrations of the objects McGregor discusses, and transcripts of the talks.

Subjects include 'Life Without Elizabeth' (going to the heart of anxieties about monarchy in the plays) and 'A Time of Change, a Change of Time' (very handy for the sonnets' obsession about the theme).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hamlet 15: Act V scene ii - 'the readiness is all'

In the final annotation of interesting moments in Hamlet, Hamlet explains to Horatio his sense of 'readiness'.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hamlet 14: Act V scene ii - 'perfect conscience'

Hamlet tells Horatio that the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are not on his conscience, and that it is 'perfect conscience' to kill Claudius to prevent his 'canker' spreading.
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Hamlet 13: Act V scene i - 'noble dust'

Here, Hamlet comments on how all people, however powerful, eventually are levelled by death and return to 'dust'.

This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Podcast 30: Seamus Heaney's 'Mossbawn: Sunlight'

Our 30th podcast is one of an occasional series on poems on the Irish Leaving Certificate English course. This examines Seamus Heaney's poem 'Sunlight', one of the dedicatory poems called 'Mossbawn', which open his 1975 collection North.

'Sunlight' is a poem of great warmth, recreating a scene from his childhood on the family farm, suffused with the love of and for his aunt Mary. However, it also prefigures disturbance and the eventual disappearance of such an idyll in a more violent society. Listen to the poet reading the poem above, and the commentary below.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

You can listen to these talks via the player on each post, or the 'widget' on the sidebar to the right, or by visiting our podcast page here (if you have iTunes on your computer you can also subscribe by clicking here, and so download our episodes to your MP3 player, or by searching for 'SCC English' in the iTunes Store).

Hamlet 12: Act 4 scene vii - 'a face without a heart'?

Claudius reveals more of himself in these comments to Laertes. He himself is indeed really a 'painting of a sorrow', a 'face without a heart.'
This is a series of fifteen key moments in Hamlet via the iPad app ShowMe. These moments are interesting and important ones, though not the most obvious, and the series avoids such crucial speeches as the soliloquies; for more on those, and much more, go here for our general Hamlet resources.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Grammar Interrogation

We're on Exodus break now until Tuesday morning, when service will resume. Our Hamlet ShowMe series will be completed then.

Meanwhile, here's a little clip of the kind of questioning you face if you don't have no decent grammar.