Poetry Competition Winner | ‘Another Question You Don’t Know The Answer To’ By Patrick Holloway

For Poetry Day Ireland 2018, HeadStuff.org launched a brand new poetry competition to celebrate this fantastic day of poetic activity around the country. This year the theme of the day was ‘Surprises’. For our competition we chose the theme ‘Surprise Encounters’

Our esteemed panel of judges for this year’s poetry competition were Colm Keegan and Erin Fornoff. Erin noted that they were ‘looking for surprising poems, and poems that arrest and compel and leave an emotional legacy. National Poetry Day is a great way to show that poetry is a fibre in everyone’s life, and speaks to truth that everyone shares.’

We at HeadStuff were humbled by the response to the competition with the sheer numbers of those who submitted their work. The judges were deeply impressed by the high quality of submissions. it was an incredibly difficult decision to pick three winners and thirteen commended poems. 

Over the next few days we will publish the three placed poems and thirteen commended ones. We would like to congratulate all the poets on their achievement. 

We would also like to thank everyone who took the time to submit to the competition. We received a high number of submissions of really high quality so please do keep watching the HeadStuff poetry section for more details on future submission information. Finally we would like to thank University College Cork, Poetry Ireland and Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat retreat for their support. 

Read All Winning and Commended Poems Here 

Another question you don’t know the answer to

by Patrick Holloway

They keep on asking me how it feels, How does it feel?
Has like everything changed completely? Do you even feel like you?
I want to punch them In their teeth & then think how I have never
punched anyone & feel like a woos, a woosy, a pussy. I add it to the list
of thingsI have never done that a father probably should have already done.
Is it just completely life changing? I don’t know. Is the answer. I have no idea,
really, how it feels. I’ve never really known what I feel & when I do
people never seem to understand. I want to say this:

It’s like when the sheet has been folded under the mattress
& you freak out, all stuck & fidgeting & then you kick the sheet
free & you too feel free. That’s what it’s like.
But not exactly. There’s what I’m supposed to say,
which I try to say but that too comes out a little wishy-washy, my face
makes this horrible straining mask & I must look like
the vampires from season 1 of Buffy.

It is never being able to watch every episode again
for the first time.

Then there’s what I’m not supposed to say, which I only say
sometimes to the corners of my pillow, or to my cat
but not my dog, she’s too judgy. I say it like this:

Hey Will, come over here, shhhppishhhspppishhhsppishhhshpishhh,
truth is I feel like I’ll be forever falling from a high-rise
with never enough time to catch a proper breath,
you like it behind the ear, don’t you, good boy,
or like I’m in an elevator, trapped between floors
& I can see the feet of the people passing me by,
the same twenty pair of shoes or so, over
& over. Hey, don’t bite!

Feelings are too fickle, they prickle, then sting while smoothing,
like bare ice on a burn, Strepsils on the last day of flu, my mother’s breast
against my cheek as I fell asleep to her cooking tv shows.

The truth is I look at you & find it hard to say daughter
but not because you don’t feel like my daughter, you feel like everything
I am & am not, but because daughter means something I cannot fit in my hand.

When people say, soooooo, what does it feel like being a dad?
I feel physically ill, even my toes feel like puking. Not because
I am not your dad, not because I don’t feel like your dad, but because
dad means something I cannot climb, means mountains & stars & solar systems
& I am not that. Don’t feel like that. Cannot even comprehend that.

I do know that holding you, curved into me, hot on my chest is
like I am melting into myself & for the first time ever
it feels lovely.

The first HeadStuff poetry competition was kindly judged anonymously by Colm Keegan and Erin Fornoff.

HeadStuff are extremely grateful to University College Cork, Poetry Ireland, and Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat for their generous support of the competition.

Photo by Rikki Chan on Unsplash

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