Poetry Competition Commended | ‘Hail to the Library and the Thief’ By Rachel Burns

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 for their support. 

Read All Winning and Commended Poems Here 

Hail to the Library and the Thief

By Rachel Burns

At the public library a homeless man
looks for his newspaper he put down
while visiting the lavatory.
His broadsheet has disappeared, whoosh into thin air.
The librarians flap in their cashmere twin sets
as he shouts and stomps about the carpeted floor. 

I keep reading, head down. I’m thinking
here is a man handed life on a plate
because even in his dirty unwashed state
dirty beard and shabby coat, the way he articulates
his vowels, you can tell he would be quite at home
shooting pheasant on a moorland estate. 

And as I sit reading the TLS that distinguishes me from the rest
or so I’d like to think, but if I hazard a guess
I would say all of us are here in this library
because we have fallen down somewhere
be it by pure bad luck, bad decisions or despair
we come to the library to read the free news 

‘Have you seen my copy of The Times?’ I look up
and I want to shake his hand through the dirt and grime
but instead, I shake my head. He scrutinises my newspaper
glares at me, then he walks away, shaking his head in disbelief
that in this library, the last vestibule of human decency
lies a thief of a poor man’s broadsheet. 

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 Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash