Westival International Poetry Competition 2023

First Prize - €1000

Second Prize - €250

Third Prize - €100


Literature has been a core strand of our festival since its inception in 1976. An annual highlight at the festival is this poetry competition, where along side world renowned poets we celebrate new voices. We want to hear your creations, whatever your rhyme or reasons – the fun, the sad, the mundane, the surprising, the isolated, the hopeful, the beautiful. 
    Please review competition rules below before you enter.

    Competition Rules

    • Entries may be in either English or Irish

    • There is no set theme

    • Entry is online only via this Google form

    • Closing date for entries: midnight Friday 29 September 2023

    • The entry fee is: €10 for up to three poems. Payments will be done on Paypal, there is a link in the form. 

    • The winners of the competition will receive the following prizes: 1st Prize: €1000, 2nd Prize: €250 + 3rd Prize: €100

    • All poems will be judged anonymously. Poems will be disqualified if they show any name, address or other identifying mark. All details on entry form only as requested.

    • Please only include the Title of poem and poem in the PDF submission in the form.

    • Poems should be single spaced in 12 point Times New Roman font (or similar)

    • Maximum length 40 lines (excluding title and stanza breaks)

    • You may enter as often as you like provided poems are accompanied by the appropriate fee. 

    • The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into regarding individual competition entries

    • Poems cannot be altered or changed once they have been entered

    • Poems must be the original work of the entrant. Entries must not have been previously published or self-published, in print or online, nor have won a prize in another competition. 

    • Copyright remains with the author, however Westival reserves the right to publish winning and shortlisted poems on its website and/or in print.

    • Winners will be announced at an event during the festival. Winners will be invited to read at the awards event. Shortlisted entrants only will be notified.

    • Best of luck in the competition! 

    If you have any questions about the rules of the competition please email Cat at catherine@westival.ie

    If you have any questions about payment please email Trish on accounts@westival.ie

    Ready To Submit Your Entry?


    2023 Judges

    Geraldine Mitchell

    Geraldine Mitchell is a Dublin-born poet and writer who has been living on the Mayo coast for over twenty years. Her poetry is widely published and anthologised and she has four collections to her name. The most recent is Mute/Unmute (Arlen House, 2020). Among awards she has won are the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, the inaugural Trócaire-Poetry Ireland Poetry Competition and second place in the 2021 Troubadour International Poetry Competition. Geraldine has also written two novels for young readers and a biography.

    Ger Reidy

    Ger Reidy has won several national poetry prizes and has received an Arts Council bursary. He is the author of Pictures from a Reservation and Drifting Under The Moon. Poetry Ireland, referring to Reidy's poems comment  "that they have Kavanagh like realism and eye for the particular.... his poems echo the grounded concision of Larkin". Ger’s latest book Before Rain was shortlisted for the Pigott Prize at the Listowel Writers Festival. His first collection of short stories Jobs for a Wet Day was published in 2015 and was nominated for the prestigious Edge Hill Prize.

    Nuala O’Connor 

    Nuala O’Connor was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970, and divides her time between Counties Galway and Leitrim. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a BA in the Irish language and from Dublin City University with an MA in Translation Studies.

    In late 2022, Nuala won the writing.ie Irish Short Story of the Year at the An Post Irish Book Awards for her story ‘This Small Giddy Life’, from the New Island anthology, A Little Unsteadily Into Light.

    Nuala’s fifth novel NORA (Harper Perennial/New Island, 2021), about Nora Barnacle, wife and muse to James Joyce, was recently published to critical acclaim in the USA, Ireland, the UK, Germany, Croatia, and the Netherlands, and is forthcoming in Estonia and Poland.

    NORA was named as a Top 10 2021 historical novel by the New York Times and was the One Dublin One Book choice for 2022. Nuala curated the ‘Love, Says Bloom’ exhibition at MoLI, on the Joyce family, for #Ulysses100.

    She is editor at flash fiction e-journal Splonk.


      Many congratulations to 2020's winners and highly commended poets, gratitude to all entrants who trusted us with their words, and huge thanks as ever to the wonderfully generous adjudicators Ger Reidy, Geraldine Mitchell and John McAuliffe, for their time and thoughtful consideration of each of the many entries to the competition this year.

      The three winning poets are listed here in order:


      Asking Crow - Cathy Ryan

      The day breaks clean
      as the flaming sun rises
      over the blue lip of the sea
      I walk the roads every morning now.
      In the quiet I can taste
      the breath of the Earth;
      primrose banks wealthy
      in yellow
      the hulk of a buzzard cresting
      a pole - sailor on the lookout for life.
      The milky light of morning
      peels open the day
      and it’s Crow who stops
      me, his cry
      close to words.
      What are you saying?
      You fly, beading the land
      with your shiny black eyes.
      What do you see?

      The Crow is dead.
      Stygian pitch on top
      of the old stone wall
      perfectly dropped
      perfectly whole
      perfectly still.
      Across the grass, a set of
      clothes dry in the wind
      dancing like ghosts
      looking for
      a body to wear.
      I bend closer to Crow.
      His eye holds the sun
      an inkwell of light
      tail feathers spread
      five fingers of wing
      Hold steady for death
      It’s part of the dance.


      come on so - Maresa Sheehan

      Belted in and sitting high
      on the booster seat
      in the front of the van,
      off to see Jim Coburn
      about a greyhound,
      with the car freshner trees
      swaying and faded,
      barely denting the smell
      of dogs and shredded paper.

      Parked up skeoways
      outside The Little Shop,
      they lick, suck
      and crack
      ice cream cones
      with baby and false teeth.
      It's not the day
      for saying a treat only
      on Sundays,
      the worst thing
      good men do
      with small boys.



      Cold Tea - Lynda Tavakoli

      In the good room of our small bungalow,
      mum read tea leaves from china cups
      rescued from the Oxfam shop,
      her slight frame and unassuming manner
      a mere subterfuge for her divining skills.

      There were rules - never on a Sunday
      and never in the company of my aunt.
      I don’t expect our dad much approved either,
      but he let it go, understanding that some things
      are probably best left undisturbed.

      Believers came to swallow readings
      with the trust of any never on the Sabbath
      congregation and sculpted dregs of faith
      round porcelain curves. Prophesies of doom
      were subtly laid aside for Sunday sermons.

      I sometimes wonder if she’d seen her future
      buried in the leaves. An arrow (never good news),
      snakes (the same), or wavy lines portending
      journeys unfulfilled. But if she did, it was for none
      of us to know, for that was not our mother’s way.

      Looking back, I should have read the signs myself -
      cups of tea, half drunk and cold, perched
      on the bird table or teetering on bathroom shelves
      and once or twice abandoned by our father’s garden tools -
      that sedge of herons she had planted by the pond.

      It’s the way I like to drink it, she would say, the dare
      in her eyes always enough, and later,
      tea leaves carefully strained, I would present to her
      a sun, a fish, a flying bird and catch her smile,
      cupped in her hands the white lie of a daughter’s love.



      Dog Days - Brian Kirk

      Summer came scampering into the house
      this year, uncalled for, dragging garden
      smells on muddy paws and a new silence
      coloured by a yellow, ever-present sun
      that threatened but never delivered storms.
      On humid nights you were visited in dreams

      by memories of failure, the unfulfilled dreams
      of your youth. You cowered while the house
      held its breath in expectation of a storm
      that never came. Something stirred in the garden;
      Orion’s dog slept under a shade in the sun,
      tongue lolling, his breath breaking the silence,

      laboured, hoarse, excavating the silence
      of your mind, making room for more dreams,
      vague anxieties fostered under a glaring sun.
      You grew accustomed to being prisoner in your house,
      the known world extended to the bottom of the garden,
      no further, but the TV brought you closer to the sturm

      und drang of peoples tearing each other apart. Storms
      in teacups to you who measured out each day in silence.
      Heat spilled out the open windows into the garden,
      searing the grass, choking flowers while you dozed, dreaming
      of disease, death and decay consuming the house.
      Outside it was worse, speared under a burning sun,

      unable to pretend that everything was normal, to sun
      yourself and watch the skies, wait for the storm
      to pass. Your impatience could not be housed
      by an absence that knew no other form but silence.
      Worse than sleeping was the waking dream,
      finding yourself alone and standing in the garden,

      looking around, naming what you see: garden,
      grass, trees, bent flowers dying under the hot sun,
      knowing you haven’t been away, just in a dream,
      wishing to hell that something would change, the storm
      might break, the children next door might assault the silence.
      After a while you give up, go back inside the house.

      After this summer of silences, you are primed to storm
      the garden’s barricades and reach up to pull the sun
      down out of the sky, into your fever dreams, your hollow house.


      The Sadness of Crows - Lynda Tavakoli

      Before the day opens its eyes,
      on a fence,
      two black crows,
      their thistle throats
      rinsing the morning
      with sorrow.

      If I could,
      I would offer them
      the fragile bones
      of a vanished chick,
      its soul seeping quietly
      into warm-dug earth.

      I would tell them
      it lay now in softest tissue,
      belly feathers fluffed
      and eyes of lazuline
      puzzling the injustices
      of ‘going light’.

      For in the night
      my sleep had met
      their fledgless child
      and I had known the flutter
      of its death kiss
      on my cheek.

      Later, the boneyard
      of my garden
      would fold its limbs
      about that curl of wing
      and clutch of claw
      in final flight.

      Before the day closes its eyes,
      on a fence, two crows,
      messaging the sky
      with longing for
      a small remaining breath
      in a dying afternoon.


      The Bats of Kasanka - Eoin Hegarty

      A thread is pulled
      and the evening sky
      unravels; silence
      and a million wingbeats.

      We gaze, suspended high
      in our ‘butterfly tree’ –
      have become tree –
      bark and bole

      and unblinking eyes;
      hands raised like branches;
      devices pocketing
      what’s left of the light.

      And just like that,
      it clears. And the night sky sweeps in
      with its stars and distances,
      and we descend

      the make-shift platform –
      insect clicks and trills rising
      in a static of cresting
      and answering

      energies; and we share a nip
      of good whiskey, the moment
      warming through us,
      electric on our breaths.


      Abstract Painting Of A Lake - Sighle Meehan

      Read me like Corrib waters straying over rocks
      manipulating, rummaging, bruising to the sea.

      Read me like mayflies on the upper lake,
      wind horseplaying on the shallows.

      Read me wild like salmon jumping, surging home
      new life frisking underneath the waves.

      Read me to the depth of blackness, my greedy mouth
      red-painted, and when I cry in the grey edges

      cup me in your hands, willful through your fingers,
      white, when love was young, my wedding dress

      like swans at peace on the lower lake
      their powerful wings preset to flight.


      She Asks For Mercy - Ger Duffy

      Before she reads her poem, she asks us
      to forgive her father. We listen to, how
      her mother fed the family on thin air sometimes, how
      only when he left the house could they relax, how
      his armies of words invaded her every thought, how
      his arguments laced her days, how
      his rages filled each room, how
      for years they lived like this in one house, how
      she sat in school each day in a daze.

      She asks us for mercy for her father, so the damage
      of his actions are hers to contemplate,
      so she can gather him up in her arms, examine
      the landscape of his life from son to father,
      so the rains of despair that fell on him
      and seeped into her can be expunged.
      She asks us for our mercy first,
      before she reads, we give it.


      Apple Spirit - Susannah Violette

      The day is light, which is not light,
      but still the apples ripen.
      I fill my pockets with brutal red.

      Cleave my chest
      as if you were splitting a log.

      Inside I am spalted as marble cake.

      The frou-frou of life contours
      my softened heart like an oil slick.

      Apple shamans bring lost parts home.

      Outside my clothes are already winter,
      a drab code of solitude.
      The colour of sparrow, of safety.

      I offer you my hand,
      white as field mushroom,
      and an apple in swallow-me red.

      You take both like a smash ´n´ grab.


      Livestock Auction - Daragh Byrne

      My uncle, youngest of five, took on the farm.
      The only boy. The only thing to do.
      We’d go down in late August. He’d spin us yarns:

      Tall tales of all the trouble we were due
      While stopping in. Callow, not knowing birds,
      Or the land, like he did; and trustful — all we knew

      Of cunning country ways came from his words.
      He took us to the mart. Ego on id.
      Staid old men nodding at the auctioned herds.

      I swung from railings. Enough to make a bid:
      He told me, smiling, that I’d bought a lamb.
      I never saw it. I’m still not sure I did.

      When I think of him, I think of being a man.
      Craft buried in humour. He wore the weight
      Of it lightly. And I think of who I am —

      Long limbs swinging from an old farmyard gate.