Category Archives: Poetry

TRIO Uganda Poetry Competition

The TRIO International Poetry Competition is open until 31st October.  I have the happy task of judging the entries.

Last year’ s competition was judged by Mike Jenkins, a former editor of Poetry Wales, a winner of Wales Book of the Year and currently co-editor of Red Poets. First Prize was won by Jim Green; Second Prize went to Jenny Mitchell and Third to Glen Wilson. The winning poems can be read here.

All entry fees will be used to purchase books and equipment for the first school to be built on Uganda’s Agaria Island. Pictured is Lucy who is a Primary 2 pupil at Agaria Island’s provisional school, working from temporary premises until the new school is completed. Lucy writes poetry and stories… when she has pens and pencils. (Image used with permission).

 The competition is organised by Jon Sait who won the Poetry Society’s 2004 National Poetry Competition with his poem ‘Homeland’. Read his poem here. Jon is Treasurer and UK Co-ordinator of the volunteer-led charity, Trio Uganda.

Entry details


Shipyard Writers Competition win

I’m delighted to win second prize in Yellow House Publishing’s Shipyard Writers competition.

First prize was won by David Butler for his short story, ‘White Spirits’ and third prize by Lucia Kenny for her poem, ‘Building Walls’.

My poem is in Ulster-Scots with an English translation and is prompted by the 9th-century Irish poem, ‘Int en bec’, known in English as ‘The Blackbird of Loch Lene’ and the paraphrase of it in Ulster-Scots by John Erskine. I was intrigued to see the Irish rendered into contemporary Ulster-Scots and that got me thinking about some themes that last across the centuries and about the way meaning swims between languages.

I’ve written previously about this Irish poem here and I’ve used its wonderful Irish metre, ‘snámh súad’, which the late Ciaran Carson rendered as ‘poetic floating’, in the ENVOI of my poem in The Interpreter’s House:

(and temporarily lost the ability to embed links properly! Sorry, folks.)

The work will appear in New Isles Press journal issue 3.

There is an event in Belfast’s Eastside Arts Festival on 25th July

‘Following last year’s festival success, the Thomas Carnduff Appreciation Society offers its second literary Summer Yard Session. This year’s theme is Borders, Boundaries and Barriers.’

‘The session features a panel of renowned authors, chaired by Dr. Connal Parr and featuring Rosemary Jenkinson, Wendy Erskine, Tony Black, Heather Currie and Eddie Currie, with Stephen Knox as MC. Together they will celebrate the rich literature and language traditions of Northern Ireland and across our shared Isles.’

Belfast Launch of Washing Windows IV- Irish Women Write Poetry

A stimulating evening at the Irish Secretariat, Belfast to launch Washing Women IV – Irish Women Write Poetry, Arlen House’s latest anthology.

A packed room heard 30 poets read their poem from this book which shot to number 2 in the Nielsen Non-fiction ratings as soon as it was published.

with Csilla Toldy

My sonnet, DO Unto Others is mentioned in co-editor Nuala O’Connor’s introduction in which she asserts the truth-telling mission of poetry:

“The poets in this volume are fearless in this project … These are poems where … one courageous, newly-enlightened poet – Angela Graham – proclaims: ‘I am my Gorgon. I must turn to meet my stare …'”

with Mary Shannon

Out Of The Silence TV documentary

It was a great pleasure to be interviewed by writer, Anne McMaster for DoubleBand Films’ hour-long documentary ‘Out Of The Silence’, directed by Jane Magowan and produced by Jonathan Golden. It explores women writing today, and in the past, in Ulster-Scots.

Anne and the crew came recorded me at home in Ballycastle where I delivered my poem, ‘A Heerd Tha Sodjer On Tha Radio’. This poem originated in my kitchen and is set there so what better place to do it?

Wendy Erskine, Dawn Watson and Jan Carson also feature in the documentary. The work of the late Frances Molloy was a discovery for me, prompted by the recording. Her novel, ‘No Mate For The Magpie’ (1985) and short story collection, ‘Women Are The Scourge Of The Earth’ (1989) are memorable, visceral and inventive. As was that of the acerbic, eighteenth-century writer, Olivia Elder.

Anne McMaster’s latest book, ‘Martha And The Vardo’ is out recently. Available from [email protected].

Poems for Wales PENCymru 10th anniversary

During Wales in London Week, around St David’s Day, there’s a celebration of the significant contribution to London of Welsh culture. On February 29th WalesPENCymru held a poetry reading and music event at The Poetry Society’s Poetry Cafe to mark the organisation’s thenth anniversary. The theme was ‘Wales as a Multilingual Country’.

The Wales branch of PEN is one of the largest in terms of membership. It is affiliated to PEN International.

PEN promotes literature and defends freedom of expression. It campaigns on behalf of writers around the world who are persecuted, imprisoned, harassed and attacked for what they have written. It has committees representing writers in prison, translation and linguistic rights, women writers and a peace committee.

A glance at WalesPENCymru’s website shows the range of events and campaigns that run throughout the year They are all designed to support the freedom to speak of writers and journalists worldwide and also in Wales and the UK.

I was invited to read my poem, ‘Colony’ which is about what happens to language in the process of colonisation and I wrote a new poem for the event, ‘Wales/Cymru’.

At the London event we listened to the National Poet of Wales, Hanan Issa (below). And to Wales PEN Cymru’s president, the renowned Welsh poet, Menna Elfyn.

The Turkish writer Mehmet Ali Alabora spoke about living in Wales and the importance of the Welsh language.

The Kurdish musician, Ali Zeynel (below) played and sang in his minority language and then gave us the Welsh folksong, ‘Dacw ‘nghariad i lawr yn y berllan’.

photos and video by Dominic Williams of

Watch the event on

In my collection, Sanctuary I have a poem written for Letter With Wings, an Irish PEN campaign for the release of the unjustly imprisoned jounalist, Nedim Turfent. Thankfully he was released in Novemeber 2022, after 6 years in prison.

BBC Radio Wales: Weekend Word

Excerpt: On 1st December

We are living at a time when, through the media, we see power being wielded ruthlessly. We witness the destruction caused by war and by wayward market forces. Often the two are linked. There’s so much conflict happening that the news can hardly keep up with it. It can feel overwhelming.

The 2023 Reuters Institute digital news report states that close to 36% of news consumers say they avoid news, often or sometimes. To some extent this is prompted by concern to protect  mental health.  We need accurate and trustworthy news but its frequency and pervasiveness across platforms can lead to feelings of helplessness – knowing so much; able to do so little.

And some interests will encourage us to stay passive; to undervalue the good we can do; to leave politics to the powerful; to neglect the power of compassion, generosity, solidarity.  I try to describe that cynical outlook in this short poem:


After Christmas – always – Childermas: Slaughter of Innocents; Threat Neutralised.

The Prince of War, glistening with success, allures us.

This, he says, is what you want. Not a stable, sheep-herding losers, a star.