I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Irish Times Poetry Now award


The winner of the Irish Times Poetry Now competition is Cork-born poet Theo Dorgan for his most recent collection, Nine Bright Shiners. The €2,000 prize was presented today at the dlr Lexicon library and cultural centre in Dún Laoghaire as part of the dlr Poetry Now festival.

The other books on the shortlist were Burnfort, Las Vegas by Martina Evans (Anvil Press), Kerry Hardie’s The Zebra Stood in the Night (Bloodaxe Books), Vona Groake’s X (Gallery Press) and Peter Sirr’s The Rooms (Gallery Press ).The judges were archivist Caitríona Crowe, UCD lecturer and author Lucy Collins and poet Thomas McCarthy. Past winners of the Irish Times Poetry Now prize have included Sinead Morrissey, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, Harry Clifton, Dorothy Molloy and Dennis O’Driscoll.

Of the winning title the judges said: “Nine Bright Shiners is a luminous book, in which moments of personal connection carry lasting significance. Many of the poems are elegies; they speak of the tenacious power of love and art, of the process of losing and taking one’s place in the world.”

Reviewing the volume in the Dublin Review of Books last month, Philip Coleman wrote:

Facing up to the deaths of friends and family members while also acknowledging his own mortality, Nine Bright Shiners is finally a collection that sings and celebrates the self in all of its worldly and otherworldy connections.
This sense of connection between the living and the dead is suggested in the sequence of poems which also echoes the book’s title, “Nine for the Nine Bright Shiners”. The nine poems in the sequence have thirteen lines each, suggesting a kind of formal curtailment ‑ each one a line short of a regular sonnet ‑ which in turn reflects the experience of premature death, their central theme …
Throughout Nine Bright Shiners, in poem after poem, Dorgan acknowledges the ways in which those who have passed away continue to be present in our daily lives, from the friends of his youth to the “great grandmother” who “died on a black ship heading home” remembered in “Walls of Green Water”.

The collection’s title (Nine Bright Shiners), it is understood, is a reference to the eight other planets in the solar system plus the moon. The phrase derives from the song Green Grow The Rushes O!, which is printed as an epigraph to the volume.

I’ll sing you twelve, O!
Green grow the rushes, O!
What are your twelve, O?
Twelve for the twelve Apostles
Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven,
Ten for the ten commandments,
Nine for the nine bright shiners,
Eight for the April Rainers,
Seven for the seven stars in the sky,
Six for the six proud walkers,
Five for the symbols at your door,
Four for the Gospel makers,
Three, three, the rivals,
Two, two, the lily-white boys,
Clothèd all in green O!
One is one and all alone
And evermore shall be so.

Philip Coleman’s essay is here: http://www.drb.ie/essays/the-better-truth