August 16-19, 2018

August 16-19, 2018

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2018 Poetry Contests

Milwaukee Irish Fest offers two poetry prizes annually; each award is $100. Winners will be announced at Irish Fest during the poetry events on Sunday afternoon, August 19, in the Hedge School in the Cultural Village on the south end of the grounds. Only the winners will be notified of the contests’ outcomes, during the first week of August; the winners’ names will be posted here by September.

The poetry awards will be given to the entries best reflecting Irish or Irish-American poetry traditions. Although the poems do not necessarily need to have direct Irish or Irish-American themes, the winning entries should have a culture/literary relation to either Ireland, Irish-America, or to Irish poetry.

  • The Donn Goodwin Prize is named after a Wisconsin poet, linguist, and educator who was active in supporting poetry events at Irish Fest. This contest is open to all.
  • The Joseph Gahagan Prize is awarded in the memory of the man who served as poetry consultant to the Fest for many years. This contest is limited to current residents of Wisconsin.

Rules for Submitting Entries

Please read all instructions before submitting your form. Submissions that do not follow these instructions will be omitted from consideration.

  • Each contestant may submit no more than one poem. However, Wisconsin residents may submit one poem for each contest.
  • Each entry should be the poet's original work and should not have appeared previously in publication.
  • Entries will be accepted only between June 1 and August 1, 2018. They must be received by August 1, 2018 to be considered.
  • All entries must be typed and mailed. No handwritten, faxed or e-mailed subbmissions.
  • All entries should be mailed to:
         Milwaukee Irish Fest
         1532 Wauwatosa Ave
         Wauwatosa, WI 53213
  • Each entry should have a cover sheet stapled to the entry that contains
    • The poet's name, address, telephone number and e-mail address
    • The poem's title and a label indicating which contest the poet is entering.
    • The poet's name or other identifying information should appear only on the cover sheet.

Due to the large number of submissions, entries will not be acknowledged nor returned. Contestants are urged to write the mailing address clearly and to use a return address on the envelope.

On The Grounds Limerick Contest 

Information on the Limerick Contest is located in the Information Cottage on the South end of the grounds in the Cultural Village. Entries will be available to fill out and drop off. Winner will be called following the festival.

2017 Poetry Contest Winners

The Donn Goodwin Prize of $100

Awarded to Sheryl Clough

In Drumcliffe Churchyard
"...after a year or so, dig me up and bring me privately to Sligo." -- W.B. Yeats

As I drive through County Sligo
on a day in May, shafts of sun shift
over the road like watered reeds.
I stop at a churchyard long on my list
where Yeats' uncle served as rector
and approach the storied stone:
Cast a cold eye ...

I don't know what I expected -something
more than this stark gray slate
with its famous sparse epitaph
Horseman, pass by -- a joke in this age
where cars whine at high speed night
and day on the road ten yards away.
A horse could never safely cross.

For an hour I wander randomly
among these moss-encrusted crypts
muttering my anti-climactic laments
until that moment of knowing, when
at last I notice the overhanging hulk,
the holy dark mass of Benbulben
risen beyond a tumbledown fence

and that epitaph takes on a new slant.
Beloved Benbulben his daily view,
why mourn what is done? From the grave
Yeats always could see what he most desired:
the heaven whose flanks seduced him early,
its blue repose the final poem that wrote him
to lyrical rest. All others, pass by.


The Joseph Gahagan Prize of $100

Awarded to Kathleen Hayes Phillips

The Hag of Beara

I knew her as goddess of the winter months,
The Caillech, her story kept alive
in Celtic lore, linked now to cliffs and cairns,
kerbstones and rock chairs.

An unexpected journey took me close
to her final resting place,
to the Beara Peninsula, where mountains
cloaked in mist roll down to water-logged bogs,
an untamed place of unsettled sky
and wild seas, the place I chose to scatter
my husband's ashes.

Only after that leaving-taking did I search
for the Hag, the goddess turned to stone.
With borrowed wellies and walking stick,
I found a trail carved into the edge of a cliff,
the way down, a twisted path knotted
with tumbled rock, the only sounds, waves
crashing on the rock-strewn shore below,
the cry of curlews circling above.

She appeared when I could walk no further:
a granite boulder covered with lichen,
adorned with sea shells and silver coins,
pictures tied with satin ribbons, paper hearts
and notes tucked into every crevice.

Some see a profile, long hair streaming in the wind.
Others find a crouching figure looking out to sea.

I saw the hunched back of an old woman,
she who rules the winter of life, refusing to be silenced,
her name erased. And I rested there,

leaning into that mottled surface, then turned to go,
leaving nothing behind but the warmth
of my hand on her aged back.


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