August 13-16, 2020

August 13-16, 2020

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2020 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 16, 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 online 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, only.

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, 2020. They must be received by August 1, 2020 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.

2019 Poetry Contest Winners

The Donn Goodwin Prize of $100

Awarded to Brigid F.

Returning to Over-the-Water, Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry

"What is that?" I ask
What are these?
I want to know their name
Make them familiar to me

The birds dip and flutter
Their colours and songs new
A few seem to ring a bell
Almost Midwestern yet askew

The yellow flowers sway
The fields dotted with plants
Spiders crawl and flies zip
The winds make the rushes dance

Bluebell, cowslip, furze, snowdrop
Blackbird, swallow, wren, magpie
They cover the ditches, lanes and fields
They populate the trees and sky

I want to knowk their names
To learn something more
Make them my own in my new home
List them off when I look out the door

Sanderling, goldcrest, corncrake, thrush
Foxglove, bog cotton, dock leaf, nettle
Their names as sweet as their song
Their names as sweet as their smell

I want to know the bird
Whose song wakes me at half four
I want to know the insect
That scurries across the cottage floor

Alone in the cemetery the songs are quiet
No sound of bird song, buzzing wings, or wave
I want to know which blossoms I picked
And laid on my great-grandparents' grave


The Joseph Gahagan Prize of $100

Awarded to Sylvia C.

Erin Go Bragh Whispered the Four-Leaf Clover

Our street was an undersized litter box
with no modesty cover.
Danny swung hand-over-hand
across the electric wires
connecting our house to the Slade's.
Walter Slade's teenage scream cracked
open the summer haze
when I pushed my fingers into his whirring
push mower, which bit sharp
and splattered red jewels
against the green smell of cut grass.
I ran hard down the back alley
until I could taste all the rusty blades
of Lancaster's east end.
But I was the least impulsive kid around.
My mother flipped her wig
at the doctor who blamed her for Danny's
hot-dogging kicks all-day long.
It was his high IQ that made him so dumb.
Like when he got the five-finger discount
on the bent slinky from the Slade's
backyard and Mrs. Slade raged
all afternoon until my mother lost it
and accused her of being German.
My mom, the self-procalimed
"Irish Slob of Integrity," by which she
meant her derangements were always
on-point. Like when she marched up
and down Clark Street beating a big bass
drum after Mass that time when you stood
up and said you didn't see any point to men
and why should you have to marry one?
Mom will one day imagine herself
a reincarnated Emily Dickinson -- the part
about keeping to her bedroom and speaking
rarely, but with unexpected punctuation.
She'll say reincarnated too loudly into
the screen of the confessional, causing
the priest to give up darning his socks.
So, Erin go Bragh, whispered the four-leaf
clover, plucked from the small square
of yard just ahead of Walter Slade's mower.


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