18 mins read

Kilkenny Poetry Phone Mary Fitzgerald’s Selection

Kilkenny County Council Arts Office Poetry Phone has a new selection of poems selected by Kilkenny Paralympian Mary Fitzgerald.

Mary FitzGerald is a 22-year old Paralympian from Kilkenny. She is just over 4 foot tall and competes in the F40 category, alongside other women within a certain range of height and arm span. Her main event is shot put, but she has also competed in both discus and javelin, holding the Irish record for her category in all three disciplines. She has attended 5 world junior games and has competed in countries including England, Poland, Italy, France, Portugal, the UAE, and the USA. She joined the national Paralympic team in 2019, and since then she has competed in her first World Championships in Dubai (finishing 7th), her first European Championships in 2021 (winning bronze), and her first Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan (finishing 6th).

Her main focus at present is the 2023 World Championships in Paris and the 2024 Paralympics, also in  Paris. She is also a final year Occupational Therapy student at University College Cork, where she was also very fortunate to be awarded a Quercus Sports Scholarship. She hopes to inspire others of various abilities to chase their dreams, no matter how big, and not allow others’ beliefs or opinions define you.

The Poems

Ferryman by Patrick Doyle

Patrick Doyle is a poet, writer and storyteller. His work has appeared in magazines such as The Galway Review, Skylight 47, Revival Magazine and Kilkenny Poetry Broadsheet. He was twice winner of the ‘From the Well’ Short Story Competition and runner-up in both the Leslie Boland Poetry Award and the Shahidah Janjua Poetry Award.

He has collaborated with dancers, film makers and musicians, and has performed at festivals all over Ireland, including the Kilkenny Arts Festival, West Cork Literary Festival, Kinsale Arts Festival and Cork International Short Story Festival. His play, The Cauldron of Poesy, enjoyed a ten show run in Cork in 2019. In 2021 he was awarded a Poetry Mentorship by the Munster Literature Center. He lives in Kinsale and is working towards a first collection.

The reason why Mary picked this particular poem.

The dark and gloomy language adopted in this poem is very engaging. Going from one extreme of negativity and sadness to one of home and light, we follow the journey of one man as he dares to dream and come through the darkness, which is uplifting for the reader. Ending on a beautiful note, he recognises the beauty of life, and as readers we feel we can rest easy that he is now okay. Through the poet seeing opportunity even though he does not have it now, we see his strength of character, which is inspiring. 

Skiff by Mike Watts

Mike has been writing poetry for over 50 years. A founder member of Poetry Galway (now Salmon) he has been in many writing groups since settling in Kilkenny. Mike’s work has been published in Kilkenny Broadsheet, Writing in the West, Poetry Galway, Salmon and Poems from a Kilkenny laneway. He has published two self illustrated children’s books. Originally from Leicestershire Mike came to Ireland in 1973.

Mary’s comments on Mike’s poem

Although the poem references simplistic imagery, there is such strong beauty captured in the poem. Finishing with the beautifully framed picture of Graiguenamanagh bridge, the dreaded thoughts of the hectic office workplace is overcome by the peacefulness, stillness, tranquility, and sheer perfection of life on the water. We too feel relief alongside the poet, as he enjoys this brief moment away from the chaos of his work.

Healer 1  and 2 by Billy Fenton

Billy Fenton writes poetry and short stories. His work has been published in the Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, The North, Irish Independent, Crannóg, Honest Ulsterman, Abridged, Acumen, and many others. He was shortlisted for a Hennessy Award in 2018, and  was appointed by Poetry Ireland in 2021 as poet laureate for Carrick-on-Suir. @BillyFenton7

What Mary had to say about Billy’s poems.

Healer 1
One admires the skill of the poet in painting such vivid and striking imagery with such few words in this poem. As well as the beauty, there is also a sense of mystery in referencing the character of “Bolger”. As I read through this fast paced poem,  I find myself wanting to know what happens next, as I am left with suspense at the end of each stanza. The use of a single word at the very end is also very striking, and because it is depicted so clearly, we believe that we are there with the poet in hearing and feeling the “CLICK”.

Healer 2
There are a lot of emotions and feelings packed into “Healer2” for a short poem. Fifty years on, we get to learn about childhood memories of the nostalgic boy that have evidently left an impression on him. The “whispering magic words” crate mystery and we are intrigues as readers. We see inside the life of an Ireland that no longer exists through the eyes of a young boy, and the sense of vulnerability, openness, and honesty throughout, stepping to the young boy’s shoes for a brief moment.

Betty Pew by Robert Pearson

Robert Pearson has been interested in writing poetry since moving to Ireland over ten years ago. He’s completed a number of poetry workshops from which he’s gained knowledge of the craft and has subsequently been published in the Kilkenny Broadsheet 2019 and shortlisted in 2021 and has also been commended in the Francis Ledwidge Poetry competition.

Mary’s thoughts on Robert’s poem

In depicting this “appley face” woman who is clearly on a mission, works hard, and makes time for everyone, there is a great energy about this poem. Through use of pleasant imagery, a very vivid picture of a woman is created, and the use of her name in the poem adds a personal element to the poem. It  puts a smile on our faces. We too are reminded of the betty Pews in our own lives – the people who make time for everyone and who make us smile, something that we really underestimate the value of today. 

Spa Hill by Kevin Dowling

From Freshford, Co Kilkenny, Kevin has been writing for a number of years, mainly poems & short stories. He recently joined Clogh Writers group and  had some poems published in local & national publications. He has enjoyed listening to both the Kilkenny Poetry Phone & Kilkenny Story line and is delighted to be included in the new Poetry Phone selection.

Why Mary picked this poem

As readers, we are intrigued from the first stanza of “Spa Hill”. the poet notes the beauty that can be seen in moments of both simplicity and peacefulness. This “feel good” poem evokes a sense of happiness and contentment for the reader, as it reminds us of the beauty around us and how blessed we are. The use of “stars peeping shyly through” and the “sweet breeze” whispering creates a pleasant reading experience, indeed like a “Spa”, while also referencing the Kilkenny location.

Respondi by Breda Joyce

Breda Joyce writes poetry, memoir and short fiction. Her work has won and been shortlisted in competitions and has appeared in Poems for Pandemia, The Honest Ulsterman, Kilkenny Broadsheet, Crannóg, The Waxed Lemon, The Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology 2021, and on Sunday Miscellany. Her first collection Reshaping the Light was published by Chaffinch Press, 2021. Her poem Funeral Shoes was published by The Irish Times March 22 as poem of the week.

Mary’s comments on Breda’s poem.

Drawn in straight away, we are introduced to a deeply personal but also dark experience. We learn of the great sense of tragedy, sadness, bleakness, despair, and of unfathomable grief of a mother, which I’m sure many can relate to. We learn of all that this woman has lost in her life, it’s so very moving. We must not take life for granted, as it can be taken away from us in an instant. 

Hawthorn Hill and 1983 by Canice Kenealy

Canice Kenealy is the singer with Kilkenny band Engine Alley, who are active since 1989 and have released a number of critically acclaimed album and continue to play gigs frequently. Canice is also a member of Rigmarole and The Boys Who Play With Fog and he occasionally performs his poetry.


What Mary had to say about Canice’s poems

Hawthorn Hill

There is a sense of nostalgia throughout this poem through the strong depictions of their memories. We are reminded of the comfort that nature can provide and the clarity. We are in awe of the tree, not only because of its strength and sheer size, but also because of the beauty in its simplicity. “There is no smell but the memory of a smell”, reminds us that memories will stay with us forever.


We are welcomed into the busy and hectic world of the poet. We get a true sense of this poet’s childhood. References to the “never ending summer” and “bikes by the river” evoke a sense of nostalgia within us as readers and take us back to our “1983”. We are reminded of the joy of the summer months and the fun to be had with friends, taking on new adventures at every opportunity. The metaphor of the colder, winter months is useful in describing how adulthood soon approaches, but the fact that we will always have these childhood memories gives us hope and something to hold onto. 

Lampedusa (From Libya) by David Long

Davey Long is a songwriter and an instrumentalist based in Kilkenny.  He has appeared on several albums including Celtic Woman’s GRAMMY nominated Destiny, The Fundamentals Past and Present Collide, Edisons Little Bohemia, The Kilkennys The Colour Of Freedom, Emma Langford’s Sowing Acorns and The Barnets’ forthcoming LP.  Davey co-wrote On The Carousel for the popular folk band Drops Of Green and the song went on to win an ASLR Celtic Music Award.

Davey Long released his debut solo album Eitilt in September 2021.  The album includes the song version of Lampedusa and is available to stream on all platforms.

Why Mary picked this beautiful poem.

We are brought on an emotional journey, told in the context of a boat that departed the port of Tripoli and is heading for Lampedusa, with “three hundred souls” onboard. The use of a particular stanza repetitively throughout the poem effectively depicts the never-ending journey for the people on the boat. The stark reality that is unfortunately real life for too many today, we are left with so many questions, wondering did their journey of uncertainty ever end.

Little letters spell hope by Darren Frances Caffrey

Returning  to Kilkenny after some time, Darren was spurred by the support of local poets Michael Tollervy and Grace Wells. Since then he has been a member of various writer’s groups, hosting and performing his poetry in clubs and pubs throughout the town, including Ryan’s, The Home Rule Bar, The Hole in the Wall, The Set Theatre and Barnstorm Theatre. In 2020 his poem ‘Milk Fat’ was selected for Poetry Broadsheet.

Mary’s thoughts on Darren’s poem

This poem is relatable to many of us as we bring ourselves back to where we were at the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic was, and continues to be, a unique experience for everyone. We learn what the pandemic experience was for the poet. There are references to beautiful imagery – the Spring, the daffodils and red breasted robin. The butterfly gets through the near-death experience with the cat, like we have got through in the pandemic. The fact that the butterfly makes it through gives us hope. 

The Trial by Eamonn Donovan

Eamonn lives in Co. Kilkenny and is a retired Primary school Principal.  He only started writing in recent years and his interest was sparked by Literature classes given by Piltown based poet Mark Roper and Creative Writing classes delivered by Waterford poet Edward Denniston. At present he is exploring various forms.

Why Mary choose this particular poem.

There is vivid imagery throughout the poem and we feel the tension. Our hear goes out to the student, presumably a young boy. There are strong feelings conveyed including nostalgia and desire, but we quickly move to shame and inadequacy. In referencing the chalk and map of Ireland, we are brought back to “Old Ireland”, of which some may remember with fond memories, others not. There is an openness and honesty in the young boy. We too ask ourselves the question, “to try and fail is just a way to grow?”. 


Latest from Blog