Wexford girl wins poetry award

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Sinéad O’Reilly (Loreto Wexford) with Éamonn Meehan (Trócaire) and Maureen Kennelly (Poetry Ireland) at the 2018 Trócaire / Poetry Ireland Poetry Competition award ceremony. 

Sinéad O’Reilly, a first year student at Loreto Wexford, is proving herself to be something of a burgeoning literary talent having won her second award at a major poetry competition.

Sinéad (13) was outright winner of the Post-Primary Junior category at the annual Trócaire / Poetry Ireland Poetry Competition 2018. This is her second year to win an award in the competition as her poem ‘Foreboding’ garnered her a runner-up prize last year. Poetry Ireland Director Maureen Kennelly was one of the first to congratulate Sinéad on her success. 

In her address, Ms Kennelly mentioned that, in a packed calendar of events, the competition is one of those which she most enjoyed. She praised all of the prize-winners saying that, given the volume of entries received and the difficult task the judges had in making their selections, their awards should be cherished.  

The competition has been running for seven years as a collaboration between Trócaire and Poetry Ireland. Its primary aim is to use “the arts to raise awareness about the leading global issues of our time”. Each year has a different theme and that for 2018 was ‘Until Love Conquers Fear’. This year’s award ceremony at the National Library of Ireland was introduced and presented by Trócaire’s Patricia Groves, an established author, and Poetry Ireland Education Officer Jane O’Hanlon.

Sinéad’s poem, ‘The Olive Tree’, was singled out by Éamonn Meehan, Exec. Director of Trócaire, for its strong symbolism and the power of its message. Having just returned from Palestine he said that the olive tree has huge significance, both economically and emotionally, to those living there under such trying conditions. Thousands of olive trees have been cut down to make way for illegal settlements. The Olive Tree Campaign is the response of a number of farmers and their families. It involves planting olive trees on land under threat of takeover. 

In ‘The Olive Tree’ the nostalgia evoked in the lines: “He remembers picking olives with his father / In the warm evening sun”, cannot hide the sense of upheaval, loss and fear which has been experienced by so many Palestinians.

Recent years have, unfortunately, provided us with plenty of other examples of countries and regions in which war, political instability and climate change have led to thousands of lives lost and millions displaced, Mr Meehan added. 

Take Syria: “11 million people forced to flee their homes. Over 5 million have sought safety in other countries, with 6.5 million displaced inside Syria”. 

Eileen Casey, an award-winner in the Adult Published category with ‘The Power Of Poems’, says “Poems detonate hope in those who are cast down”. It is this simple fact, so eloquently expressed by Ms Casey, that makes the union between Trócaire and Poetry Ireland so vital and timely.

Sinéad, from Spawell Road, Wexford, who describes herself as a lover of literature, a bibliophile even, said she looks forward to putting pen to paper whenever the muse strikes. She says she would like to see lots more Wexford children taking part in this competition. According to Sinéad, one does not require any expertise to write poetry. “Your poems do not need to rhyme or have a particular structure,” she says. “There are no rules.” 

And it gets you a day off school!

The Olive Tree

He gazes out the window

Through shattered glass,

The tree of his childhood

Jagged and broken.

He remembers picking olives with his father

In the warm evening sun.

A distant boom jolts him back to reality.

This town is a ghost town.

Grey shadows slink silently through the rubble,

One eye on the ground, the other on the sky.

A broken people

In this town wrecked by war.

One day this will end.

A new tree will grow

And he will pick olives again.

Sinéad O’Reilly

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