2012 Winner

Stephen Sexton, the Overall Winner of Funeral Services Northern Ireland's National Poetry Competition, with his poem "Scrabble"

A huge congratulations to the star of Funeral Services Northern Ireland’s National Poetry Competition, our overall winner, from County Down, Stephen Sexton.

Paul Maddern explained the judges collective decision at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, when Stephen was presented with his award for poem “Scrabble”:

“Although the sentiment informing every entry was extremely moving, ‘Scrabble’ really stood out as a poem for its freshness of  imagery, the overall concept, the carefully considered detail and, most importantly, the use of language.

This freezing of a single image as a way into elegy isn’t in itself new but the selection of this particular image is especially striking for its originality – the board game whipped over the precarious “cantilevered” balcony in the middle of a storm, the tiles (letters and language) dispersed – it’s a maelstrom in which everything is ‘scrabbling’, or falling apart. But there is one electric moment to recall; to praise; to cherish.

Images of the natural world are found consistently throughout these entries, but no other poem in the competition reinvigorates such imagery so effectively. This poem is clever, without being too clever, and the language suggests someone who appreciates, and works with, the potential and richness of language; someone who reads contemporary poetry and who knows what he is doing.”

Take another chance to read and appreciate the overall winning poem of Funeral Services Northern Ireland’s inaugural National Poetry Competition.



Stephen Sexton

Perhaps this was the last thing you thought of:
a hotel balcony in Barcelona;
terracotta tiles slicked by the guerrilla

Mediterranean rain. Or the smell
of salt gale-stripped from the sea in belts
large enough to preserve us here – still cantilevered

out into the lightning, the playing board’s
tessellate form untouched for the storm’s
duration. Perhaps the cool sensation

as the last breath of wind from the open
mouth of the water draws the board over
the balcony; scattering tiles under

it like damp sycamore seeds into the street.
There’s me catching fists of air after them.
There’s us against the railings, voices

above the plastic hail.

By Stephen Sexton