March's Poetry Contest Winner: Saint Patrick's Day

Posted by Cybil on March 1, 2018


Every month, Goodreads and the ¡POETRY! group host a poetry contest. It's a great way to discover and support the work of emerging poets. Join the ¡POETRY! group where you can vote to select the winning poem each month from among the finalists. Aspiring poets can also submit a poem for consideration.

Congratulations to Fiona Honor Hurley, who is our March winner with this poem:

Saint Patrick's Day

by Fiona Honor Hurley

Remember where you came from
You whose name is Kelly, Sullivan, O’Brien.
A land of rich beauty and heroic deed,
Of dripping poverty and oppression.

They said you deserved no better,
You of a selfish, perverse, and turbulent race,
Your blackened field and hungry belly
Were due to your defect of character.

You escaped on groaning ships
That left a trail of bones across the ocean.

You arrived, wretched of the earth,
They said you were filthy and indolent,
Adherents of a foreign religion,
Terrorists in the shadows.

You dug their ditches,
You scrubbed their floors,
You rose,
And became them.

Now you proudly wear the green.
And you say that poverty is the fault of the poor.
You say that refugees on creaking ships
Are like locusts.
You say that those of foreign beliefs
Are a dark looming threat.

May your ancestors rise
And beat you with a blackthorn stick.
May you chew on your shamrock
Until you taste the bitterness
Until your mouth turns green.

Until you remember
Where you came from.


Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Breslin (new)

Breslin White I wonder what the poet means by groaning ships and lost bones. So mysterious! I'm Irish too, and I immediately think of the potato famine when I remember our shared story.


message 2: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Wonderful poem. Congratulations Fiona.


message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Miller Hello Fiona. Though I have never celebrated St. Patrick's Day, I do enjoy your poem. I think you're trying to express how sometimes the oppressed unknowingly become the oppressors. Also, I never realized those names had Irish origins. My mother named me after a kindhearted white male architect from America. She also mentioned that she gave me my name based on the idea that it could adorn not only a girl but a boy. However, I did search for the meaning of my name about 15 years ago and all I seemed to be able to find was "Warrior Princess" or "Origin Unknown" or that it may be of Gaelic origin meaning "a small body of water" Hmmm... at any rate, I enjoyed your poem. Congrats and keep up the good work!


message 4: by tiasreads (new)

tiasreads Breslin wrote: "I wonder what the poet means by groaning ships and lost bones. So mysterious! I'm Irish too, and I immediately think of the potato famine when I remember our shared story."

The poet is likely referring to the coffin ships. Prospective Irish immigrants would buy passage or indenture themselves to cover the passage fare. The ships were in terrible condition and their owners wildly over-insured them so that, if the ships sank, they would make quite a bit of money off the insurance. Many of the immigrants died in the ships, either from their ship sinking or the miserable conditions on the trip. One way or the other, the ships became coffins for many, many Irish immigrants.


message 5: by A. J. (new)

A. J. Frances Chris wrote: "Artistic license:

You arrived, wretched of the earth,
They said you were filthy and indolent,
Adherents of a foreign religion,
Terrorists in the shadows.

Are you making a parallel with how illega..."


Chris, maybe stop making incredibly incorrect assumptions and read up on the history. Lucky for you that you're on a site that can help you find books!

Fiona, your poem is lovely! Many of my relatives (both Irish and Italian) could stand to give your words some thought.


message 6: by Emily (new)

Emily Congratulations, Fiona, and well done! Thank you for helping me to remember.


Aqsa (On Hiatus) Great Poem!

Thought provoking too :)

Congratulations!!


message 8: by Immacolata (new)

Immacolata this was really amazing!


message 9: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Congrats!


message 10: by Fiona (new)

Fiona Hurley I'm so happy that my poem touched a chord with people. Thank you for your votes and kind comments!

If anyone is interested in the historical background, this article provides a good summary: http://www.history.com/news/when-amer...


message 11: by Jan (new)

Jan Fiona wrote: "I'm so happy that my poem touched a chord with people. Thank you for your votes and kind comments!

If anyone is interested in the historical background, this article provides a good summary: http:..."


Congratulations, Fiona! Very cool.


message 12: by Janice (new)

Janice Bonczek Chris wrote: "Artistic license:

You arrived, wretched of the earth,
They said you were filthy and indolent,
Adherents of a foreign religion,
Terrorists in the shadows.

and

Now you proudly wear the green.
And ..."


Chris,

I believe the author is trying to highlight a parallel between how Irish immigrants were treated then, and how other immigrants are treated today. People HATED the Irish when they first came here. The Irish were Catholic, and the Americans were mostly Protestant. They didn't agree with their religion. Some downright hated it and thought it was dangerous. Whether the Irish were working or not, had a family or not, people thought they were all drunken, lazy and violent. Stores used to have signs on the windows that would say "No Irish need apply". They were relegated to the most dangerous, low-paying jobs. And for a long time, they didn't assimilate. They stayed in their own areas of the city, practiced their religion and culture together, etc.

It is irrelevant whether the immigrants are here legally or illegally, what the author is saying is that coming from another country is no reason to treat people like they are subhuman. Because that treatment continues today, for all immigrants.

In response to the other comment you wrote, the author does not write that she wishes for current Irish Americans to be beaten with a blackthorn stick. She is saying that for SOME Irish Americans, (the ones who treat immigrants poorly, or believe harmful stereotypes about them), their ancestors are probably turning in their graves right now. They came here and endured prejudice, hatred, and poor living conditions, so that their children and grandchildren could have a better life. So if their children and grandchildren are acting oppressive and horrible to other people who are just trying to do the same thing, you might imagine that would upset them.

I don't think the author is angry at current Irish Americans. She might very well be one. She is giving commentary on how it is sad that history repeats itself. If you had only heard the one stanza that you quoted:

"You arrived, wretched of the earth,
They said you were filthy and indolent,
Adherents of a foreign religion,
Terrorists in the shadows."

Who would you think this was talking about? Likely not Irish Americans. They make up a large percentage of today's Americans. Most people who grew up Irish American in this generation have never heard a slur against their grandparent's country and nationality. People are proud to be Irish. Everyone celebrates St. Patrick's Day. When you hear the words "terrorist", "foreign religion", I'm positive that the first group of people who pops into your head is not Irish or Irish Americans. Yet this is exactly how they were viewed when they first arrived.

This could apply to a lot of different groups, not just the Irish. I won't argue with you whether or not you believe the stereotypes they had about the Irish immigrants when they arrived, or whether or not you believe in the stereotypes they have about immigrants today, but I will argue that there is absolutely a parallel between the two.


message 13: by Jason (new)

Jason Mills A heady brew.


message 14: by Dapper (new)

Dapper  The Poet Drive or be driven be a choice
Defend or attack I'd the system
Rut is the game
Take you to another level
A legend be born
A myth in realness
I wanna see you yell
39 shots like no other
Lines like no rapper can
"Cover the face fuck the donkey"
Uhhh... Yeaah!... Deeper....
Make it rain
Rainbow to bow
Sync the lyrics
And fall on the hook
You need no wwwe champ
I can wrestle
No referees a flick
Will do
Kamasutra ni book
Imejaza sura
I wanna ride you momma
Lick you all wet
Choices are made
Dapper things are chosen


message 15: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Breslin wrote: "I wonder what the poet means by groaning ships and lost bones. So mysterious! I'm Irish too, and I immediately think of the potato famine when I remember our shared story."

see the book Ship Fever - the main story tells a story based on true facts of the Irish Immigration after desperate times in Ireland.

The reason for the potato famine from what I understand was a disease/blight caused the potatoes that the Irish were originally forced to plant by English Landlords and often the Scottish overseers, to die and caused starvation of so many.

There were food shipments from America and other countries with food for the Irish at that time which were blockaded by the English. They would not let food into the starving poor people. See wikipedia and other sources. Beyond that Angela's Ashes is required reading.

I am sad there are many Irish Americans who are harsh like Faux New Hannity, but there are so many good ones. The immigrants of today have it so much better that what these poor people in Ship Fever by Andrea Barret brings to light so much tragedy. Most Irish did enter legally through Ellis Island. They did get discriminated against.

Question: Do we keep the borders open now with such a full country and loss of abundant resources such as water and open space for wild life and sustainability? Is there a moderate position here between refuse all and no borders?

God Bless us all


message 16: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Remember Mother Jones as one of the Heroes of Irish Americans and all American workers!


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Just some more immemorable words!


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