National Poetry Competition 1992


  • Maura Dooley
  • Simon Rae
  • Michael Longley

Winning Poem 

Stephen Knight
The Mermaid Tank

Beneath my weight, the duckboards bow.

Two buckets, slopping water, weigh me down.

A cold wind howls around the cages now,

    While rain sweeps in -across the town-

Again; and while our rheumy-eyed,

    Arthritic monsters fall asleep

        Or vegetate

             I kneel beside

The Songstress of The Deep

      And wait.


All afternoon, the punters pass

     Her tank in single file; because it's dark

Inside, they press their faces to the glass.

     I breathe, at night, on every mark.

Behind my cloth, the water churns

     And curls around our fat dugong

            And when it clears

                 (Like smoke) she turns

Away, and any song

    I hear


Is 'just the wind' or 'my mistake'�

     Outside, discarded handbills catch their wings

On tents or in the mud while, in their wake,

     Paper cups, tickets stubs and things

The rain dismantles every night

    Turn cart-wheels in the foreign air

        Before they throng

            The sky, too light

To settle anywhere

     For long.


Winner's Photograph

Stephen Knight