Highly commended adult finalist of the poetry competition

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Adult Category

Age of invisible monsters

by James McNally

Let the Earth get warmer, get more tawny,
arid and acrid; let the ice caps and the asphalt melt,
the seas break and the skies become stormier,
does not prevent these pleasant days felt
in more temperate weather and climates.
However, we walk on warning signs buried by brambles.

The tree-like sweetness of the melody sung by the birds
secretes a second air; silence always spring
where all song should disappear, a harmony
growling and growing, until nothing sounds loud
outside and all around a grove without buds.
Where once was nature wandering, nature wandering.

Two years have passed We think we’re at the end
of sublime calamity. We looked like a sneeze breath
his round the world trip in a few weeks. We saw it overturn
every institution we still believed in.
Now, after so many losses, we think we are winning.
Optimism is also contagious – it’s just the beginning.

Because the story remains the same: we don’t know what we’re doing.
Although the stakes have changed – the rough beast differs –
every man is an island, soon swallowed up by blue
depths, in which even more unfathomable creatures dwell,
those silent titans, invisible monsters
too big for two hands or one mind to conquer,

but for a vast coalition of the species,
with all other species –
a gathering of familiar places
with those from the most remote regions of the globe –
who should stand side by side and cry unified, ‘No.’
It is not too late. We can change. Together we can grow.

Comments from Judge Charlie Durante:

“Climate change has recently gained prominence and profile as a hot topic that makes it impossible to ignore. The Glasgow summit reflects this process which is finally recognized as the deadliest threat to our planet. James’ five six-line stanzas provide a ripe insight into how climate change, warming seas, the storms that regularly hit our cities and coasts, the infections that rage, transform our perception of nature and underline our responsibility to maintain a healthy ecosystem, which depends heavily on us to thrive and thrive. A brilliant line, “we watched a sneeze / a breeze go around the world in a matter of weeks,” succinctly sums up the speed and havoc with which Covid-19 and other airborne infections have caused death and despair. Individually, there is little we can do to reverse the precipitous plunge into entropy or degeneration. However, “a coalition of the species” still has a chance to postpone the disaster and even to change course. James has shown a commendable awareness of the global issues at stake and the need for concerted action to save our wonderful planet from man-made destruction. ”

Adult category Highly recommended

The eye of work

by James McNally

When I was young
I would have quite typical tastes:
Eliot not to be outdone
In his lyrical grace;

Joyce was second to none
While writing the novel,
Ulysses my bridle,
all the other books, rambling;

I had seen the Old Masters –
Cranach, Bruegel, Titian –
There was nothing after
It had not been done.

I thought I was cultivated
applaud great art;
I was more like the vulture
Pick up the old bones.

Now the years have passed;
And strangely I see
Some works catch my attention –
Because they are looking at me!

My belly sticks out
My hair is getting thin
I often think
On what could have been;
The signs are off-putting
There is no point in denying
That we can’t live
If we are not dying.

School poems that I had hated
By Larkin and Yeats
Have always been condemned
To reflect my condition,

When the right time comes:
Oh, how time changes things
How boring work gets
Pregnant with new meanings.

But I learned to move on
And I won’t try to hide;
At least I have companions
As I take the long slide.

Comments from Judge Charlie Durante:

“This poem is a brilliant meditation for egg heads and culture junkies. In a highly literary poem, interspersed with scholarly references to modernist writers like Eliot and Joyce, the speaker looks at himself with contempt, with signs of premature aging reminding that life is a preparation for death. There is a refreshing hint of humor when the speaker is scrutinized by the very works of art he admired. No longer a callous schoolboy, he now admits his inability to appreciate the full significance of Larkin and Yeats’ poems. Now they are making “pregnant” comments about her life experiences. At the present time, the speaker seems to be in “the eye of the work”, the quiet center in a raging storm, a time to reconsider and reassess life, with the help of “companions” (the poets he mentioned?) as he takes ‘the long slide’. A very clever, witty and funny poem.


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