National Poetry Competition 1987


  • Douglas Dunn
  • Edna Longley
  • Fred D’Aguiar 

Winning Poem 

Ian Duhig
Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen

Dismissed from Tlaltizapa for changing sex
Manuel Palafox sulked in Arenista. At markets
he bought chimoyas, limes and ink from Oaxtepec.
Some days he wore his twenty-ounce sombrero,
Deerskin pants and "charro" boots. On others
Gold-embroidered blouses and red kerseymere skirts.
He wrote to Magonistas; "Zapata is finished.
He takes orders from Obregon. Rally the Peones!
Death to Carranza! Tierra y Libertad!"
He wrote to Lenin; "Trotsky is finished.
Seek concord with the Ukraine Makhnovshchina.
Brest-Litovsk's a cock-up. Regards to the Missus."
He wrote to Freud; "Were you coked when you dreamt up this?
No Mexican has even heard of the sexual revolution.
All Eros last year now it's Thanatos, bloody Thanatos.
Jung was right- grow a beard, you think you're Moses.
I hope your jaw drops off. Regards to the Missus."
At last he wrote to Yeats: "Dear Willie, how's The Vision?
Mine's double, ha-ha. Shit. Willie, I'm finished
In Mexico - it's full of bigots. Ireland can't be worse.
I'll work. Your brother paints - I'll hold his ladders.
You can have my poems. The one about this year -
Change it round- it'll do for Ireland. What happened
To my lift with Casement? Willie, GET ME OUT OF HERE!"
Shopping in Cashel for pulque, Michael Robartes-
"Research Assistant to a popular writer"-
Itched in his Connemara Cloth. Himself well-known
For a Special Devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe,
He frowned on local talk of a drunken madwoman
In red skirts, publicly disputing with the bishop.

Winner's Comment 

"The judges' vote of confidence in your poetry is the lasting satisfaction: writers whose own work you admire and respect, however intoxicated, delusional or misguided they were when they chose you; however unsatisfactory a compromise you were that midnight when they were desperate and exhausted, starving, suffering withdrawals or under siege by messages from their children threatened with being taken into care as "home alone" - they still had to put you in the hat with the others before they could make that mistake. And that, in the end, will do nicely."