And so to the Final of Baffle on Sunday evening in the Loughrea Spa Hotel. Audience a bit down on last year I thought, which was something of a disappointment.
16 finalists including yours truly. Surprisingly, no McNally in the Final, though the chairperson Finuala McNally rectified that by reciting an ode to the committee. MC for the night was the inimitable Declan O'Brien, who just gets funnier every time I see him. I'm sure he has to be the funniest performance poet in Ireland today.
One of the qualifiers from the Saturday night, Fran King, was unable to attend the Final, due to a sudden family illness, so his place was taken by Ray Gateley, a former winner, and who apparently had missed out on a place in the Final by a hairs breadth.
16 great, varied poems, all on the theme of "Off the Rails" Naturally, when there's a theme, there has to be a certain amount of crossovering. The Railway Children of Mumbai, the Artane Boys and the Ballinasloe mental hospital inmates all featured as classes of society that had gone 'off the rails' Both Ian McDonald and I did steam train metaphors about the state of the economy, him globally, me nationally; the theme of clothes and fashion came up more than once too.
Winner was James Kennedy, who turned the whole thing on its head, asking who had come up with such a ludicrous theme, sensing conspiracy. Great fun.
I am ashamed to say I can't remember the name of the girl who finished second. It was a lovely poem and she was the youngest of the finalists and truly deserving of second place.
Miceal Kearney's adventures on a trip to Amsterdam took third and was also well deserved. I use the word trip advisedly.
Mags Treanor took the Peoples Prize with her eloquently titled 'You Bitches' a no-holds barred swipe at the Salthill-prom walking, SUV driving, shallow society. Great fun, great depth and despite her assertions that she's a really shy and retiring person, she sure scares the crap out of me.
Maureen Gallagher and the multi-talented Martin Dyar adjudicated and spoke about what they liked in each poem. Mine was considered to be a cross between Jack Kerouac and Joe Duffy, which left me darkly brooding for a while! But I was as thrilled just to make the final as I was thrilled to see again so many kind faces, Margaret, Wiltrud, Eileen, Colette, Lucy, Pat Lawless, the Kellys and Kennedys, McNallys and McDonalds, Vinnie and Mary, Declan and Mary, Sean...
And so to bed...