"Seven bums and fourteen legs,
a brazen ecstasy which begs
the question some of us are asking -
is Peter Goulding multi-tasking?"

Martin Parker, Editor, Lighten Up Online

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Bard of Armagh

The poetic genre I feel most comfortable with is humorous verse. I've been writing it for so many years that it doesn't intimidate me the way serious verse does - I understand it and know when something is right or wrong.
There are, I suppose, three major humorous verse competitions in Ireland - the Percy French prize at Strokestown, on the May Bank Holiday, which I've been fortunate enough to win twice; the Baffle Bard at Loughrea on the October Bank Holiday weekend - not strictly speaking a humorous verse competition but the genre is treated as an equal alongside serious poetry; and the Bard of Armagh.
I don't know why I've never entered the Bard of Armagh. Certainly the entrance fee - 2 pound sterling - is cheaper than the other two competitions and the audience numbers are higher. And two of Ireland's greatest current humorous poets, Declan O'Brien and Sean Lyons, have both enjoyed success up there.
I think perhaps there are a number of reasons, none of which on their own are particularly valid, but taken together add up to semi-validity.
1) There is the difficulty and expense of obtaining a 2 pound sterling bank draft here in the Republic.
2) I get a sense from the website that there is a certain clique element - the same names keep turning up year after year.
3) The lyrics of the winning poems are posted up on the site. Reading through them, it seems that the competition is judged mainly on the performance of the poems with little regard to the technicality of the poems themselves. Practically all are rhyming couplets and often the rhymes are contrived to get the joke in. (I'm not trying to be snobby here - I know how hard it can be to write something other people will laugh out loud at, and the humour normally comes from content, not the cleverness of the poem. All I am saying is that, with my stammer, I am not a performance poet and insist on exact rhymes and meter)
Having said all that, I was delighted to learn that John McDonagh, who wrote his first poem for, and was shortlisted at, the Percy French Prize at Strokestown this year, with his poem, The First Domestic Incident, finished second at Armagh this year, thus disproving my point 2) above. Well done, John! All the winners can be found here
Seeing as how I won't be entering the Percy French next year, I may just have a bash at Armagh...


  1. I like the sound of The Bard of Armagh, and the crystal vase looks like it's worth having too.
    Not so sure about the runner-up prize - is that a non-stick frying-pan?

  2. Titus - No! Isn't it the plate from a Christmas Tree stand?
    Go for it, Peter! Bard of Armagh would be quite a feather in your cap.

  3. I sent a poem into that once. It was so good I was sure I was going to win but praying I'd come second I never heard from them again. Streets of Laredo I say!