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Baffle goes to Strokestown

Strokestown International Poetry Festival has seen its fair share of poets over its ten-year lifetime. Some people might have been impressed by the likes of Louis de Paor, Eilean ni Chuileanain or Paddy Bushe, or, indeed, the appearance a couple of years ago of the Nobel Prize winner, Seamus Heaney. But all those names pale in comparison to what we saw in the 2009 festival: no fewer than two BAFFLE members were shortlisted for the Percy French prize for humorous verse!

The air in the room was electric as BAFFLE chairperson Margaret Hickey, who had judged the Schools Competition, handed over the baton to Pat Compton, a key member of the Strokestown committee. He in turn introduced the judge of the Percy French competition – none other than that towering genius, Declan O’Brien, himself a previous winner of the prize for humorous verse.

First of the eight short-listed contenders was Eamonn McNally, fumbling for his glasses to the loud cheers of the busload of supporters who had come up with him from Loughrea. Eamonn’s poem, looking at the discoveries of Stone Age man and woman, was well received, and not long after a new member of BAFFLE, Peter Goulding, gave the crowd a fine performance of a poem based on his dealings with Ryanair and Michael O’Leary’s eventual dealings with Heaven. (You can read all the poems on the Strokestown website www.strokestownpoetry.org )

Eventually the winners were announced, and although Eamonn didn’t land a knockout blow this time, Peter Goulding walked off with the silver medal, and happily all ten contenders received a nice brown envelope to take home with them. Congratulations to Peter and commiserations to Eamonn.

And the fun didn’t stop there, as Ian McDonald rallied the departing crowds with the news that Tony Callinan, there with his guitar, had composed a song based on Eamonn’s poem, and there followed an impromptu song session, which spilled over from the lounge of the Percy French Hotel to the nearby hostelry of Anthony Beirne’s. Some say the revels went on deep into the night, but that doesn’t sound like the BAFFLE crowd, does it?



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