IT Sligo lecturer Una Mannion has won a prestigious National Hennessy Literary 2017 Award in Emerging Poetry for her poem ‘Crouched Burial’.
Una is the Programme Chair of the Institute’s new BA in Writing and Literature , and also teaches Performing Arts in the School of Engineering & Design. She is a member of the Sandy Field Writers’ Group based in County Sligo.
Her winning poem ‘Crouched Burial’ was inspired by an event from her childhood.
“When I was 15 years old, a child’s body was found in our field in Culleenamore, in Co Sligo, where there is an extensive oyster midden along the bay,” explains Una.
“The child, 2,000 years old, was lying in a crouched position, on her side, foetal, arms holding herself. The imprint of her small frame in the earth and details of her burial shaped this poem.”
‘Crouched Burial’ won the Yeats’ Society’s Seamus Heaney Memorial Poetry Prize in 2015.
This latest success also follows up on Una’s other literary accolades in 2017 which include winning the Doolin Writers Weekend Short Story competition for her story ‘A Shiver of Hearts’ and the Cúirt International Festival of Literature for ‘The Bright Lake.’
Now in their 46th year, the Hennessy Literary Awards have recognised and rewarded emerging Irish writers and poets in the literary sphere. This national competition for new Irish writing rewards excellence in writing short fiction and poetry.
by Una Mannion
They move the earth with small trowels and brushes and
all week the seals sing a desolate chorus as if for you.
First a small child’s foot
slow sweeps of the brush across your small bones,
your shape in the ditch, taking definition, a slow birth
in the corner of the field by the water’s edge.
You are lying on your side
knees pulled into your chest
the thin bones of your arms
holding yourself without your hands
your heavy head bent low toward your small body,
a comma in the earth,
like an ultra sound picture of the earth’s womb
where you lay crouched for years.
Beside your ribcage, a single blue glass bead
for your ear a bronze ring,
your grave gifts.
If flowers and herbs cradled your head,
they are dust now.
Someone brought you here
and laid you down with care
your death a secret, your story buried.
In the moon bay
at the edge of earth where they found you
the midden’s shelves layer time, like growth rings.
Now is our turn on the surface of time
you and your buried bead, prehistory,
before there were written words to remember with.
A sequence of milk teeth along the bone of your jaw and
the buds to permanent ones spell your age.
You are eighteen months old.
Your bones in the midden are a mystery
Iron Age people didn’t bury their dead
bodies were left to wind, or wolves or water.
But not you.
Perhaps touching your cold cheek your mother
could not abandon your body to the night
and here, where the land juts out toward the sea and the tide moves,
a place she might find again,
she brought you.
Photo caption (top):
Hennessy Literary Award Winner for Emerging Poetry 2017, Una Mannion.
Picture: Marc O’Sullivan.