Cork Poet Laureate

The Cork Poet Laureateship is an initiative of the Munster Literature Centre, funded by Cork City Council. During a period of historic upheaval the laureateship is conceived as a project where a Cork poet can respond personally to themes and issues of public import affecting Cork City and County. These can be sporting events, current affairs, social issues, historic anniversaries or anything else the laureate believes concerns the people of Cork as a community. The laureateship runs for ten months from May 2021.

In 2022 the poems will be collected into a chapbook to be launched during the Cork World Book Festival. William Wall has been appointed as laureate.

The Irish Examiner will publish each poem in the first week of every month and Cork City Library will print posters of the poem each month.

The Irish Examiner: William Wall: Cork's Poet Laureate on capturing the Covid era and teaching Cillian Murphy


About William Wall

May Poem: Hometown blues

June Poem: Burning the Boats

July Poem: In Geological Time

August Poem: Strike the grey sea and fly

September Poem: The Arcades Project

October Poem: A PET DAY

November Poem: At two and a half degrees

December Poem: Solstice

January Poem: Two Elegies



William Wall has published four collections of poetry, six novels and three collections of short fiction. His fifth collection of poetry, Smugglers In the Underground Hug Trade – Journal of The Plague Year will be published by Doire Press in October 2021. He was the first European to win the Drue Heinz Literature Prize in the USA (2017) and was awarded the Premio Lerici Pea Angloliguria in Italy in 2021. He has won numerous other awards including the Virginia Faulkner Prize (USA), The Seán O’Faoláin Prize (Ireland), The Listowel Writers’ Week Poetry Pamphlet Prize (Ireland), and The Patrick Kavanagh award (Ireland). His 2005 novel This is The Country was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has been short- or long-listed for many more, including the Irish Book Awards and the Manchester Fiction Prize. His stories and poems have appeared in magazines and journals from the USA to China including Poesia (Turin), Granta (London), Southword (Cork), The Stinging Fly (Dublin), Ninth Letter (Illinois), and Studi Irlandese (Florence). He holds a PhD in creative writing from UCC. His work has been widely translated and he translates from Italian.


May Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: Hometown Blues by William Wall


Hometown blues
i.m. Rory Gallagher

as I step the boards

feeling that familiar bounce

I hear the shouts 

the stamping feet 

I am back in ’71

my best friend and me

up from the country 

for the homecoming

Rory’s mama in the kitchen

his dad saying get a job son

a million crazy fans

stamping out the rhythm 

the whole floor a drum

(you can’t fight city hall) 

hair and flares and crazy shirts 

I’m going to my hometown

the whirligig of time 

declares me old enough

for this round of vaccine 

two young soldiers marshal 

me to my stall

(you can’t fight city hall)

a young nurse gives me the talk 

and waves a hypodermic 

they’ll be holding me a while

ambulance crew guide me

to my seat among the geriatrics 

I look at all the waiting 

sixty five year olds and think 

how many of us were here

in this place fifty years ago

when Rory played my hometown


(Cork City Hall Vaccination Centre, May 2021)


June Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: Burning the Boats by William Wall


Burning the Boats

On the fishery protest, Cork Harbour


the river is glass today
the big boats come up
steaming at five knots
as slow as a trawl
sounding their horns
the haunting noise
of the dying days
when the great tide
of capital turns
let go your lines
not far from here
six thousand men
worked for Henry Ford
till the tide went out

but you’re the fighting kind
you spend your days
out on the banks
at the landing winch
decks awash
the trawl warp coming in
they want to burn the boats
the Brian Eoin
the Buddy M
Star of The Sea
but boats are villages
families townlands
more than the crew 
they’re whole harbours 

on the Porcupine Bank
you know you’re alive
tracking the mark
along the deepwater edge
ten metre seas
Hy-Brasil on a bad day
twenty tonnes of whiting
in the trawl
if a cable parts
you’re a dead man
quotas the way they are
it’s go or bust
tied to the wall
you catch no fish

everyone is down to see the boats
cars line the quays
like in the old days
when they came to meet the Inisfallen
uncles and aunts
with cardboard suitcases
old Erin sending her youth away
and pulling them home for the two-week spree

and once again I see the boat in people’s eyes
maybe Australia this time
do they need lobstermen or seiners in New South Wales
we sold our seas to save our farms no one ever said old Ireland
could see beyond the next bend
never mind the horizon

we sold our seas and all their fish
and now it seems we’ll sell the boats
we’ll sell the people too
we’ve done it more than once before
they who know every rock in the roadstead
who will buy what they cannot sell
every wreck and every bank and deep
the names of the changing sea
the half-tide rock where the seals sleep
the holding ground

July Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: In Geological Time by William Wall


In Geological Time

Galley Cove, July 2021

into a steely still sea
one bright and windless morning
every shell and stone
the kelp and sea-grass
luminous and hyper-real
like some new art form

and thirty yards away
a big seal head breaks the glass
the huge dark eyes
assessing my ridiculous
progress through its element
with severity

these old worn bones
are free in the cold water
in every dimension
but I pray for a seal’s oiled skin
to glide through space
a seal’s big eyes to take the light in


after fifty years of winter
we deserve a day like this
a blue dome over us
only the late rising moon to mark it

in the stony fields they’re making hay
like there’s no tomorrow
the good sweet smell
of childhood summers

my father breathing the seed head
walking the fields
his delighted disbelief
that weather and crop agree

on the full belly of a spring tide
the world is doubled
every thought and its reflection
balanced like an equation

but time is a falling tide
memory rising from the dark deep land
oarweed stones old broken bones
to trouble its going down

from Dursey Island
to Youghal Bay
the vitreous sea
not so much as a cat’s paw
fin whales and dolphins
pass like shadows

this gull-speckled main
would be a sheet
of ice in winter
an iron fate
but for the Gulf Stream
due west of here
at the same latitude
the Strait of Belle Isle
sea-iced half the year

all along this broken shore
the works of time and sea
a raised beach
a ruined tower
a fossil ammonite
a rock fall bleached white

we speak of dry land
and terra firma
but the ground
we stand on
is a phrenology of movement
the casual sinking and rising
the cracking and folding
the land is a wave train
a frontal system
a dialectic of surrender
and we are falling
into the high tide
in our own good time

our foothold is friable
our tenure uncertain
though all our imagery
of rock and stone
is of permanence
time will tell a new story
in which we will not be
the dramatis personae



a hundred yards out
I am out of my depth
where I have always been
only the big sad eyes of the seal
to warn of danger

we are drowning on dry land
poisoning the world
with disease and noise
and toxic aerosols
and too much light

the microscopic clarity
of the undersea
feels more like home
slightly larger than life
a pardonable exaggeration

we came from here and lost our way
a few billion years ago
we are still lost today
though the sea fits like a second skin
and by the time I turn again

I’m no longer alone
the strand is dark with people
children greet me curiously
as I walk out of the sea
and back to humanity


August Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: Strike the grey sea and fly by William Wall


Strike the grey sea and fly

On the Olympic gold medal in rowing

‘See how much my ships excel all others, and what magnificent oarsmen my sailors are.’ - Homer, The Odyssey


oars are wings over water
bound to their thole pins
by twisted strips of leather
strike the grey sea and fly

pray with your oars at rest
consult the oracle for hope
make hecatombs for the best
strike the grey sea and fly

we have been away so long
no one will know us
but our names will be songs
strike the grey sea and fly

look neither left nor right
the sweet blade cuts clean
feathered in flight
strike the grey sea and fly

think of the river Ilen
  still glass between banks
downstream to Sherkin
strike the grey sea and fly

from Germany and Italy
they come but to chase
Donovan and McCarthy
strike the grey sea and fly

a great capstone of cloud
on fields of greening gold
the hills throw back the cry
strike the grey sea and fly


September Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: The Arcades Project by William Wall


The Arcades Project

‘The concept of progress must be grounded in the idea of catastrophe.’
Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project


they put a roof over the city
so it will never rain again
a sheet of tinted glass
the exact colour
of a perfect day

progress they say
is born of catastrophe
one terrible year
to change everything

it’s not over yet they say
in the shortening autumn days
we still can’t breathe easy
almost two years
and here’s another winter

it takes a few thousand dead
to make us see the benefit
of dining al fresco
in the great arcade

in the Huguenot Quarter
Princes Street and Emmet Place
all of us wondering what
to talk about when
there’s no weather anymore

but under our feet the world
returns unasked
nature gaining access
by the city’s secret veins

under the pavement lies the beach
when tide and wind combine
a storm from the southeast
the ocean comes
to wipe our footprints out



October Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: A PET DAY by William Wall



At the Lee Fields in October


we’re all out on a pet day
half-naked in the Lee Fields
October in Ireland
might as well be June in Spain
t-shirts and short-shorts
flip-flops and leather sandals
couples courting on the grass
like the back row of the Muliplex
a yoga class in full sun salute
and there is an actual sun
Irish Water tearing up a long hole
dogs shitting under the birches
a swan with four cygnets
in line astern
a down-at-heel heron
in morning suit
mourning the fish of his youth
coffee in paper cups
from the drive thru
and the shadow of County Hall
with the two lads gawping
as if they never saw
a County Councillor
and high on the ridge
the blank eyes of the ex-asylum
staring down the city’s madness
and still we don’t shake hands
and still we keep the sacred metre
small changes in a strange world
we wear our sleeves short
and keep our distance long



November Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: At two and a half degrees by William Wall


At two and a half degrees

On COP26


at two and a half degrees
the flat of the city
will be water
I walk Horgan’s Quay
thinking of rising seas
drowned streets
the shadow
of November
two thousand and nine

this is the cost
that capital never paid
a few hundred years
of asset stripping nature
a future mortgaged
for bone china
and the steam engine
the Ford Model T
and Fitbits

at two and a half degrees
a world drowning
in its own sweat
a planet with
a respiratory disease
lungs clogged with plastic
a heart as black as coal

I see a ship coming up
between the navigation walls
following the scar scoured
by the last glaciation
here once was ice

a man on deck waves
to a mother and child
standing on the edge
of the granite wharf
and five hundred miles away
in a ventilated room
masked and sanitised
the leaders of the world
calculate the least
effort needed to give
that child a future
at two and a half degrees



December Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: Solstice by William Wall



On the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID19


we are drifting
toward the shortest day
down streets crowded
by nightmare
we hide our faces
wash our hands
crying unclean unclean
first light assembles
what we hold to be facts
and daylight sustains
but in the uncertainty
of what was rush hour
on the southern ring road
everything dissolves again

when will it end
in dust we draw the sine
of solstice and equinox
and time passes
after a certain definition
each day shorter than the last
the evening bill of mortality
marks the running out of light
if not for me or you
at least for faith and hope
over the city seagulls loiter
like disillusioned angels
caught in the last light
they believe
better days are coming
but not soon enough


January Poem:


Irish Examiner Listen: Two Elegies by William Wall


Two Elegies


i Elegy in Winter

In memory of Thomas Kinsella


always in winter
or so it seems
another December
and there before you
is a low dark coast

at Roches Point
the ghost of an ocean
vanishing into rain
as close as we’ll get
to saying goodbye

fair Ellinor awaits
at your landfall
there is fever now
that eats everything
you said it yourself

out of a brooding sky
the savage birds
the shadow eaters
and the winding light
your finisterre


ii Cara diva

In memory of Cara O’Sullivan


Christmas morning
a lifelong atheist
driving his mother-in-law
to hear Cara sing O Holy Night
the voice of the sky itself

a blackbird
silvering a still dawning
her song inhabits the air

in the dark of winter
nell’ora del dolore
a polar frost settling
the wind from Greenland
whistling down the ages

lightly come or lightly go
you tell me
as though we have a choice

late at night I drive
through the empty city
even the river is listening
Cara diva we miss you
this Christmas more than others
the silence is hard




Submit to Southword

Poetry 1st Dec - 28th Feb
Fiction 1st Jan - 31 Mar




2021 Publications

Liz Houchin

New Irish Voices no. 6




Southword 41

November 2021




Aneas 2

November 2021




Southword 40

Includes O'Faoláin Prize stories
& O'Donoghue Prize poems




Felicity Sheehy

Fool for Poetry Winner




Vicky Morris

Fool for Poetry Winner




Queer Love

Fiction anthology




YouTube Videos





O'Faoláin Short Story
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O'Donoghue Poetry
Prize Reading Playlist




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