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The winner of the 2015 International poetry prize is Patrick Lodge and the Irish winner is Francis Browne. This 2015 Blackwater Poetry Group winner is Iulia Ghergei from Romania.




        Welcome to the friendliest poetry festival in the world


Where else would you find a poetry festival where you can listen to poems being read

by internationally renowned poets from all over the world while you are having your

hair cut, collecting a prescription at your local pharmacy, purchassing a new dress at

your favourite boutique, enjoying meal inone of the town's fine restaurants, lodging

money at your bank, having your hair done, purchassing groceries at your supermarket,

sipping a pint of the black stuff at one of the many festival pubs and while strolling

along the street?


The theme of the Blackwater International Poetry Festival is 'Inclusion' and the committee

strived to do just that. At the innaugural festival in 2012 the youngest reader was 9 years

old and the eldest 92. Poems were read in 7 languages, Irish, Spanish, Friesian, Dutch, 

English, Gronings and French accompanied by translations.


 The festival was dreamed up by Gene Barry, an unstoppable poetry force in Fermoy. 

All the events were free, including workshops by the likes of Matthew Sweeney.  There

were readings from mid-afternoon onwards into the small hours of the morning.  The

theme of the festival was ‘Inclusion’ and I thought Gene carried this off beautifully –

there was an anthology launch from school children in Fermoy one day and the next  

day an anthology launch of the Active Retirement Group.  One day we all went off on

the ‘Poetry Bus’ and went for a tour and a meal in Lismore, and this was for poets and

audience members.    


Kim Moore 




The 2013 festival was officially opened by Professor Pat Cotty and the list of poets

who attend includes Saskia Stehouwer, Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Matthew Sweeney,

Edna Friel, Liam Aungier, Bradley Strahan, Marie O’Halloran, Erin Murphy,

Knute Skinner, Michael Farry, Tsead Bruinja, Michael Corrigan, Kay Kinghammer,

Sharon Frye, Liam Ryan, Silva Merjanian, George Harding, Pauline Fayne, Christopher

Anderson, Erin Murphy, Joe Green, Kitt Fryat. Prof P Crotty, Kevin Griffin, Joe Green,

Eva Green, Ben Johnson, Miceál Kearney and Michael Clay.    



There were four poetry books launched at the 2013 festival by Doghouse Books and

Rebel Poetry inclusing 'Unfinished Business' by the chairman Gene Barry. Rebel

Poetry launched the 2 festival anthologies Inclusion and The Blue Max review. There

were poems from 22 American students attending the John F Kennedy Highschool in

Sacramento, California included in the student anthology. 



In the two short years of the festival poets from France, Holland, India,the USA,

England, Scotland, Canada, and from all over Ireland have read at the many venues

provided by the kind people of Fermoy. The committeed extened the venues to 14

and also held readings at the local library, the beautiful Christchurch, the local

hospital, supermarkets, banks, cloths shops, cafes, restaurants, health foood shops,

pharmacies and barber shops.


"I had the pleasure of attending the Blackwater International Poetry Festival August 1 - 5, 2013 as one of the winners of the international poetry competition.  I cannot say enough positive things about my  experience at the festival. There were readings and workshops at every imaginable type of venue; castles, pubs, hotel conference rooms, retail shops and barber shops. Readings were lively and well attended.


What I appreciated most what the sense of community, I had shopkeepers and customers in line at the post office asking about my poetry and people we'd only met days earlier greeted us on the street with hugs and smiles. I know from my experience as an arts administrator that the economic impact of such events reaches far beyond the scheduled dates. Fermoy and County Cork are definetly on my list of places to visit again, and I have already told others to stop in the area when they travel to ireland.


Erin Murphy 

Associate Professor of English

PennState University





Among the poets reading at the 2014 festival were the festival competition winner Daniel Roy Connelly from Italy, Harry Owen and Mishka Hoosen from South Africa, Hollie Bolster Canada, Michael Clay - Kay Kinghammer - Paul Koniecki -  Mark O'Brien - Johnny Olsen - Gayle Reaves -King, Vic Victory,  Saskia Stehouwer and Tsead Bruinja from Holland and Irish poets Fred Johnston, John Sexton, Michael Corrigan, Eileen Sheehan,  Miceál Kearney, George Harding, Liam Ryan and Alan Halford. 



As winner of the 2014 Blackwater International Poetry Prize,

I was invited to attend the town’s poetry festival from 31 July

– 4 August.  I live in Rome, where I am a writer, theatre

director and academic.  My immediate and enduring reaction

to Fermoy was that I had walked headfirst into a diffuse group

of poets being themselves, ready to share, to give positive

energy, and to get a real buzz from the many opportunities

available to recite. 



As a place to meet and enjoy genuine company, to be

surrounded by lush nature on the outside too, to stack

memories of sight and sound; as a place to find inspiration in

writers from all over the world, I thank you. 


Here poetry and town became one, not that everything came to a stop but not that

it needed to either. We were busy with words, others were busy with appointments;

the victory came in the mingling, the co-existence, the mutual respect. Nothing

else mattered but bonhomie and honest words.  In this, the readings in the town’s

shops were no less a way of life than on any other day.

Prof Daniel Roy Connelly, Italy









I was fortunate to win the Blackwater International Poetry Festival competition this year (2015) and attended the four days of the festival as a guest. It was the most marvellous experience from every point of view. To be immersed in an environment where poetry is the one focus and to share that experience with poets from around the world is an uplifting and quite spiritual event.

The readings in pubs, bars, chemists, butchers, banks, cafes and every other sort of commercial premise available emphasised again what poetry really is - a powerful and unique way of communicating with people which transcends gender, race, nationality and any other false divisions. I have read at several festivals but this one is on its own - billing it as the friendly festival is a great underselling of the warmth of fellow poets, hosts and audiences.

This year the festival extended beyond Fermoy into the towns and villages of the Blackwater river valley and I hope that continues in future. It was a great success and brought in places like Castletownroche which I will always remember for its enthusiasm to embrace the motley band of poets who washed up at its shores but most of all for the launch of the children's anthology, Inclusion. In the hands of these budding poets - the Heaneys and Bolands of the future - poetry is, indeed in safe hands, as it is as long as this marvellous festival thrives. I could go on ad nauseam describing why this is the one poetry festival that will be inked in to my calendar for next year and beyond but, as the great W B Yeats wrote "what can be explained is not poetry" and the Blackwater Festival is definitely poetry.


Patrick Lodge


‘It was an awesome festival! I had the time of my life there’.

                                                                         Iulia Gherghei



The winner of the 2016 Blackwater Poetry Group Competition is Francesca Castaño from Spain.

I am extremely honoured and grateful to the Blackwater Poetry Group Competition 2016 for recognizing my work, mainly because I’m sure that all the other nominees deserved it as much as I did. Thanks so much to the members of the jury for making this dream come true.


Francesca Castaño


The winner of the 2016 Blackwater International Poetry Festival international competition is Ellen Girardeau Kempler.


The committee wish to express our heartfelt congratulations to Ellen. We are looking forward to hosting Ellen and to hearing her read at the festival. Her winning poem will be included in the festival anthology The Blue Max Review.

Thank you also to Tsead Bruinja for selecting such a well deserved winner.

Ellen Girardeau Kempler

"The best part of winning the Blackwater International Poetry Competition is the opportunity for cultural exchange with an international group of writers, in a country that more than any other place in the world, speaks the language of poetry.


The poem chosen by the Tsead Buinja is about my brilliant dad, a theoretical physicist who died last year after 18 months in the Limboland of assisted living. "Birthday Wish" is one of three poems I read at his memorial."


Ellen Girardeau Kempler



The winner of the 2017 Blackwater International Poetry Festival Group competition is Dennis Moriarty

The committee wish to express our heartfelt congratulations to Dennis. We are looking forward to hosting Dennis and to hearing him read at the festival. 

The 2019 Blackwater Poetry Group competition is open until April 24th.

To pay for your entry, please go to the menu above and click on Slideshows and scroll down to Competitions where you can pay via PayPal.

Please click on 'Buy Now' to make your payment for the 2019 Blackwater Poetry Group competition and submit three poems to The cost is €10 for your 3 poems. Please ensure that poems are in a Word Doc.


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