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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
young writers

The Irish Read: Four young writers share their poetry

Enjoy new work by young Irish authors, excerpted from the Paper Lanterns journal, this Sunday morning.

THE IRISH LITERARY scene has long been a source of national pride, but it’s in particularly rude health at the moment. Yet with so many books to catch up on, it can be easy to lose track of what’s out there.

Enter The Irish Read, where we feature an extract from a piece of work by an Irish or Ireland-based author.

The taster from a novel, poem, essay or short story should spur you on to find out more about the writer and their work.

This week, we have a selection of poems by four young writers, which were kindly given to us by the Paper Lanterns journal. Read on to find out more about them and the journal itself.  

The publication

“Acting as a platform to promote the voices of young people in Ireland and across the world, Paper Lanterns Teen and YA Literary Journal provides new and exciting content for a teen and young adult audience. It is also perfect for enthusiasts of teen and YA literature; from teachers and librarians, to parents and youth workers.

“Paper Lanterns publishes work by and for teenagers, as well as older YA lovers. The journal is divided into three sections; creative writing and art, features, and book reviews, with at least half of contributors to be under the age of 19. Thanks to the support of the Arts Council, Paper Lanterns is able to bring you 72 pages of content in the printed journal every quarter.

“The features, art and photography sections are open all year, and the creative writing submissions open 4 times a year. You can find out more here or follow us on social media.”

The poets

Abby Cleaver is an 18-year-old poet from Ireland, currently studying English Literature and Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin.

18-year-old Erica Kavanagh, from Dublin, first developed her poetry and stories in secondary school when she joined a writers’ group.

Natasha Manganaro is 18. In September she will be studying Creative Writing and Drama at Bath Spa University. Natasha is from Northern Ireland and is half Italian. She adores incorporating activism into her writing.

The poet and Corkonian Emma Muldoon-Ryan loves writing poetry and growing plants. You can find her on Instagram @poetryemr.

The writing

PastedImage-77169 Paper Lanterns Paper Lanterns

All of these poems are taken from Paper Lanterns Issue 5.

  • Broken Clay by Abby Cleaver, 18

We grew apart in painful and unnecessary struggle,
Tangled tree roots trying to rip themselves apart,
Our routines intertwined like tangled hair,
Attempts to untie the knots of us
Were only frustrating ways of tying us closer
And hurting both of our heads.

We outgrew each other furiously
In uncoordinated ways,
An oak tree growing in a flowerpot,
The cracks grew bigger every wrong look or word,
The pot shattered — again and again and again —
Until we were left stumbling blind over broken pieces
And broken promises.

We separated as easily as two opposite magnets
I was pulled back to you every single time
Two birds trying to fly out of a hurricane
We settled in the eye of the storm
And tried to ignore the mess around us
The longer we stayed the more comfortable we became
Until the winds picked up again.

We were so mismatched then
When we finally sliced us down the centre
You took parts of me and I did the same
And we were unbalanced and unsure
Stumbling now we had to relearn to walk on our own
Excited and confused because somehow the world
Looks so much bigger when you’re looking at it by yourself.
And the “us” was gone,
And it was only me
The silence left me room to think for myself
And your empty space left me room, to breathe.

  • Boxes by Natasha Manganaro, 18

Feeling seen is a difficult thing
Especially when you’re shoved into so many boxes.
Tight, tiny, claustrophobic boxes,
All packaged and labelled shut.
Suffocating me,
Trying to squash
All living uniqueness out of me.
But I don’t let it.
I grow and crack and smash the box open,
Until it no longer serves its function
At keeping me trapped
In its role of compression.
I open my eyes
And witness a multitude of boxes expanding,
Then disintegrating.
All rules and stereotypes ripped to shreds,
Life bursting through.
Some take longer than others,
Some merely shake for a time
Before any signs of escape,
However, slowly but surely,
Progress is being made,
Outside of these little boxes.

  • Girl on the Bench by Erica Kavanagh, 18

She sits on the bench. Outside. Alone.
I watch her from the classroom window.

Our teacher discusses a poem with us
Of a poet lost in darkness and despair.
“Universal to all,” the teacher says.

“It certainly is,” I think,
As I sit there feeling the way the poet did.

Does the girl on the bench feel the same?
I ponder this as I gaze at her,
Noting her flickering, hazy image.

I feel this connection to her
An eerie, strange, distorted feeling.

Suddenly she looks up, meets my gaze.
She is nervous, a green book in her lap.

She seems as though she has a thousand things,
On her mind and one thing weighs heavier than the rest.

I look at the green book lying on my table
Then back out the window.

I’m looking at myself.

  • Pomegranate by Emma Muldoon-Ryan, 18

Tears silently pool
At fingertips floating above
Greying flower beds Ceres lies upon,

For the day
she will kiss her daughter’s head
Once more,
With each touch of her heal reigns summer,
Springing, blooming,
Illuminating the world
In spite of Hades,

Casts a spiteful gaze downwards,
Sweetly cutting through the ground to reach his ear
“I’ve got her now.”

Birdsong will whisper through trees,
Like soft winds
Of spring that follow deathly cold evenings.
Branches will bough to the leaf,
And everything she will touch will live

And when it is time for Persephone to descend the stairs,
To once more crown herself Queen,
Goddess of the Underworld,
Wife to Death,

His scythe slices Ceres’ heart each two quarters
And with the leaves littering an earthen camouflage,
She will let the cold freeze the scar,
She has faith in the forthcoming sun.

Even in coldness,
In hollow, hurting grief
Where her heart, repulsed by Hellish flame,
Resides in the underworld

Where water steams,
Powering greyed, ashen burdens
To cloud her mind

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