The 9th Ó Bhéal Five Words International Poetry Competition

Five Words Poetry Competition

October 26th – November 2nd 2021
abandon      mint     bridge     night     frame


Competition Overview

The 2021/2022 (9th) competition runs for 41 weeks.

Every Tuesday at midday (UTC) from 13th April 2021 – 25th January 2022, five words will be posted on this competition page. Entrants have one week to compose and submit one or more poems which include all five words given for that week.


A prize of 750 euros will be awarded to the winner, plus 500 euros for second place and 250 euros for third place. These three, if available will be invited to read at Ó Bhéal’s fifteenth anniversary event, on Monday the 11th of April 2022. Should we be able to host a physical event at that time, then an additional travel fee of 100 euro plus B&B accommodation will be provided for this. The overall winner also receives a physical award, hand-crafted by acclaimed glass artist (and poet) Michael Ray.

The shortlisted poems and winning entry will also be published in Five Words Vol XV – the next annual anthology of five word poems, to be launched at the same event. A shortlist of twelve poems including the overall winner will be announced by the first week of March 2022.

The judge for 2021/22 is Maurice Riordan.

The five words offered each week for the 9th Five Words competition (2021-22) are sourced from Ó Bhéal’s ninth year of live Monday evening Five Word Challenges (held during 2015-16). A small, varied selection of additional words are also used due to deletion of duplicates, colloquialisms, etc.

Submission Guidelines

Download your submission form here.

Entry is open to all countries. Poems cannot exceed 50 lines in length (including line breaks), and must include all five words listed for the week.

A modicum of poetic license is acceptable. As long as the original spelling is intact, you’re welcome to extend, pluralise or even split any word to appear across two adjacent words, even if its original meaning becomes altered.

Poems should be newly written, during this 7-day period. There is no limit to volume of entries, although each payment and submission should be made separately.

NB** Entrants should be at least 18 years of age at the date of submission.

Entries to be sent no later than 12pm on the relevant Tuesday.

Submissions carry a 5 euro entrance fee.

Payment should be made via this paypal button before continuing.

Once payment is made, please copy your poem into the completed submission form (one poem per form), and email to

fivewords [at]

or by post (postmarked by Tuesday at latest) to:

Ó Bhéal
Five Words Poetry Competition
c/o Civic Trust House
50 Popes Quay

For postal entries, please print out and complete the submission form, and post together with your attached poem (on which nothing other than the title and poem appear).

Email entries should only be sent via the above email address, not via the submissions [at] obheal [dot] ie email link on the home page, which is only for non-competition entries, written and performed live during each Monday evening event from words derived randomly by the audience.

Best of Luck!

Five Words Poetry Competition

Five Words Anthology PDFs

Five Words Vol VII (April 2013 – April 2014)

Five Words Vol VIII (April 2014 – April 2015)

Five Words Vol IX (April 2015 – April 2016)

Five Words Vol X (April 2016 – April 2017)

Five Words Vol XI (April 2017 – April 2018)

Five Words Vol XII (April 2018 – April 2019)

Five Words Vol XIII (April 2019 – March 2020)

Five Words Vol XIV (April 2020 – March 2021)

8th Five Words Competition Results, announced 28th February 2021

Judge: Grace Wells

Shortlist & Winners

A Rook Longs For A Badger by   Sinéad McClure (Ireland) 1st Place
The Chagallisation of Joan  by   Jill Munro (England) 2nd Place
what you meant when you
promised we’d go to the
by   Laura Theis (UK) 3rd Place
Held Back  by   Sinéad McClure (Ireland)
Both Ends by   Tamara Miles (USA)
In His Jacket Pocket  by   Jane Salmons (England)
Crossing   by   Eóin Condon (Ireland)
Lightfastness  by   David Evans (Jersey)
Girl Missing by   Jane Salmons (England)
Else  by   Tamara Miles (USA)
Inferred and Implied  by   Glen Wilson (Northern Ireland)
Night Flight  by   Sarah Salway (UK)

2021 Winner Sinéad McClure

Comments from Grace Wells

1st Place

A rook longs for a badger by Sinéad McClure

“From the nearly 800 entries, I created a long-list of about 100 poems. All fine pieces. All submitted within a week of their crafting. I wanted poems which gave no hint of their genesis, no glimmer of the short time-frame they were conceived in, or of the five words that prompted them. Poems that really were poetry. About fifty entries fitted that description. They all deserved to be shortlisted. Many could have won. But I chose ‘A Rook longs for a badger’ because the poem so neatly, so lyrically addresses my politics. They are the only politics I believe we need to be exploring now. It is ever shocking to me how human-centric we are. How little nature exists in our collective thinking—even the thinking of poets. For years she’s been a sideline in the competitions I’ve judged; so few writers have given her even a glimmer of regard. Here’s a poet who isn’t just writing about nature, she’s thinking as the creatures do. This type of thinking is the moral task of our times. But we won’t get there by being lectured; we need to be seduced. How beautifully A rook longs for a badger calls come hither.”

2nd Place

The Chagallisation of Joan by Jill Munro

“Many quirky delights returned me over and again to The Chagallisation of Joan. Many of its lines don’t quite make sense in the same way that Chagall’s images reveal an other, altered reality, which doesn’t quite make sense, but surely improves our lives. The poem leaves me standing before a stained-glass image, taken into its vibrancy to become ‘part of this glassy patchwork, to be awash in a multi-coloured quilt’. I was reminded of once standing in St Carthage’s Cathedral in Lismore, looking up at the Burne-Jones window-glass, and being similarly transformed. The liminal metamorphosis that artworks can engender is beautifully, memorably captured here.

3rd Place

what you meant when you promised we’d go to the circus by Laura Theis

“I always feel a judge’s final winners are ultimately only personal choice. Any of the final twenty poems in my shortlist were well enough crafted to win the competition. But the ones I picked were the poems that resonated most with me. How well I recognize the territory of disappointed romance in what you meant when you promised we’d go to the circus. But what I love is the unique way this universal experience is portrayed. Failed love tends to look the same in poems, but this meander through circus metaphor addresses the pain of heartbreak, and provides leaps of imagination which transform the hurt and gild it with significance.

For free access to the e-book version of this volume, click the book image cover below:


7th Five Words Competition Results, announced 29th February 2020

Judges: Afric McGlinchey and Michael Ray


Betty Fox is Skipping by   Derek Sellen (England) winner
Evolution  by   Cliona O’Connell (Ireland) highly commended
Automaton by   Rosemary Norman (England) highly commended
Father’s Day  by   Janice Bethany (USA)
Wise and Luminous  by   Ada Volynska (Ukraine)
Smoke Flares, Pyro Prayers by   Lucy Holme (Ireland)
The Boat Crane by   Sharon Phillips (England)
6am. River. Girl.   by   Fiona Ritchie Walker (England/Scotland)
To Paint Death as The
Mountain Pine Beetle
by   Michele Ring (France)
Bottled Lines,
Excellent Spirits
by   Ada Volynska (Ukraine)
A Small Bee Came to
Rest Upon My Hand
by   Margaret McCarthy (Ireland)
La Rue des Touettes  by   David W Evans (Jersey)


6th Five Words Competition Results, announced 3rd March 2019

Judges: Bernadette McCarthy and Matthew Geden


Monolith by Mary Anne Smith (England) winner
The Idea of Snow by by Jenny Pollak (Australia) highly commended
My grandmother goes
to the temple
by Sophia Li (USA) highly commended
The Lyric Impulse by Steve Xerri (England) highly commended
Omens by Joan Gooding (England)
Detachment by Geraldine McCarthy (Ireland)
Peckham Flaneur by Giles Constable (England)
La Llorona /
Weeping Woman
by Derek Sellen (England)
What you woke to by Steve Xerri (England)
Karst Landscape by Gillian Laker (England)
Vardo by Jill Munro (England)
Nexus by Tamara Miles (USA)


5th Five Words Competition Results, announced 7th March 2018

Judges: Kathy D’Arcy and Rab Urquhart


Ptarmigan by Jill Munro (England) winner
Among Starlings by Margaret McCarthy (Ireland) highly commended
A Dream of my Dead Grandmother
in the Modern Art Museum by Derek Sellen (England) highly commended
Disciplining the Modern Satyr by Mary-Jane Holmes (England)
Nothing To See by Giles Constable (England)
How We Are by Ted O’Regan (Ireland)
Writing for the Ó Bhéal
Open-Mic by Jim Crickard (Ireland)
Amber by Ted O’Regan (Ireland)
Reindeer Moss by Tamara Miles (U.S.A.)
Every Sunday Ever by Kirsten Irving (England)
Centenary by Ted O’Regan (Ireland)
My Mother’s Birthplace by Tamara Miles (U.S.A.)


4th Five Words Competition Results, announced 5th March 2017

Judges: Afric McGlinchey and John W. Sexton


Identifications by John Baylis Post (Ireland) winner
Milk by Siobhan Campbell (Ireland) highly commended
The Safety by Tamara Miles (U.S.A.) highly commended
Eve by Siobhan Campbell (Ireland)
LOVELOCKS by Jane Boxall (U.S.A.)
Only Connected by Margaret McCarthy (Ireland)
Perspective by Ted O’Regan (Ireland)
THE ZOMBIE-MAKER by Derek Sellen (England)
Minor Deities by Tamara Miles (U.S.A.)
A fickle god by Margaret McCarthy (Ireland)
STITCHES by Jane Boxall (U.S.A.)
The Buttonhole by John D. Kelly (Northern Ireland)

Click here to view a pdf of Five Words Vol X


3rd Five Words Competition Results, announced 28th February 2016

Judges: Marie Coveney and Colm Scully


The Dancehall on the Summit of the Bloodiest Head of the Twenty Six Headed Giant by John W. Sexton (Ireland) winner
Tuesday on a Fulcrum by Beth Somerford (England) highly commended
Commuter by Janet Lees (England) highly commended
The Night of the Nightjar by Mary Anne Smith (England)
Tribes by Pam Szadowski (England)
An awful hush by Jenny Pollak (Australia)
Chinese Zodiac:
Year of the Fire Monkey
by Tamara Miles (formerly Gantt) (U.S.A.)
An unread novella in a
charity shop
by Janet Lees (England)
Igloo by Shirley Bell (England)
Ragwort by Derek Sellen (England)
A Coin in the Soft Machine by John W.Sexton (Ireland)
Sky, an Open Window by Tamara Miles (formerly Gantt) (U.S.A.)

Click here to view a pdf of Five Words Vol IX


2nd Five Words Competition Results, announced 1st March 2015

Judges: Billy Ramsell and Jennifer Matthews


Survivor by Derek Sellen (England) winner
Sonnet in B Major by Afric McGlinchey (Ireland) highly commended
Home Cooking by Adannaya Igwe (UK) highly commended
Saved by Liz Smith (England)
Breakfast by Sheena Blackhall (Scotland)
At the Hair Clinic by Derek Sellen (England)
The Snooze Button by Margaret Mc Carthy (Ireland)
The Sectioning by Bernadette McCarthy (Ireland)
I Coin a Line by Mary Fahy (Ireland)
The Stereogram by Anthony Scott (England)
Black Mountain Rebel by Tess Sheridan Adams (Ireland)
False North by John W. Sexton (Ireland)

Click here to view a pdf of Five Words Vol VIII


1st Five Words Competition Results, announced 1st March 2014

Judges: Cal Doyle and Paul Casey


Old Maps and Books by Don Nixon (England)
Fado in a Lisbon Bar by Don Nixon (England) winner
Gipsy Girl by Eithne Reynolds (Ireland)
The Magician’s Hat by Linda Mills (USA)
Matinée Idol by Richard Hawtree (Ireland)
Postcard by Joy Howard (England)
A boy of six thousand parts by Janet Lees (England) highly commended
Palimpsest by Janet Lees (England)
Frozen moment by Afric McGlinchey (Ireland) highly commended
Life on Mars by Colm Scully (Ireland)
The Choice by Tom Dredge (Ireland)
At the Banquet by Máire Wren (Ireland)

Click here to view a pdf of Five Words Vol VII


by glass artist
Michael Ray

Inaugural competition winner Don Nixon (R.I.P. 2014), with glass artist (and poet) Michael Ray