Carrickmore student wins prestigious poetry award

Stephen McCrystal pictured with his English teacher Claire O'Hanlon
Stephen McCrystal pictured with his English teacher Claire O'Hanlon

A COUNTY Tyrone student who penned an autobiographical poem about his battle with a spine disorder has won a prestigious award.

Stephen McCrystal, a year 14 student in Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore, topped the senior category of the All-Ireland Patrick Kavanagh poetry writing competition.

Stephen’s poem ‘Acting’ impressed the judges at the County Monagahan event held just two weeks ago in poet Patrick Kavanagh’s home town of Inniskeen. But what the adjudication panel did not know was that the sixth former’s poem was autobiographical, combining his love for the theatre stage and his experience of surgical theatres in his battle against scoliosis of the spine.

Stephen has performed in a number of local plays including Declan Forde’s adaptation of ‘We do it for love’. His condition has seen him undergo three serious operations in the last two years.

At the awarding ceremony judges not only hailed the sustained metaphor of the poem, where Stephen compares the theatre stage and the operating theatre as a brave move, but the chief adjudicator remarked upon how “moving, well crafted and intelligent” his poem was.

Stephen’s award winning poem by Stephen is printed below.


By Stephen McCrystal


Wheeled into theatre,

Not a stage, but still the star of the show,

No monologue. No audition piece required.

Who cast me as the lead?

Who chose the storyline?

Falling through the trap door

Screaming I don’t want this anymore


Think of the happy things, they said,

As tears ran down my face

Lights shoot on. Blinding. Merciless.

So the adjudicators wouldn’t feel so guilty.

No auditorium. Staff ushering the crowd out.

You can’t go any further.


A pitch black stage for nine, countless hours.

Critics desperate to tear me apart.

No turning back now.

They want a performance.

Waking up, unprepared,

Improvising the scene.

As the plot thickens,

I can’t help but wonder,

Was it really worth it?