Jean O'Brien has won the Arvon

International Poetry Award.

She is only the second Irish winner of the Arvon Prize since it was set up by Ted Hughes in 1980, and the first competition was judged by Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Philip Larkin, the winner that year was Andrew Motion who went on to become a Poet Laureate himself. This year's judging panel was chaired by the current Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, accompanied by Elaine Feinstein and Sudeep Sen.

The award which is one of the largest for a single poem carries an award of £7,500, which O'Brien was awarded for her poem 'Merman' , the poem is a modern take on a mythological story of Glaucus a fisherman who became a merman by eating a magical herb, and who was rejected in love by the beautiful Scylla.

Copyright of this poem remains with the Arvon Foundation and is published in full in their anthology of winners which may be obtained from their website.

here is a short extract:


Fiona Sampson writing in the Irish Times said of O'Brien's poetry..."this is effortless writing, graceful and exact as any pirouette in its insight".

Fred Johnson described her chapbook REACH as..."lively, varied and very readable..."

Jean O’Brien with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy at the Arvon International Poetry Award presentation in London



of the 2010




"...I took the bait and when I caught him,

we stumbled, he landed me and pinned me down,

I looked, held his eyes, it was early the rising sun

was flooding them with hooks of golden light. I said No..."

Jean reads her Arvon Poetry Award-winning poem ‘Merman’

Writing in the Irish Times, Paul Perry said of her new collection Lovely Legs..."In a book with such a breezy title, bright cover and light tone throughout, there's a much more serious and complex undercurrent at work."

Listen to a 
Podcast of Jean reading in a Palm Sunday edition of RTE’s ‘Sunday Miscellany’

'Merman' (Salmon Publishing)

Is available from the Salmon website:

good bookshops and Amazon