Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-0-1

Fish Anthology 2017 –

Neel Mukherjee ~ Short Story
Vanessa Gebbie ~ Short Memoir
Chris Stewart ~ Flash Fiction
Jo Shapcott ~ Poetry

Read an excerpt from winning short story – Dead Souls by Sean Lusk

Read winning flash story Lost by Lindsay Fisher

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – Pay Attention by Paul McGranaghan

Read winning poem Paris, 13 November 2015 by Róisín Kelly



by Clem Cairns

In an age of soundbites and ‘fake news’, where fame and fortune can be attained not by doing but simply by being, the discipline and incentive needed to acquire a skill is undervalued. In spite of this, literature is thriving. Why is it that, at a time when the trivial takes precedent over the profound, there is no shortage of extraordinary talent and innovative forms of expression? Perhaps it is because, as Leonard Cohen put it, “Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore,” and writers explore reality by writing. As Flannery O’Connor observed, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Conspiracy theories and ‘alternative facts’ abound. Today’s poets and writers are more challenged than ever to tell their stories, whether fact or fiction, in a way that our minds and hearts can grasp; to touch a place in us that the daily narrative skims over, to hold the lens over things familiar and unfamiliar and to use language in a way that will captivate.

Thank you to those who put pen to paper and entered the Fish competitions. There were many entries that enthralled and entertained and called out to be included but they did not make it into the collection this year. They set the bar high. Judges Neel Mukherjee, Vanessa Gebbie, Chris Stewart and Jo Shapcott had the hard task of choosing out of the stories and poems that reached that bar. Huge thanks to them for their big hearts (their comments on their choices are on the Fish website) and for the time and thought they put into a process that is dedicated to promoting and nurturing writers.



Introductory Note / Acknowledgements






Dead Souls


Sean Lusk

Black Toe


Bron Burgess



Philippa Holloway

What Green Tastes Of


Lindsay Fisher

Schoolgirl Crush


Ruth Lacey

Debt Collector


Neil Bristow



Miriam Moss

Safe from Harm


Rick Williams

This was Rapture


David Knight-Croft

In the Dark


Sam Sanders

The Adonis Effect


Roz DeKett







Lindsay Fisher



Peter Jordan



Emma Whitehall



Andrew Peters

Slapped Down


Isobel Hourigan

Search for Your Son


Shubha Venugopal



Helen Bralesford

Escape Velocity


Christina Eagles



Jonathan Korowicz

The Circle of Oaks


Tony Curtis




Pay Attention


Paul McGranaghan

The Master


Tom Finnigan

Sand on the Mountain


Mary Griese

Dear Eilis


Therese Ryan

Sound of Stone


Chris Mulvey



Martin Cromie

What Remains


Barbara Fried

Elbow Grease


John Killeen

New York City, 1981


Aneko Campbell

Poland, April 2015 – A Pilgrimage


Tod Benjamin





Paris, 13 November 2015


Róisín Kelly

Yesterday Clouds


Roderic Vincent

Throw Me Down The Key


Roderic Vincent

Add to Dictionary


Peter Sirr

Forty Winters


Harry Bauld

A Short Exposure


Anthony Lawrence



Judith Taylor



Suzanne Cleary

The Station Fire


Harriet David

The Catch


Catherine Ormell

Preface to an Autoimmune Response


Aídah Gil







Dead Souls

by Sean Lusk

It was at the Tolstoy house where we met. Rustling through the rooms I was conscious of the plastic bags covering my shoes. These were less a device to preserve the Tolstoy family’s carpets, which must have worn away long ago, and more a winter requirement to prevent the treading about of snow. My progress through the house was therefore accompanied by a noise which I found unaccountably embarrassing. Though I could see no other visitors, an amplified voice filled every space. A symposium was underway, a lecture on some aspect of Tolstoy’s life or writing, I assumed. Approaching the place from which the voice came I found myself in a large room where row after row of middle-aged Russians listened with solemn attention to a lecture being given by a professor. Her steely hair, pinned and buttressed into a small tower, tilted first one way and then the next as she spoke, as if she were a chess piece on an uneven board. None of them, I noticed, had plastic bags over their shoes.

Despite the walls lined with pictures, the sculptures of the author at work, despite his books, despite even the glass case with the ruby ring he had given Countess Sophia for transcribing and editing Anna Karenina, Leo was not there, and I found it hard to believe he ever had been. He had not liked his house in the city, had lived there on sufferance, and perhaps this accounted for his vacant spirit. I couldn’t read many of the Russian names below the photographs. After a day of museums the Cyrillic had worn me down. In the corner of each room a single panel about the size of a chopping board stood on a stand, carrying an explanation in English for what the room contained. I found myself competing for it with a woman in her late thirties. “I’m sorry, go ahead,” I said, gesturing towards the stand.

She took the board and smiled. She had short red hair and a cheerful confidence, as if she had known that the board was hers all along.

“Where are you from?” I asked.


We went from room to room, once or twice taking an interest in the same object. After a while, exhausted by incomprehension and the rustling of my own feet I went down into the basement to collect my coat and scarf from the sombre cloakroom lady. The street was cold but welcoming. Turning I saw that the German woman was behind me, that she must have left just a moment after me. I considered slowing down, starting a conversation, even wondered if that was what she wanted. I glanced back once more and this time caught her eye, yet for some reason my recently liberated feet quickened their pace along Prechistenka Street in the direction of the Pushkin Museum.

The next day I found that I had the Gogol house to myself. Again, not a word of English was spoken, but here the burly women who guarded the door, looked after the coats and who dispensed tickets seemed eager to talk to me, heedless of my inability to understand anything they said. Once I had put plastic bags over my shoes I was ushered enthusiastically into the first of Gogol’s rooms, a vestibule where his or some other overcoat, perhaps Akaky Akakievich’s, hung. If it was poor Akakievich’s then it was a fiction, a coat that he had saved-up for so fervently that it had cost him his life. I reached out and brushed my hand across the wool, thinking how much less real it was than the imagined cloth. The warden touched my arm and spoke to me intently, her Russian words hovering in the air, waiting to be understood. She encouraged me onwards, into Gogol’s parlour, inviting me to sit on his chair. She pressed a switch and the lights dimmed. A sound of distant bells filtered into the room, and flames appeared to dance in the fireplace.




by Lindsay Fisher


She presses her face against the glass, as if it is possible, as if she could find a way through and not be in this world but in the world on the other side, everything polished and shiny and new there.

The man in the shop scowls at her and waves his hand towards her, as a man who would frighten chickens or cats from his garden, and he hisses at her through his teeth. All the men the same.

Her name’s Lynnell, and she is a tale of loss. Lost her would-have-been-husband to the war, years back, a black-edged letter she keeps tucked in beside her heart, paper soft as cloth and all the words fainter than whispers. A letter to tell her he was lost, but not before she found herself with a child growing inside her. Lost the child when it was born; taken from her rather than lost.

Lynnell lost her father and mother, too, all in the one year, the same year, except she knows where they sleep for the place is marked with a stone.

And lost her wits about the same time. Lost them and does not miss them now they are gone, for there’s a sort of freedom in everything these days; she moves from shop window to shop window, peering in through the plate glass, and she does not see the men on the other side with their black brows knitted and their shoo-away hands waving. And Lynnell looks for a hopeful way through the glass, for if only she could step through to the other side, then she might find everything she has lost waiting for her, that’s what she thinks – and everything there is polished and shiny and new if ever she did.



Pay Attention

Paul McGranaghan


Come and see.

Here is Spring Hill with its weirs of steps and tiers of streets. Their kerbs are green, white, and orange; yet this is not, nor ever has been, the Republic of Ireland. The sun is a spark in the clouds. See how the wind blows on it? Watch it. Watch it wax to a brilliant light. Look: Dandelions flare where they erupt from fissures in the paving. The bright buttons of daisies glitter across the common. We have been waiting for this. Can you see the removal van in the car park above our street? Can you see it gleaming?

Now look. The sunlight pushes away the rain and the workmen heave, shouldering the last of our furniture through the narrow door and up the wet steps to the van. That’s me, there. Can you see? There. That’s me, and my friends, and we’re following them. We want to go in the back of the van, sitting on the settee, but we aren’t allowed. It’s dangerous, they say; something might fall on us. I think of the bookcase with its glass panels and green and gold volumes of Charles Dickens toppling on top of me. Besides, my friends are staying behind and I am going to begin life as an outsider on the far side of town.

It is 1984. I am seven years of age.




Paris, 13 November 2015

 by Róisín Kelly

In the end, it’s like going to bed as usual

except we lie down side by side in the street

and the night sky is our ceiling, and blood

drifts away from us between cobblestones

like rose petals torn up and scattered.


I don’t mind that the last thing I’ll see

is a café window’s red-and-blue OPEN sign,

and a neon coffee cup with three white lines

that symbolise rising steam.


Or the lights in your eyes going out—

as if someone turned off the bedside lamp

in your mind—except your eyes are still opening

and opening, and I am frightened.


What were the last things they saw, those eyes?

A cathedral’s rose window, or a view

from a tower: grey buildings like soft birds

nestling to the horizon.


My hair on my back as I walked before you

down a flight of stone steps on a hill.

My face turned towards yours, moments ago.


 There’s a sound like fireworks, but the stars

are as colourless as the diamond rings

laid out in the jeweller’s window

that we stood shyly in front of last night.

Our mouths and blood were ringing with wine,

but what we dared to think went unspoken

and now it always will.


That sound—it’s like the sky tearing apart,

as loud as the gig where we had our first kiss.

It was a metal band in a tiny hot room

above a bar in our home city.


The musicians rolled their eyes and screamed

do you want more? The drummer played naked

and kept throwing his sticks in the air,

catching them perfectly every time.


The singer hated the bright spotlight on him

and we cheered when he wrenched it down.

How we craved the plunge into darkness,

the careless unscrewing of the moon.



Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2023

Fish Anthology 2023

… a showcase of disquiet, tension, subversion and surprise …
so many skilled pieces … gem-like, compressed and glinting, little worlds in entirety that refracted life and ideas … What a joy!
– Sarah Hall

… memoirs pinpointing precise
feelings of loss and longing and desire.
– Sean Lusk

What a pleasure to watch these poets’ minds at work, guiding us this way and that.
– Billy Collins


Fish Anthology 2022

‘… delightful, lively send-up … A vivid imagination is at play here, and a fine frenzy is the result.’ – Billy Collins
‘… laying frames of scenic detail to compose a lyric collage … enticing … resonates compellingly. … explosive off-screen drama arises through subtly-selected detail. Sharp, clever, economical, tongue-in-cheek.’ – Tracey Slaughter

Fish Anthology 2021

Fish Anthology 2021

Brave stories of danger and heart and sincerity.
Some risk everything outright, some are desperately quiet, but their intensity lies in what is unsaid and off the page.
These are brilliant pieces from bright, new voices.
A thrill to read.
~ Emily Ruskovich

Fish Anthology 2020

Fish Anthology 2020

I could see great stretches of imagination. I saw experimentation. I saw novelty with voice and style. I saw sentences that embraced both meaning and music. ~ Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2019

These glorious pieces have spun across the globe – pit-stopping in Japan, the Aussie outback, Vancouver, Paris, Amsterdam and our own Hibernian shores – traversing times past, present and imagined future as deftly as they mine the secret tunnels of the human heart. Enjoy the cavalcade. – Mia Gallagher

Fish Anthology 2019

Fish Anthology 2018

The standard is high, in terms of the emotional impact these writers managed to wring from just a few pages. – Billy O’Callaghan

Loop-de-loopy, fizz, and dazzle … unique and compelling—compressed, expansive, and surprising. – Sherrie Flick

Every page oozes with a sense of place and time. – Marti Leimbach

Energetic, dense with detail … engages us in the act of seeing, reminds us that attention is itself a form of praise. – Ellen Bass

Fish Anthology 2017

Fish Anthology 2017

Dead Souls has the magic surplus of meaning that characterises fine examples of the form – Neel Mukherjee
I was looking for terrific writing of course – something Fish attracts in spades, and I was richly rewarded right across the spectrum – Vanessa Gebbie
Really excellent – skilfully woven – Chris Stewart
Remarkable – Jo Shapcott


Fish Anthology 2016

The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.

Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco

Sunrise Sunset

€12  (incl. p&p)   Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Read Irish Times review by Claire Looby Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination.  An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, […]

Fish Anthology 2015

Fish Anthology 2015

How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.

Fish Anthology 2014

Fish Anthology 2014

What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
Ruth Padel

I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
Claire Kilroy

Fish Anthology 2013

Fish Anthology 2013

The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.


Fish Anthology 2012

A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.


Fish Anthology 2011

Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart


Fish Anthology 2010

The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.


Fish Anthology 2009 – Ten Pint Ted

I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCann


Fish Anthology 2008 – Harlem River Blues

The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo Gebler


Fish Anthology 2007

I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael Collins


Fish Anthology 2006 – Grandmother, Girl, Wolf and Other Stories

These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane Fountas


All the King’s Horses – Anthology of Historical Short Stories

Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber


Fish Anthology 2005 – The Mountains of Mars and Other Stories

Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank Delaney


Fish Anthology 2004 – Spoonface and Other Stories

From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo Hamilton


Feathers & Cigarettes

In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe


Franklin’s Grace

It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher Hope


Asylum 1928

There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’Riodan


Five O’Clock Shadow

I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology ­ these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms ­ the short story. – Clem Cairns.


From the Bering Strait

Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskey


Scrap Magic

The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn Sweeney


Dog Day

Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’Connor


The Stranger

The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy Doyle


The Fish Garden

This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.


12 Miles Out – a novel by Nick Wright

12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.


Altergeist – a novel by Tim Booth

You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.


Small City Blues numbers 1 to 51 – a novel by Martin Kelleher

A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.


The Woman Who Swallowed the Book of Kells – Collection of Short Stories by Ian Wild

Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?


News & Articles

Fish Anthology 2024

Fish Anthology 2024 LAUNCH

11th June 2024
Monday 15th July at 6:30 Marino (Old Methodist) Church Bantry, West Cork, Ireland FREE ENTRY   The Launch of the Fish Anthology 2024 is being held in this charming old methodist church. Many of the authors published in the Anthology will be reading from their work, so come along to get a sample of  the […]

Poetry Prize 2024: Results

15th May 2024
  Winners Short-list Long-list     Here are the winners of the Fish Poetry Prize 2024, selected by Billy Collins, to be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. Below you will find short biographies of the winners and the Long and Short Lists. From all of us at Fish we congratulate the poets whose poems […]

Short Story Prize 2023/24: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, congratulations to all of you who made the long and the short-lists.  Apologies for the delay in this announcement. The 10 winners will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland – […]

Flash Fiction Prize 2024: RESULTS

10th April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   From all of us at Fish, thank you for entering your flashes. Congratulations to the writers who  were short or long-listed, and in particular to the 11 winners whose flash stories will be published in the Fish Anthology 2024. The launch will be during the West Cork Literary Festival, Bantry, Ireland […]

Short Memoir Prize 2024: RESULTS

1st April 2024
Winners Short-list Long-list   On behalf of all of us at Fish, we congratulate the 10 winners who’s memoir made it into the Fish Anthology 2024 (due to be launched in July ’24 at the West Cork Literary Festival), and to those writers who made the long and short-lists, well done too.  Thank you to Sean […]

Find us and Follow Us

Fish Publishing, Durrus, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland