Fish Anthology 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-2-5

Mia Gallagher ~ Short Story
Pamela Painter ~ Flash Fiction
Chrissie Gittins ~ Short Memoir
Billy Collins ~ Poetry

Read an excerpt from winning short story –Wakkanai Station  by Richard Lambert

Read winning flash story – Teavarran  by Louise Swingler

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – Fejira // to cross by Bairbre Flood

Read winning poem Not My Michael Furey by A M Cousins



by Clem Cairns

This anthology contains the winning entries from the Fish Writing Prizes: Short Story, Flash Fiction, Short Memoir and Poetry, that were judged by Mia Gallagher, Pamela Painter, Chrissie Gittins and Billy Collins respectively. I thank them for their time, interest and wisdom.

We are in ‘interesting times’. Usually this means unpredictability, uncertainty and fear, to nations and to individuals. We see how countries react through the news media, with political leaders thrashing about like half-blinded kids in an unsupervised playground. For most of us, passing remarks over a cup of coffee or pint of beer satiates our appetite for reflection. But then there are the miners, the artists of word and tint, who burrow and chip at the edges of our hopes and shadows to try to navigate the landscape of the deep and dark places of the psyche. Writing is a profoundly subversive activity. A writer is a pearl diver and an astronaut and as both he takes risks. She explores the places where, as Heaney wrote, one can ‘catch the heart off guard, and blow it open’. It is the battle line where, in Leonard Cohen’s words, ‘the dreamers ride against the men of action’ (and we hope, of course, to ‘see the men of action falling back’).

An anthology like this one can provide a glimpse, a snapshot of the fringes of the world we live in, for the contributions come from all over the globe. They have, like the strongest salmon made it upstream through the selection processes of the Fish competitions and are residing in the still waters of this anthology. They are to be applauded for their endeavours. I hope that publication in this anthology is a standing ovation.





Wakkanai Station

Richard Lambert

Owl Eyes

Mary Brown

No Alternative

Camilla Macpherson

In Memoriam

Joshua Davis


Peter W Bishop

Yvonne, Yvonne

Linda Fennelly

You were One of Us

Mary Brown

The Woodpusher

Martin Keating

Three Bodies

Peter-Adrian Altini

L is for Laura

Tom Billings





Louise Swingler


Jim Fay

Seeing Stars, 1933

Gail Anderson


Deborah Appleton


Berta Money

Down Mexico Way

David Horn

Bashful Becomes an Outlaw and

Laments the Marriage of a Close Friend

Debra Bokur

Mr Splendiferous and the

Shadows in the Alley

Debra Bokur


David Rhymes


K J Howard




Fejira // to cross

Bairbre Flood

In This House

Nicola Keller


Ceilidh Michelle

Magnum, Jeroboam,

Rehoboam, Methuselah

Jupiter Jones

The Publican’s Daughter

Wendy Breckon


Gail Anderson


Virginia (Ginger) Mortenson

Hot and Cold Tar

Aidan Hynes

Between Joy and Sorrow:

A Journey of the Hands

David Francis

Remembrance of Old Certainties

Michael G Casey




Not My Michael Furey

A M Cousins

The Morning I Read

Yesterday’s ‘Daily Mirror’

Stephen de Búrca


Colette Tennant

Tequila Sunrise?

John Michael Ruskovich

Sugar Kelp

Judith Janoo


kerry rawlinson

No Results for that Place

Soma Mei Sheng Frazier

Raiding My Dead Mother-in-Law’s


Alex Grant

Capes and Daggers

Leah C Stetson

That One Time I Decided To Be All About

Eschewing Obfuscation

Alex Grant



Wakkanai Station

by Richard Lambert

From my kitchen window I can see the station and beyond it the depot where arc lights come on with darkness and shine atop their towers so brightly that at night I often glimpse, gazing towards the sea, the train’s arrival. The train seems tiny from up here. Some mornings, standing at the window as I sip my coffee before work, I see it moving through the grey sleeping world and, if it is the engine with a broken headlamp, its remaining light twinkle in a way that reminds me of a person bearing a candle. But whenever I see the train into Wakkanai, whatever time of day it is and whatever time of year, I think of Mitsuko.

My first memory of Mitsuko – although I must have encountered her before – is connected to the mud track that skirted, and at one point entered, a clump of trees behind our schoolroom. In reality those trees occupied a tiny area but to us children they seemed a great and mysterious wilderness. Running down the track one break-time, I found her squatting at its edge, peering at something in the undergrowth. She had brown hair that fell, then as for all the time I knew her, around the side of her face. ‘What are you doing?’ I said. She did not reply. I squatted beside her and together we stared at a pile of leaves. We waited a long time and then, to my amazement, a bird hopped out. I was seven years old. It was forty years ago. I wonder, but do not know, if I would have waited so long for anyone else.


In Wakkanai Station

you bought me chocolate bars, my friend –

From Wakkanai Station

to Asahikawa

I ate sweet thoughts of you

*   *   *

It is dawn. I watch the grey curtains brighten slowly like an abstract canvas with a meaning I might come to understand. Eventually I get out of bed and open them. As usual for this time of year Wakkanai is covered by snow. From this window at the back of the flat, extends the ocean. It seethes, grey with white teeth – a strange companion. A band of cloud at the horizon merges slowly into the vast, faultless blue. Near the coast, birds fly rapidly. The smaller ones flicker like bits of paper.

Directly below, the caretaker has not yet cleared the overnight snow. But someone – probably the man who works for the shipping company – has already left for the day. Tyre tracks run from the garages and in one place a set of footprints circle where the driver must have stopped, got out, and walked round to the passenger door.


Father, you fished an ocean

of Sapporo and sake

with the vague nets of your mind.

Mother and I ate mackerel

our gills sucking on air

*   *   *

To the north, not quite visible, lies Karahuto, the island that Chekhov wrote about. The nationalists harangue us about Karahuto, calling for its return in the newspapers and from loudspeakers atop their black vans. Between here and Karahuto runs the Soya Strait through which container ships and oil freighters pass. Like the trains these ships are tiny and dream-like, although, whenever I have seen one close-up, moored in the harbour, they seem to be alive, like horses in a field.




by Louise Swingler

She can never believe how bright the gorse is, laid in great yellow arcs across the land. She breathes its coconut tang as she walks up the lane.

She can hear the gurgling veins of Scotland in the beck that runs in the ditch beside her. It’s twelve degrees here, cool after London’s twenty-four. The relief of it is a sensual chiding. She fits well here. Where does Thomas fit, though? You know I don’t do ‘green’, he says, whenever she asks him to come home with her.

She had wanted to come at Christmas, and in March.

A quad bike roars and she steps aside. Clumps of dock leaves are already growing back on the roughly-cropped verge. The one time he came, Thomas said these lanes ruined his suspension. He didn’t seem to realise how victorious this strip of tarmac is, checking the unstoppable push of the forest. But she knows it is but a temporary occupation. She enjoys this challenge to mankind’s arrogance.

Her father’s Highland cattle, flank deep, munch steadily through yellow rattle and buttercups. Two auburn calves are submerged like islands in an inland ocean of green, beige, purple, yellow. They raise their snubby noses, eyeing her. She thinks of Thomas, eyeing her as she left him at Luton Airport.

She looks across to the hills and the peaks behind them. The sky is a dull pearl, flat and quiet, and the morning mist has frozen into a row of frail tufts along the valley bottom, as if a steam train had recently departed.

She turns and stares into the calf’s swimming eyes, daring him.

‘If you don’t move before I blink, I’ll stay.’

Tick. Tock.

Her eyes begin to water. The calf remains still. Like a painting that Thomas can’t climb into. She blinks.



FEJIRA // to cross

Bairbre Flood

Someone offers to bring us to the beach and Bassam relaxes a little. It’s a sunny Spring day, and we can see all around the bay from the dunes; a Grecian colour scheme of intense blue and white. And a huge ferry boat gliding out to the UK, the floating steps and tiers just within eyeshot.

We talk about our favourite films, and the Iranian guys who’ve just managed to sail the English Channel in a dinghy.


When we get back the lads are getting ready to go try on the trucks. Ahmed is coughing so he takes a bottle of suppressant with him. He’d escaped as far as Egypt with his wife and children, then came alone to get to the UK, to send for them later. Months and months of trying, stuck in this shadow world.

‘Maybe tonight is the night for him,’ I said to Bassam as we wave them off.

‘Inshallah,’ said Bassam.


We light the candles in the shelter and Bassam blares out 1980’s power ballads on his iPhone. We sing along at the top of our voices. We never have to worry about waking the neighbours – they’ve got their own music on full blast and one of them is talking loudly on the phone in Urdu. We smoke and drink coffee until the early hours, and fall asleep to the gentle sound of scurrying rats on the shelter roof.


There’s no sign of the others for a few days and I drive Bassam mad.

‘Do you think they crossed?’ I keep asking, ‘Have you heard anything? How long do you think it’d be?’

‘Oh come on, stop!’ he said, ‘I don’t know!’


But the others didn’t make it, and arrived back in The Jungle. Ahmed got as far as the shelter door, collapsed and crawled onto the bottom bunk.

‘Are you ok?’ I ask.

He nods.

‘He’s crushed,’ Zain said, sitting down beside him.

‘He’s tried everything – even a fake passport didn’t work,’ Bassam said. ‘They spotted it immediately. It was a cheap copy, all he could afford. And now he’s nothing left – no chance, just to keep trying on the trucks, like this.’

Bassam gently wraps a blanket over him as he curls up on the bottom bunk and it seems like he’s disappearing. A hologram of himself, flickering under the blanket.

Or a birdsong slowly fading into the distance; each note distinct as it recedes.



The camp is getting more and more crowded, and a news crew is trying to get people to talk to them. A few Sudanese guys were getting lunch ready and they beckoned me over.

‘Come, come, eat something.’

‘Are you going to do an interview?’ I said, nodding at the crew setting up.

‘Why should I talk to them?’ one of them said. ‘Everyone knows what is going on in here!’

They pulled up a deckchair for me, and we dipped lumps of stale bread in a huge pot of chilli stew.

‘Everyone knows, but nothing changes,’ he said, looking at me intensely. ‘I’m sick of the journalists and the lawyers and politicians interviewing us, talking about us, giving us hope that people here in Europe will see – but nothing changes for us.’

‘We have to keep trying though?’ I heard the words ring out of my mouth. ‘Don’t we?’

‘We are trying’, he said. ‘We are trying to survive.’

‘Why don’t you claim here in France?’ I ask.

‘Look around you,’ he snorted. ‘Do you think they want us here? Do you think they would treat us like this if they wanted us here? In England maybe there is a better chance – maybe we will be welcome there.’





Not my Michael Furey

 by A M Cousins

after James Joyce


While the girls watched the boys kick a ball

on a scuffed patch of earth behind the school,

I hid in the pre-fab hut that served

as library and refuge to the bashful.

There was shelter among chipboard shelves

where books offered solace to a child

weary of feigning interest in the chatter

of fashion and elusive boyfriends.


Here were English girls learning life-lessons

in progressive boarding-schools; young women

in the Chalet novels bravely dodged Nazis;

and Miss Heyer’s Regency heroines –

all sprigged muslin and beribboned bonnets –

were tastefully romanced by young bucks,

with chequered pasts and endless supplies

of starched cravats, who drove fast phaetons

and could tame a giddy, young filly

with one smouldering, masterful glance.


Sometimes I saw a boy near the Crime shelf –

barely thirteen, fingers and teeth nicotined

as a man’s. Once we talked and he held out

his yellow hands to show their tremor –

he suffered with the nerves – he liked a thriller,

a mystery to solve, Poirot was the best.

I preferred Miss Marple’s investigations

among the murdering genteel classes.


If I ever thought of him after that

I would have imagined him on his tractor,

the cab filled with smoke as he turned the sod

in neat lines on his father’s beet-field.


Some years later, my mother wrote me –

the priest had called his name at mass,

requested prayers for his soul’s repose;

she heard the talk at the chapel-gate –

he was found in the barn, no mystery

how his life of hardship came to an end.


He was not my Michael Furey, never

my tender young love but I think of him

often – in a makeshift library long ago,

wits pitted against a fictional detective

and a small, shy girl for company.


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

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 […]

Launch of the Fish Anthology 2023

12th July 2023
Tuesday 11th July saw the launch of the 2023 Anthology in the Maritime Hotel, Bantry. Nineteen of the fourty authors published in the anthology were there to read from their piece, travelling from Australia, USA and from all corners of Europe.             Read about the Anthology More photos of the […]

Poetry Prize 2023: RESULTS

15th May 2023
  Winners Short-list Long-list     Winners: Here are the 10 winners, as chosen by judge Billy Collins, to be published in the FISH ANTHOLOGY 2023. The Anthology will  be launched as part of the West Cork Literary Festival, (The Maritime Hotel, Bantry, West Cork – Tuesday 11th July – 18.00.) All are welcome! Second […]

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