Fish Anthology 2021

Fish Anthology 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9956200-4-9


Emily Ruskovich ~ Short Story

Kathy Fish ~ Flash Fiction

Blake Morrison ~ Short Memoir

Billy Collins ~ Poetry

Read an excerpt from winning short storyA Correspondence  by Mark Martin

Read winning flash story Both On and Off  by Jack Barker-Clark

Read an excerpt from winning memoir – Blood and Roses  by Mary E Black

Read winning poem Letter to Dowsie, from Roethke in Ireland  by Greg Rappleye


Introductory Note

by Clem Cairns

Well, another strange year goes by; one more like that and it won’t seem so strange anymore. Whatever hardships and grief the pandemic has visited upon us, it has also bestowed on some a certain amount of opportunity. Writers everywhere have used the time freed up by the lack of normal activity to write, and we are gratified that so many have sent their work to Fish.

Emily Ruskovich, Blake Morrison, Kathy Fish and Billy Collins judged the Short Story, Short Memoir, Flash Fiction and Poetry Prizes respectively. It is not an easy task, so my deep gratitude to them for their time, for their interest in supporting aspiring writers, and for their wisdom.

To the 40 writers and poets in the following pages – congratulations! The quality of the work in this Anthology is astonishing. 

And to those many talented writers who almost made it in, I hope that your work will find the light of day in another publication or a future Fish one.

 And to the readers of this Anthology, I hope you are transported by story, memoir and poem. That you might, in the words of Billy Collins,

………  water-ski

across the surface (of a poem)

waving at the author’s name on the shore





A Correspondence

Mark Martin


Pavle Miha

The Fisherman

Chris Weldon


Amanda Huggins

The Etymology of a Sword Swallower

K Lockwood Jefford

How to Accept the Lunar Landing

Nicole Olweean

Duck Egg Blue

Fiona Ennis

OMG Winn Handler Moved Next Door!

Lesley Bannatyne

Connemara Salmon

Kathy MacGloin

Rick and Molly Drink

Giles Newington




Both On and Off

Jack Barker-Clark

Cataracts and Dogberries

Shey Marque


Alexandra Blogier


Kirsty Seymour-Ure


Roland Leach

Top Ten Reasons Why Pied-Noirs are

Good at Packing Suitcases

Laurence Gea

The Day Amy Kinona Became Invisible

Sharma Taylor

Skeleton in the Cupboard

Katherine Powlett

What My Parents Were Wearing

When She Decided Not to Keep Me

Shoshauna Shy

Ursula Sits

Karenlee Thompson





Blood and Roses

Mary E Black


Hannah Persaud

Dreams of Foreign Cities

Martha G Wiseman


Francesca Humphreys

Broken Lines

Mary Brown


Ellyn Gelman

Before the Dark Hour of Reason

Kevin Acott

Borderline Insanity

Anthony Dew

Dancing with Parkinson’s

Leslie Mapp

I have my suspicions about that


Alice Jolly




Letter to Dowsie,

from Roethke in Ireland

Greg Rappleye


Matt Hohner

Don’t rush to clean her room

Pippa Gough

The Rowan Berries of Winter

Phillip Crymble

Ode to Ignorance

Michael Lavers

Swift Departure

Will Ingrams

December Sunlight

by Harry Nisbet, 1919, Oil on Canvas

Alice Twemlow

First Time

Maureen Boyle

Story of a Sister whose

Brother lost his Hand to the Buzz Saw

Victoria Walvis

The Breakup


Partridge Boswell



A Correspondence

by  Mark Martin

Morgan looked down as something slipped from the hardback in her hand, distracting her from Andrew. The bookshop where the two of them worked had closed for the day, and she was unpacking boxes of second-hand stock. A handsome young man, radiating impatience, Andrew held open the front door, a peach sunset framing his face.

‘Come on!’ he said. ‘There’s not much of summer left, let’s go have a drink on the green.’

The ranked spines on the bookshelves, Andrew himself — gorgeous in semi-profile, one foot out the door — and the mysterious boxes conspired to bring about in Morgan an unexpected sense of being intensely present. It was a realization, physical as much as intellectual, that she, approaching her last year of university, having chosen to remain in her college town over the holiday, was a young woman of potential in a world of possibilities. She was surrounded by mundane objects that, if caught at the right angle by a receptive intelligence, were full of charm. Outside, beyond the shop window, the setting sun was reinventing abstract impressionism. And in pleasant counterpoint to all this, here was a young man, smarter and better-looking than was reasonable to expect, practically begging her to join him for a drink.

‘There’s no time-and-a-half if you stay late,’ continued Andrew, frustration scoring his voice. ‘There’s more to life than you’ll find in books, you know.’

‘I’m going to work a bit longer,’ she said, abruptly making up her mind.

‘Suit yourself. Text me if you come to your senses.’


Both On and Off

 by Jack Barker-Clark

On the phone to your daughter all winter. On the power of attorney. On cloud cuckoo land. On the canal boat you once owned. On bravery. On ignominy. On trial. On fresh grapes. On the occasion of your birthday. On call if you need us. On amplification. On overreaction. On hold with the doctors. On display for one month only. On our best-case scenario. Onwards and upwards. On lovely shiny wet new grapes.

On modern medicine. On the contrary. On the one hand not so bad. On the other hand terminal. On assisted living. On your head be it. On the bedside table, there, next to your reading glasses. On increasing medication. On a tour of hospitals, West Yorkshire, the surrounding Humber. On the formal bed, writing down what the doctor had said. On dyschronometriaand cerebellar lesions. On lovely shiny wet new grapes.

On the ward. On the pillows inmates rest on. On-demand westerns. On John Wayne. On horseback. On purpose. On the bathroom floor with the shower gel. On the bathroom floor with the shower gel following a stroke. On disturbing volcanic dreams now. On canal boats choked with weeds. On holiday in 1972. On ghost trains. On beach towels. On lovely shiny wet new grapes.

On average twenty beats per minute. On life support. On your own. On top of the breadbin. On all sides surrounded. On the way. On the beach with Eleanor. On the borderlands. On the grass slopes. On and on. On Wednesday the 20thMarch. On and on, and then suddenly off.

On behalf of those who knew him. On behalf of those who knew him best. On behalf of his grandson, unable to attend. On the TransPennine Express writing letters to his grandad who had died.


Blood and Roses

by Mary E Black

I was eleven years old when the Troubles started in 1969, a civil conflict fuelled by bad blood between two ethno-nationalist tribes. A book I will keep until the end of my days is ‘Lost Lives’ which tells the individual stories of the 3,637 who died over three decades. I know some of those names – Northern Ireland is a small place. Another 100,000 were wounded: shot, blasted by bombs, knee-capped in punishment shootings and beatings. As a doctor, from a family of doctors, I count the Troubles in blood. Yet, of the countless units of blood transfused during those years, we have kept no ledger.

I grew up in Lambeg, a staunchly Protestant village south of Belfast. My Catholic family comes from Antrim on my father’s side, with a three-generation excursion to Scotland; Cork on my mother’s side, with a family myth of no intermarriage with others for the last 400 years. Moving Hearts, an Irish Folk rock band from my youth, sang:

‘Once upon a time there was, Irish ways and Irish laws

Villages of Irish Blood, awaking to the morning, awaking to the morning.’

Ulster Protestant journalist Newton Emerson described his Ulster family as ‘resolutely English for 300 years until our noble bloodline was polluted by my mother.’ See? The purity of bloodlines. When the sectarian slogan ‘Taigs Out’ (an anglicisation of the Gaelic male given name of Tadhg; when applied to walls a derogatory name for Catholics) was painted on our garden fence and the neighbours said nothing, we sold up and moved to one of the few mixed housing estates. Our new home stood above and, in a way, apart from the mired enclaves that encompassed our schools, churches, and workplaces.


Letter to Dowsie, from Roethke in Ireland

  by Greg Rappleye


Driven mad by channel wrack and fresh sprats in bad oil,

sobbing on the oyster dock, at lowest tide I was

rowed to the mail boat by a barefoot Carmelite,

then lugged ashore at Cleggan and poured into the back

of a Singer sedan. I swore I’d suppress my “affect”

for a splash on our way to the bughouse,

and the good padre, having tippled with me

in those dicey island days, found nothing against the faith

in that. He meted out Kilbeggan’s every ten miles

or-so, toasting each chosen apostle, excluding the Iscariot,

but counting Matthias and Paul.  As single-pot prodigal,

I’ve found an easier, softer way: drinking cold buttermilk,

noshing stewed apples and mealy fishcakes

with the daft nuns and my attending physician,

a kindly man who is the spitball image of Barry Fitzgerald. 

Walrus-like, I’ve wallowed in the hydro baths

as in our famous days at Mercywood, and thanks

to my trans-Atlantic laurels, my benzo-calm

and affable demeanor, I’m driven to a public house

on seisiún nights aboard the moron-bus, and allowed

two stiff drinks and the recitation of a poem.

It’s grand to hush the fiddles and part a cloud of pipe smoke,

led through the tavern door by four orderlies in white,

as if I’m blind O’Carolan, stumbled home at last,

escorted by that squadroon of virtuous angels

by which minor deities are ushered into the world.

On the wall chart of temperaments, mine approaches a shaker

of dry martinis—sanguine with ice and three drops of melancholic.

Dowsie, when did you last climb a honeysuckle trellis?

When did you last scurry through an asylum greenhouse,

tripping over clay pots and hashing your knees?

I imagine you now as sea-lioness, sleek and black,

your most clever pup dropped carelessly,

left to gorge on red dulse in a midnight sea

and you, shrieking all those long tumultuous hours

atop a granite rock, eelgrass wilding beyond you in the surf.



Fish Books

Fish Anthology 2024

Fish Anthology 2024

Vivid, astute, gripping, evocative. These stories utterly transported me. – Sarah Hall (Short Story)

In the landscape of emotion and folly, Flash writers are a fearless lot – these stories prove it. – Michelle Elvy (Flash Fiction)

… combining the personal and particular with the universal, each touching in surprising ways … experiences that burn deep, that need to be told. – Sean Lusk (Memoir)

Strong poems. First place is a poem I wish I’d written! – Billy Collins (Poetry)

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 […]

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