After retiring from teaching, Tom Cleary began to write poetry. In 2011 he won a poetry competition organised jointly by Writers Forum and the HappenStance Press. The prize was the publication of The Third Miss Keane by HappenStance Press in 2014. Earlier the same year he was the featured poet in Orbis 166 (January 2014) with 4 poems. Several of his poems have been published in other poetry magazines.