Monday, October 14, 2013

November - Exciting month ahead!

Spring has well and truly sprung in Melbourne at last and the pulse of life quickens again. Once the month kicks off I will be kept gloriously busy!

  • On Friday, 1 November the Australian Catholic Unviersity, where I work, will be centrally involved in Melbourne Knowledge Week. Yours truly will be playing the harp and participating in a reading and forum entitled 'Poetry Speaks' with fellow poets and scholars from the university: Dr. Mark Lyall, Dr. Caz Masel and Dr. Matthew Ryan. Full details of the event can be found on the 'Events' page of the ACU website here.

  • I am delighted to announce that the Melbourne launch of my second collection, In Between Angels and Animals, will take place at 6pm on Thursday, 7 November at the Roof Garden, Level 6, Daniel Mannix Building, Australian Catholic University, 115 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy, VIC 3065. Dr. Frances Devlin-Glass, Honorary Associate Professor at Deakin University, will be the guest speaker. The Australian Poetry Organisation has kindly posted information about the launch on their site here.  See also my publisher's website - Arlen House - for details and  watch this blog for updates.

  • On Tuesday, 12 November I will be presenting a paper as part of the Melbourne Irish Studies Seminar series at 6pm at The Oratory, Newman College, University of Melbourne. My paper will tell a little known story about the Irish harp and how it was deployed in the ideological battles and antiquarian debates about the civility of pre-Christian Ireland. It is titled 'Relic of a Golden Age or Gothic Barbarity? The Irish harp as instrument of colonial discourse' and details of the event can be found here.

          Each of the three events listed above is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I am delighted to have a poem entitled 'Amaryllis' in the current issue of The Burning Bush II (link included below). It was written some time ago so it was a pleasant surprise to discover a photograph of the two blooms which inspired my response as I looked through old pics on my lap top this weekend. The image does not do justice to the radiance of the amaryllis as they lit up the kitchen in our old house on Nuns Island, Galway on a dull Winter's morning, but hopefully the poem takes up where the photo leaves off and articulates something of their impact. Enjoy both image and words!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In Between Angels and Animals - my second collection - recently launched at Kenny's Bookshop, Galway

In Between Angels and Animals (Arlen House, 2013)

 Available from, 

and many good bookshops throughout Ireland

Cover art: 'Static' by Alex Hall (

Read my interview with Kernan Andrews 

in The Galway Advertiser, 20 June 2013 here

Des Kenny welcoming all assembled at the launch on Saturday, 22 June, Kenny's Bookshop
The wonderful poet & activist, Sarah Clancy was guest speaker
Poets, Terry McDonagh and Lisa C. Taylor also launched their new collections (by Arlen House) 

Siobhán Nic Ghaoithín and little Conall - fascinated with my necklace
L-R  Caroline, Vera Orschel, Aileen Kavanagh & Mairéad Roche

Two beautiful ladies: my mother & poet, Geraldine Mills

Andrew Lohan and Rafa
With Sarah Clancy after her kind words about my book

Old & new friends who supported me - Don Phelan, Seán Lysaght, Catherine Paolucci, Becky Lally
A captive crowd

A proud daughter with her wonderful Dad

Mairéad Roche, Muireann Ní Dhroighneáin, my sister Tara and Blathnaid Mulholland

Dave Power and Muireann
My sister, Benita with June Boulger
Eoin Barrett and Elaine Keane

My great friend and fellow poet, Susan Kelly 

The first review of In Between Angels and Animals 

from The Lantern Review, No. 8, Summer 2013

Further responses from critics to In Between Angels and Animals (Arlen House, 2013):

Her poetic style is lyrical, intelligent and confident and the poems are searching in a sophisticated and detached way....She goes on to explore many subjects: love, exile, technology, all in a worldwide context…The poetry is erudite and far-reaching and, as the title suggests, it touches on the whole created universe, as the Elziabethans understood it! Poetry Ireland Review, Issue 115, April 2015

She uses her words wisely and sparingly, with none wasted as emotions, images and thoughts are conjured up. - Books Ireland, March/April 2014

I recommend this collection wholeheartedly to all those interested in Irish writing in Irish and in English. - The Australasian Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. 13, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Magdalene - a loaded brand and false signifier

Insomnia provokes this particular blog post. Specifically, a mind racing with our Taoiseach ('Prime Minister') Enda Kenny’s emotionally charged apology to the women of the Magdalene Laundries, and also with the broader concept of the female ‘penitent’. The Taoiseach’s speech was impressive in its genuine acknowledgement of the suffering and humiliation endured by the faceless women of the laundries. I believe his words were heartfelt. Crucially, Ireland and its institutions lacked the ‘quality of mercy’. Coming to terms with the darker chapters of our history, and taking responsibility for injustices perpetrated in the past, are welcome signs of a country attaining a new level of maturity and insight. No nation on earth has a spotless history and, while the plight of the magdalene women was utterly appalling, Kenny's speech signals that our government is taking the right steps to amend past wrongs. What continues to perplex me tonight, however, are the perversions committed in the name of Christianity, and the warped ways in which the Christian message was construed on our small island throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The very concept of the ‘magdalene laundry’ calls to mind a tv documentary I once watched which questioned the identity of the real Mary Magdalene, as opposed to the legend. I remember being startled by the fact that the Catholic Church only chose to reveal, as late as the 1960s, that it had erroneously cast Mary Magdalene as a penitential prostitute for well over 1400 years. This was primarily because the iconic image of the remorseful ‘fallen woman’ was such a potent counterpoint to the purity of the Virgin Mary; it was a useful didactic symbol the Church moulded for its flock. Also, within a highly patriarchal institution, the Magdalene illusion of the weeping woman conveniently collapsed the power and complexity of the real Mary Magdalene – a highly significant disciple of Jesus Christ and, if we are to believe the gnostic gospels, a principal leader of the early christian movement.

Allegedly, the confusion surrounding Mary Magdalene’s character initially arose because of the preponderance of ‘Marys’ in the Bible and much got 'lost in translation'! Pope Gregory I identified Mary Magdalene as being the same person as Mary of Bethany, who really was a remorseful prostitute. (Excuse my lack of citations here - unscholarly, I know, but it's late at night and I am working from memory and gazing, bleary-eyed, into my screen). This misinterpretation altered Mary Magdalene’s image for successive centuries and it was not corrected until relatively late in the day. The weeping prostitute suited the Church’s purposes in providing a kind of template for the remorseful sinner who could attain forgiveness, and even the ultimate endorsement: sainthood! The horrible stigma of ‘penitent’ which was attached to the women of the Magdalene laundries was, therefore, not least inhumane and devoid of compassion, but also tautological and flawed from the outset.

The Catholic Church has become an easy target, however, and I have no wish to join the legions of lazy thinkers who will readily bash the institution on the slimmest of pretexts, or without substantial evidence to support their shibboleths. I know many wonderful men and women who minister as part of the Catholic church and who effect positive change in society through their selfless dedication and pursuit of Christian values. I do not believe they would, or ever could, inflict suffering on another human being. Similarly, the Marist nuns who educated me in Carrick-on-Shannon were kind and gentle women. Indeed, writers and artists as diverse as Jean Rhys, Mira Nair and Germaine Greer attest to the positive influence of the nuns who educated them so broadly; independent women who encouraged them to think for themselves. I digress here, however, so will return to the subject which spawned this spiral of insomnia: the provenance of the Magdalene laundry concept. Plenty more food for thought here for the next few sleepless hours methinks…