Poet and novelist Mary O’Donnell was born in County Monaghan and studied German and philosophy at National University of Ireland, Maynooth. O’Donnell is recognized as a leading figure in the generation of Irish women writers who began publishing in the 1980s and 1990s; her work is often cited as key in expanding the horizons of Ireland’s traditionally male-dominated literary world. O’Donnell has published numerous collections of poetry, including Reading the Sunflowers in September (1990) and Spiderwoman’s Third Avenue Rhapsody (1993), both nominated for an Irish Times Literature Award. Her other books of poetry include September Elegies (2003), The Place of Miracles (2006), and The Ark Builders (2009). A Hungarian translation of her new and selected poems was published in 2011. With Manuela Palacios, she coedited To the Winds Our Sails: Irish Poets Translate Galician Poetry (2010).
O’Donnell’s works of fiction include the novels The Light-Makers (1992), The Elysium Testament (1999), and Where They Lie (2014). She has also published works of short fiction, including Strong Pagans (1991) and Storm over Belfast (2008). Her essays and criticism have been widely published, and she has presented programs on poetry for RTÉ. O’Donnell has received numerous awards for her work, including a Hennessy Literature Award, an Allingham Award, and prizes from the Fish International Short Story Competition and the Cardiff International Poetry Competition.
Formerly on faculty in Carlow University Pittsburgh’s MFA program, O’Donnell has also taught in the Iowa Summer Writing Program at Trinity College and NUI Maynooth. She currently teaches poetry at Galway University. In 2001 she was elected to Aosdána, the Irish artists’ organization.
Reading the Sunflowers in September, poetry collection, Salmon Poetry (1990)
Strong Pagans and other Stories, short story collection, Poolbeg Press (1991)
The Light Makers, novel, Poolbeg Press (1992 & 1993), 451Editions (revised edition) (2017)
Spiderwoman’s Third Avenue Rhapsody, poetry collection, Salmon Poetry (1993)
Virgin and the Boy, novel, Poolbeg Press (1996)
Unlegendary Heroes, poetry collection, Salmon Poetry (1998)
The Elysium Testament, novel, Trident Press UK (1999)
September Elegies, poetry, Lapwing Press, Belfast (2003)
The Place of Miracles, New and Selected Poems, New Island, Dublin (2005)
Storm over Belfast, short story collection, New Island, Dublin (2008)
The Ark Builders, poetry, Arc Publications UK (2009)
To the Winds Our Sails, Galician women’s poetry in translation, co-edited with Manuela Palacios, Salmon (2010)
Csodák földje, Selected Poems, translated to Hungarian by Kabdebó Tamás, Irodalmi Jelen Könyvek (2011)
Sister Caravaggio, collaborative novel with Peter Cunningham and others, Liberties Press, 2015.
Where They Lie, novel, New Island, Dublin (2014)
Those April Fevers, Arc Publications UK (2015)
Empire, short story collection, Arlen House (2018)
Giving Shape to the Moment: the Art of Mary O’Donnell, Poet, Short story writer, Novelist, just published in the Reimagining Ireland series by Peter Lang publishers. Editor, Dr. Maria Elena Jaime de Pablos. 2018.
Photo credit: Jim Sweeney