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Giving Shape to the Moment

The Art of Mary O'Donnell: Poet, Novelist and Short Story Writer


Edited By Maria Elena Jaime de Pablos

This is the first book to provide a critical assessment of the work of the Irish author Mary O’Donnell. The essays collected here engage with O’Donnell’s writing across multiple genres and explore the themes and preoccupations that have characterized her oeuvre. Alongside her creative work, O’Donnell’s has been a steady and continuing voice for many years within the world of theatre criticism, book reviewing, essay writing, radio broadcasts and cultural commentary.

As a writer, O’Donnell’s principal themes include contemporary Irish society, the position of women in Ireland and the role of the artist. Throughout her career, her approach has been unconventional and her work has sometimes presented a challenge to the status quo. The contributors to this volume illuminate O’Donnell’s role as a humanist writer searching for truth at all costs, through the fictive lives of her often unusual characters, and through the emotional range and depth of her poetry.

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Introduction (María Elena Jaime De Pablos)


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In May 2006, Mary O’Donnell gave a reading and took part in a discussion during the annual AEDEI Conference, which took place that year at the University of Alcalá, Madrid. It was the first time I had heard her read or speak. The reading was impressive, to say the least, and it struck me that this voice, which was a new discovery for me, combined dynamic force with a wide-ranging fearless lyricism: it was also aesthetically sensitive in its linguistic pursuit of creative expression. The following morning, I and two other colleagues approached Mary O’Donnell with the idea for this book, the aim of which is to present her work and achievements to a wider audience.

In the Preface, her friend and long-time colleague Éilís Ní Dhuibhne describes Mary O’Donnell as ‘one of Ireland’s most interesting and gifted writers’. Ní Dhuibhne, who defines O’Donnell as a poet above all else, remarks on how the two of them have come to know each other over the years and have had many interesting conversations about Irish writing and writers. They have acted as magnetic sounding boards for one another when they have felt despondent about the Irish literary scene. But, as Ní Dhuibhne also points out, O’Donnell is impressively articulate and ‘perhaps spontaneously concerned with finding the […] most precise possible way of expressing any idea or emotion – which is, I believe, the mark of...

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