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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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Preface (Éilís Ní Dhuibhne)


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Mary O’Donnell is one of Ireland’s most interesting and gifted writers. Hesitant to designate her profession with a term more specific than ‘writer’, she acknowledges that she is best known as a poet. For once I am in agreement with popular opinion. I believe that the word ‘poet’ most perfectly captures her essence. As Eavan Boland has said, there is a difference between being someone who writes poetry and being a poet. Mary O’Donnell is a poet from top to toe; whether she writes a poem, a novel, an essay or a review, she always exhibits a deep concern for truth, care in choosing the most effective word and the keen eye and sensitive ear which are the marks of the true poet.

As the useful bibliography included at the end of this volume indicates, Mary O’Donnell has published seven collections of poetry, the first in 1990 and the most recent in 2015. In addition, her oeuvre contains four novels, two collections of short stories and many essays, reviews and radio pieces. This volume offers six essays dealing with various aspects of the work, as well as a substantial interview with the author, a bibliography and a new short story. As such, it is both a fitting and timely tribute to a unique writer and an excellent survey and in-depth exploration of her work to date. For those who are not familiar with Mary O’Donnell’s...

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