Mary O’Malley, award-winning poet and radio broadcaster, has published seven volumes of poetry over the last twenty years. She has also read at dozens of colleges and cultural institutions across North America and Europe. Carcanet Press published her most recent volume, Valparaiso, in 2012. The work deals with themes of Ireland’s economic boom and bust following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. Themes of voyage, transformation, and homecoming weave throughout the volume. Her other books include A Perfect V (Carcanet 2006) and The Boning Hall (Carcanet 2002), and Asylum Road (Salmon Poetry, 2001).
In discussing her work, scholar Shelley Meagher notes: “To be on the sea is to be liberated from the constraints that underline life on land, and to enter the realm of folklore and mythology.” Recurring themes throughout her career have been the landscape of her native Galway in the West of Ireland and “the erased lives and bodies of women” there.
Meagher indicates that O’Malley’s verse displays a sensitivity to the bilingualism of the West, and in her poetry “the Irish word often takes precedence over the English one.” Another scholar, Patricia Boyle Haberstroh says her work is “actively engaged in undercutting false images [of Ireland]” and piercing “the commercialization of the West that has flooded the world media.” Meagher also singles her out as being one a contemporary Irish poet who explores the West of Ireland as a place of future possibility rather than a place that dwells on its muted past, haunted and overshadowed by the memory of famine and colonization.
After earning her degree in Galway, O’Malley spent a year in London working as a clerk for the Coal Board before moving to Lisbon, where she lived for eight years. She worked and taught English there while meeting African and South American refugees, and this experience greatly influenced her first collection, A Consideration of Silk, published by Salmon Poetry. In 1986, she moved back to Galway, becoming more committed to writing poetry. Throughout her career, O'Malley has had residencies and held positions at University College Galway, Manhattanville College, the Irish College in Paris, and several universities and cultural centers in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Portugal, and France. All the while, she has been actively engaged in organizational efforts including the demilitarization of the oceans, environmental education, advocacy on behalf of Irish language, Latin American, African, and Asian writers, and support for Irish traditional music. She has been awarded the Hennessey Prize, the 2009 Lawrence O’Shaughnessey Prize, and numerous Irish Arts Council awards.
Apart from her time at Villanova University, O’Malley resides in Moycullen, Galway with her husband. She is a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of poets and writers and serves on the Toscaireacht of Aosdána, ten-member council that manages the affairs of the national academy. At Villanova during the spring 2013 semester, she is teaching a poetry workshop in the Honors Program and an Irish Studies course (also in Honors and English) on “Place in Irish Literature.”
Mary O'Malley will host a reading featuring her most recent publication, Valparaiso, on Thursday, March 21.