‘The Egret Lands with News From Other Parts’, a new collection of poetry by Mary Madec, will be launched by Mayo News columnist Liamy MacNally in Westport Town Hall Theatre’s Seán Staunton Room on Friday, February 28, at 6.30pm.
Mary Madec (nee O’Malley) was born and raised near Westport. She received her MA in Old English poetry from NUI, Galway, and her doctorate in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently Director of the Villanova University Study Abroad Programme at NUI, Galway. She won the Hennessy XO Prize for Emerging Poetry in 2008.
Her first collection, ‘In Other Words’, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2010. Four years later, her second collection, ‘Demeter Does Not Remember’ was published. She has also edited ‘Jessica Casey & Other Stories’, published by Salmon Poetry in 2011. That book showcased work from people with intellectual disabilities following a multi-award-winning project funded by an Arts Participation Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland.
Madec teaches a summer workshop at Kylemore Abbey, and she has also recently begun working with immigrant women writers. She is a member of a collective of poets who, through poetry readings, reach out to women who have had breast cancer and is a co-author of their book, ‘Bosom Pals’, published by Doire Press in 2017.
In this third collection, Mary Madec returns to the real world of what it means to be herself, a woman of these times, exploring again the territories of the heart.
She presents a partly imagined trajectory, extending beyond the present and deep into the past, reaching into the experiences of silence and calling out the ‘voices’. Her poems are compassionate and courageous, sensual and sometimes visceral meditations on the injured or ageing body, the broken heart, the reality of our ineluctably transient lives, and all the attendant grief.
And yet there are light touches of redeeming humour, and the ‘little white egret of hope’ is ever present, cancelling out the darkness. Madec’s language is rich and precise, sensitive to how it must map the tangles of mind and heart, as she explores what it is we are made of, what it is that makes it possible for us to walk on this earth and be sufficient to ourselves.
The book’s back-cover blurb is written by celebrated Irish poet Medbh McGuckian. “The book is extraordinary,” she writes. “Celebrating the ‘crazy mystery of good agony’ in a solemn mixture of the banal and the prophetic, these are poems about poems and poets, birds and the bible, war and married life, children and childhood, insects and parents. Deeply rooted in Irish myth, they explore female territories explicitly, culminating in moving dirges for the mother figure.”
I stand in the kitchen saying goodbye to the house
I have lived in, mother and lover,
when I see a song thrush, dead at the door of the sun lounge
stunned forever by the clarity of glass.
I look at his small frail body, his speckled chest,
but most of all at his two spindle legs limply clinging to air
as if there could be something they could grab
to stop the folding of this fragile life back into the earth.
— from ‘The Egret Lands with News From Other Parts’, by Mary Madec.