Geraldine Mitchell


1949- ; b. Dublin; ed. Dublin and Scotland (boarding-school); grad. TCD (BA Hons. French & English), 1972; m. Bernard Molina in 1971 - with whom a dg. and a son; grad. Masters in English, Aix-en-Provence, 1973; agregée (in English), 1974; taught at Algiers University, 1975-76, and afterwards at the French Lycée, Madrid; visited Co. Mayo from 1985 to organise a holiday for Spanish colleagues, renting from Michael and Ethna Viney; wrote free-lance journalism, 1986-92, principally for The Irish Times; assisted Andy Pollack (Irish Times) with interpretation after the SAS killing of three IRA members in Gibraltar, March 1988; returned to Dublin, 1992; met in London and later married the distinguished Penguin publisher Neil Middleton (d. 20 Nov. 2015);

contrib. poetry in The Shop (Cork); winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award, Nov. 2008 - following a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig funded by a Mayo County Council grant, 2008; took a residency at the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Achill, 2011; issued World Without Maps (May 2011), a first collection; issued Welcoming the French (1992) and Escape to the West (1994), both childrens’ fiction [young adults]; also issued Deeds Not Words (1997), a biography of Muriel Gahan; settled with Middleton at Killadoon [nr. Killeen], Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, 2000;

worked as Volunteer and later Development Worker for the Louisburgh Community Project, 2001-07; organised the Sonas Children’s Arts Festival, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, 2000-09, and co-ordinated an arts projects for asylum seekers in Co. Mayo, 2004-07; winner of the inaugural Trócaire and Poetry Ireland Competition with “Basso Continuo”, dedicated to Vedran Smailović (aka ‘the Cellist of Sarajevo’) who arrived to play at the award presentation in the National Library of Ireland, May 2012; shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Competition in 2014 and 2015; Trustee of The Golden Fleece Award, established by her aunt, Lillias Mitchell (1915-2000); appt. Trocaire’s Poetry Ambassador from 2012 to 2015; gives creative writing classes for children as part of the Poetry Ireland’ Writers in Schools scheme; issued a new collection as Mountains for Breakfast, March 2017.

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  • World Without Maps (Galway: Arlen House, 2011), 64pp.
  • Of Birds and Bones (Galway: Arlen House 2014), 64pp.
  • Mountains for Breakfast (Galway: Arlen House 2017), q.pp.
Fiction (young adults)
  • Welcoming the French [Bright Sparks Ser.] (Dublin: Attic Press, 1992), 140pp.
  • Escape to the West [Bright Sparks Ser.] (Dublin: Attic Press 1994), 136pp.
  • Deeds Not Words: A Biography of Muriel Gahan - Champion of Rural Women and Craftworkers (Dublin: Town House 1997), 24pp. ill. [32pp of plates & ports; 22cm].

There is an interview by Áine Ryan in The Mayo News (25 Jan. 2011) - online [accessed 03.01.2016].

See also The Golden Fleece Award - online.

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Deep in the pockets of my memory
are coins rubbed smooth from fingering
stories I have hoarded, guarded
from the corruption of sharing.

The night we spent in the one-room house
in Kabylia, after broad beans and buttermilk
from a single dish.You in the big bed with him.
The honour.

How in the night she wrapped his arms around me,
and from behind the fortress of her belly
her child tapped messages on my back.

From World Without Maps, reviewed by Jim Maguire for Look Books - blog; online (accessed 12.12.2105).


The prayers ended in a scattering of words,
potatoes spilled on a wooden floor.

In my silence I felt absence,
a single stone in a cleft tree.

From World Without Maps, reviewed by Jim Maguire for Look Books - blog; online (accessed 12.12.2105).

Warning Shots

When you live on the edge
of an ocean, you cannot pretend
you did not see it coming.

The leaves are still, birds
chatter, the sea is a sheet
of steel. But out west

where last night the sun
left a sky illumined
like stained glass

dirt heaps up,
someone else’s dustpan
emptied on your doorstep

and a magpie
rattling gunfire
at first light.

—First published in Cyphers and afterwards in Of Birds and Bones; available at Poethead blog - online; accessed 12.12.2015.
[See also “Flotilla”, “Left Luggage”, “Le Jardinier Vallier”, “The Suitcase of Bees”
at Poethead blog - online.]

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Welcoming the French
(1992): When 13-year-old Gemma decides to help a group of young French refugees enjoy a holiday in Connemara in the West of Ireland, she never imagines that her life could become so complicated, or that things could go so wrong. [COPAC /JISC notice - online.]

Escape to the West (1994): Aoife takes a summer job at Innisfree House, a home for elderly women. She meets one of the residents, Mrs Imogen O'Toole, who is proud, fiercely independent and determined to unmask the shady practices of the bad-tempered matron. Together they escape to the West. [COPAC /JISC notice - online.]

Neil Middleton (1931-2015) was born to Communist parents but converted to Catholicism; raised in London’s East End and evacuated during war-time; came to publishing through his first marriage to a member of the Sheed and Ward publishing family; became editor of the English office and friend of Seán Mac Reamoinn [RTE]; joined Herbert McCabe and Laurence Bright (Dominicans) to found the December Group, a left-wing Catholic forum; visited Rome to attend Vatican II, 1959; published the left-wing Catholic journal Slant; 1960s, appointed an editor at Penguin Books, 1969-82; published Philip Agee’s best-selling exposé of the CIA and Liam de Paor’s Divided Ulster (1970); travelled widely to world trouble-spots and scenes of humanitarian disasters; he left the Church in the 1980s but was deeply attached to his local church at Killeen, where he settled in Mayo with his second wife Geraldine Mitchell, 1992; d. 12 Dec. 2015. There is an Irish Times obituary - online.