Dorothy Molloy

Life
?-2004; b. Ballina, Co. Mayo; she studied and worked as curator/librarian in Spain and was competent in modern and ancient languages; she also painted and won awards for her work; returned to Ireland, 1979, and completed postgraduate degree in medieval Spanish at UCD; with others, fnd. the Thornfield Poetry Group (UCD); m. Andrew Carpenter (Professor of English, UCD); also engaged in a Bible-study group, Dublin; suffered an unexpected attack of cancer of the liver; d. Dublin; Hare Soup (2004), a first collection of poems, issued posthumously; Seamus Heaney was among those to speak at her funeral service; two further collections were collated from her papers by Carpenter - Gethsemane Day (2006), and Long-distance Swimmer (2009).

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Works
Hare Soup
(London: Faber & Faber 2004), 164pp.; Gethsemane Day (London: Faber & Faber 2006), 64pp.; Long-Distance Swimmer (Moher: Salmon Press 2009), 56pp.

Miscellaneous, “Four poems”, in The Dublin Review, 4 (Autumn 2001), pp.50-54 [“Still Life with Balcony”; “It Happened in Parque Güell”; “Lady of Sorrows”; “Pasque the Shepherd”.

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Commentary
Michael Longley
, “The Holly Bush (in memory of Dorothy Molloy)”: ‘Frosty Carrigskeewaun. I am breaking ice / Along the salt marsh’s soggy margins / And scaring fieldfares out of the holly bush / And redwings, their consorts, chestnut-brown / Flashing one way, chestnut-red another [...] I learn of your death in this weather and / Of your book arriving the day after, / Your first and last slim volume, Dorothy, /You read your poems just once and I was there. / The poets you loved are your consorts now. / A hundred or more golden plovers turn / And give back dawn-light from their undersides./ The edges of the dunes wear a fiery fringe.’ (The Times Literary Supplement, 26 Nov. 2004, p.3.)

Note: Molloy is the subject of a tribute poem in Michael Longley’s A Hundred Doors (2011): ‘The poets you loved are your consorts now. / Golden plovers a hundred or more turn / And give back dawn-light from their undersides. / The edge of the dunes wears a fiery fringe.’

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Robert Potts, review of Gethsemane Day, in the Guardian (27 May 2006) ‘For all the disquieting ugliness of [the] ingredients, there’s also something positive at work here: rather than accepting the mass-made, off-the-shelf icon of vast-breasted, tiny-waisted objectification, Molloy is making something for herself: something which, even in its fragility or ugliness, is defiantly independent and alive. In several of her poems, she similarly takes familiar icons and symbols, and refashions them for her own independent ends. [...] / Molloy’s verse in that poem is deliberately and appropriately noisy; and across the rest of the collection, it is impressively subtle and flexible. Sharp enjambements snap regular beats across line-breaks, while introducing a tug between smooth and rough metre by carefully placed internal rhyme. Echoes of nursery rhyme or comic verse vie with grave pentameter statements. In form and content, Molloy effectively and unfussily shows a hard- won independence of spirit coexisitng with the hopelessness of hospitalised flesh. / Several poems celebrate female strength and desire, or demonstrate the crippling effects of repression and control; others acknowledge, unsentimentally, Molloy’s fear and dependence as well as her strength. When the symbols of Catholicism are reintroduced in the final, mortal pieces, to transform the cold and instrumental processes of the hospital, Molloy has turned them unmistakably to her own purposes.’ (See full text, in RICORSO Library, Criticism / Reviews, infra; or go online.)

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Selina Guinness, review of Long-Distance Swimmer, in The Irish Times (9 Jan. 2010), Weekend, p.10: ‘Reading Molloy can be a strangely anachronistic experience. Her themes recall Plath’s Ariel; for women tend to swim against a gynecological under-tow in both poets’ work. Where Plath’s psychodrama degotiates the father, Molloy’s negotiates the mother; where Plath has Lazarus, Christ and the Tarot, Molloy has saints, iconds, and herbalism; Molloy’s familiars are her cats and dogs, Plath’s are crows and bees. These comparisons may appear crude, yet Molloy’s vocabulary too springs from Plath’s era,”tennis club hops”, “fizz and pop”, and “hocus-pocus” appear in poetry where the loss of innocence is usually sudden and brutal. With rhymes such as “commet / dammit”, “neck / heck” and nursery-rhyme metres, Molloy’s cautionary tales (often set in Spain and France where she,spent much of her early adulthood) are rarely subtle but they can be intensely effective, particularly when her narrative has a contemplative focus as in this alliterative game: “We have lost our bearings / in this atrium of leaf, branch, twig and trunk. // We cannot find the star-blaze / where the six paths meet. Behold, / I send you forth with your beloved / son. Blinded, / I wait till you disappear over the brink” (‘Tinderbox’) / Several poems in this collection reprise others elsewhere but Molloy has been well-served by her editors; few read as drafts. A forthcoming study by Dr Gonzales Arias should shed light on the recurring stories in her work.’ (Note: Guinness also notices Kerry Hardie, Martina Evans and Mary O’Donnell in this review.)

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Eibhlin Evans, review of Selina Guiness, The New Irish Poets (2005), in Irish University Review: A Journal of Irish Studies (Autumn-Winter 2005): ‘[...] One of the undoubted talents of the anthology is Dorothy Molloy whose posthumous collection, Hare Soup, was awarded the Strong First Book Award this year. Thematically Molloy engages with familiar territory in terms of women’s poetry but finds new vigour and expressive energy in her sharp and insistent use of language. These are finely tuned poems where each word is made to work rhythmically and sensually, aware of their aural quality as much as the strength of their intellectual impact. “Conversation Class” is a case in point where an alliterative scaling of “s” sounds climaxes in the sizzling rustle of ... I / Sing /The Marseillaise. / I feel a revolution / In the red flare of my skirt.” Molloy’s skill and economy let us share this delicious shiver. She powerfully articulates the loss of sexual innocence and the accompanying realization of the sexual double standard in “First Blood”.’ (Available at FindArticles online - accessed 06.09.2011; alternately at JSTOR Ireland online, &c.)

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Quotations
“Philomena McGillicuddy Comes Unstuck” (from Gethsemane Day): ‘When he was big and strong and hairy, / she was like the Virgin Mary; / now he’s small and weak and balding, / she’s got the hots, in fact she’s scalding; / schoolboys booze and come home bleary, / the Pope in Rome is airy-fairy / Philomena’s hesitating, / No, by God, she’s masturbating [...]’ (Quoted in Robert Potts, reviewing in the Guardian, 27 May 2006; online.)

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Notes
Dublin Review: The four poems printed in The Dublin Review (Autumn 2001) strong and spare but narrow in subject-matter and morbid in tone, being concerned with with suicide, child abuse and possibly bestiality among shepherds - a motif in Padre Padrone - all in a Spanish setting. The with introduces a three-year old with ‘broken teeth’ in a photo whose mother plunges with her to their death over a balcony after the death of the father/husband; the second, in the first person, with a child being photographed (‘he took me once’); the third with a tale of a Spanish ‘soldier’ with business in France who comes come to ‘plug’ [i.e., shoot] his wife and himself; the fourth, a scenario in which a man offers vulgarities to a newly wed before ‘propel[ling] himself’ drunkenly down the street. [BS]

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Faber & Faber (Faber Arts 2005), catalogue listing, of Hare Soup: ‘[B]oth unsettling and affecting. Using cabaret and dark comedy, she holds up a mirror to our most private relations, from the tensely erotic to something altogether more malevolent, producing a poetry-of-the-absurd that will make your hair stand on end.’

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