Poet Laureate: Mairéad Donnellan

Mairéad Donnellan is the Poet Laureate for Bailieborough, Co Cavan. Mairéad, whose first collection will be published later this year, has a strong connection to the town through her family.

“The invitation to be Poet Laureate for Bailieborough for the Poetry Town project prompts me to reflect on its origin, those who founded it and all who have shaped it into what it is today,” she says.

“It reinforces my sense of place in this town and its hinterland where my father was reared and where I holidayed as a child. My family keep me firmly rooted here as do all who have welcomed me amongst them. It is a privilege to write a poem for Bailieborough. It is written in gratitude for its people, past, present and those yet to settle here.”

Mairéad’s bio

Mairéad Donnellan’s poetry has appeared in various publications including Crannóg, The Moth, Poetry Ireland Review, Hennessy New Irish Writing and has been widely anthologised. She has been shortlisted in national poetry competitions including Cúirt  New Writing Prize and Doire Press Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1.

She was winner of the Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award in 2013. In 2016, she won the Trócaire Poetry Ireland Poetry Competition. In 2018, she was awarded the Tyrone Guthrie bursary by Cavan Arts Office. She was selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions series in 2019.

Her first collection will be published by Arlen House in 2021.

Mairéad presented Baileborough’s Town Poem at a special event on 10 September.

Watch Mairéad read and discuss her poem here. You can find the full text of the poem below. 

Crucible by Mairéad Donnellan

Here is the memory of metal-
pike and ploughshare,
pig iron and perseverance.
At the turn of narrow alleyways
there is the grind of cart wheel hubs,
the jingle of bridle and bit
and buried somewhere under great sycamores
are famine pots, skillet pots, chamber pots.

We have discarded our baths with the bath water,
installed them in fields for drinking troughs,
still solid as the high stools and manhole covers
made to take our weight.
Those who cast them live among us,
carrying the brand of their origin,
the alchemy of their ancestors-
Sheridan, Jameson, Corrie, Clarke.

Although the foundry fires have died,
this town spills over the rim,
runs with the river into grasslands.
Souls come to lay down a new vein,
know they are home
when bells sound on Sunday,
dependable from steeples on either side
of this broad street borough.