Author Archives: Mary Morrissy

Fish Publishing Lockdown contest!

Congratulations to MA graduates Breda Joyce and  Irene Halpin Long who were both shortlisted in the Fish Publishing Lockdown contest. A total of 131 poems were published as part of the shortlist of 1,400 entries and all proceeds collected by Fish via submission fees went to Oxfam.

Well done to you both!




Our students make Cork Words

Congratulations to our MA in Creative Writing students who feature prominently in this brand new  anthology of Cork writers and writing,  edited by Liam Ronayne,  and published by Cork City Library.

Betty O’Mahony, Cathy Ryan, Daniel Johnson, Debra Fotheringham, Elaine Desmond, Margaret O’Driscoll  and Nejla Gaylen, all currently completing their MAs, appear alongside well-know names including Alannah Hopkin, Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, Billy O’Callaghan, Billy Ramsell, Cethan Leahy, Danielle McLaughlin, Doireann Ní Ghriofa, Gerry Murphy, James Harpur, John FitzGerald, Kathy D’Arcy, Madeleine D’Arcy Lane, Mary Leland, Mary Noonan, Matthew Geden, Patrick Cotter, Paul Casey and William Wall.

The volume is intended to be the first of regular editions to highlight Cork as a writers’ city, and to draw attention to its four significant literary festivals (Cork International Poetry Festival, Cork World Book Festival, Cork International Short Story Festival and the Winter Warmer Festival) as well as the key hubs, O’Bhéal and Fiction at the Friary as well as other literary venues.

Poetry translation winner announced

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The winner of our “Creative Corona” poetry translation competition is Martina Ní Mheachair for her English version of  Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhaigh’s poem, “einín/francach”.   She is a UCC alumna and is currently a research fellow at the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig University in Scotland.

The competition attracted 40 entries and Ailbhe,  who adjudicated the competition, was very impressed by the high standard of the translations. “It was a pleasure to read the various interpretations of “einín/francach,” she said.  

But what impressed her about “bird/rat”, the winning entry, was its handling of competing elements. “A translator of poetry has to wrestle with content, tone and form, all the while  wavering between faithfulness and flair. While many of the entries were strong on fidelity or ingenuity, the winning translation balanced these elements with commendable elegance.”

Dr Ní Mheachair will win E100 and a copy of Ailbhe’s latest volume, a bilingual collection entitled, The Coast Road, from Gallery Press. 

Two runner-up places were also awarded to Laura Ryan and Joanne McCarthy, who will each receive copies of Ailbhe’s book.

The competition was run in conjunction with “Creative Corona” an online platform that ran throughout April on this site –  –  with selected writings from students, graduates and writers associated with the MA in Creative Writing at UCC.  

Here is the  winning entry: 

bird / rat

starting in the bush is that a bird – or a rat

a staycation or internment being stuck in the flat

will the sea continue to ebb and to flow

will we ever see the summer’s glow

had you best cover your face to show compassion

is it true that face masks are now the fashion

do you listen to buds as they bloom

are you obsessed with the latest from the newsroom

have you brought with you your ration book

will you share with me what you cook

your next-door neighbours, are you able to say

if they’re flouting regulations night and day

avoid the old, beware your nephew and niece,

careful now of this fragile peace

dancing at home to blinding lights

numbers of patients reaching new heights

have you Insta‘d your sourdough with a grin

and  practised yoga for a personal win

does the anxiety manifest as a weight in your chest

are you ready for the disaster with which we’ll contest

was Chicken Licken right after all

or is the sky not going to fall

– o creature, o man, will you be my downfall?

Martina  Mheachair


éinín / francach


an éinín atá ag bíogadh sa sceach – nó francach

an staycation é seo nó tamall sa charcair

an leanfaidh an mhuir ag tuilleadh is ag trá

an gcífear go brách an samhradh bán

an fearr do ghnúis a chumhdach feasta

an bhfuil masc aghaidhe anois sa bhfaisean

an éisteann tú le bachlóga ag péacadh

bhfuilir gafa le bratbhuamáil an nuachta

ar thug tú leat do leabhar ciondála

an roinnfeá liom sciar den cháca

an dream béal dorais, ar thugais faoi deara

iad ag sárú rialacha oíche is maidin

seachain seanóirí agus seachain aosánaigh

fainic anois an tsíocháin bhradach

sáil agus barraicín timpeall an tí

bardaí an ospidéil ag cur thar maoil

bhfuil pictiúr den sourdough in airde ar Insta

is do chleachtas ióga ina údar gaisce

an luíonn an imní mar ualach ar d’ucht

bhfuilir ullamh don tubaiste atá le teacht

an raibh an ceart ag cearc an phrompa

nó an bhfanfaidh an spéir in airde tamall eile

– agus an baol dom thú a chréatúir, a dhuine?

Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh





Writers who have what it takes

We may have been in lockdown, but there’s still plenty of publishing news from our students and graduates to report. Here’s  a round-up of their achievements. 

Tadhg Coakley’s first crime novel, Whatever it Takes, comes out in June with Mercier Press.  Because of COVID-19 it will only be available as an ebook initially, but once restrictions are lifted you’ll see it in the bookshops.  Featuring a tough and sometimes unorthrodox detective, name of  Collins, and his drug warlord, arch-enemy, Molloy, Whatever it Takes, is set firmly in Cork and promises to be the first in a series.  Tadhg graduated from the MA in 2016, and this is his second novel.

Molly Twomey, graduate of last year’s MA, was chosen as one of 12 poets whose work featured in Isolation Poem Postcards by Dedalus Press. “As Light” appeared in April as did another poem of hers, “Fionnuala”, in Poetry Ireland Review.   

Poet and fiction writer Alison Driscoll, another MA alumna, was named as the Molly Keane 2020 Writer in Residence just before the lockdown, while Sophie Stein, who graduated in 2017, has  won a fully funded place on an MFA at Indiana State University. 

Alison McCrossan who graduated last year and Debra Fotheringham, a current MA student, both had poetry featured in the Headstuff Poetry network recently. –

Alison’s poem “On Being High” appeared on January 20, Debra’s “Utah Lake” and “Steady” featured as poems of the day on April 17.

Some of these students and graduates also contributed to “Creative Corona” on this site – an online platform of writing from the MA for the month of April.   

Warm congratulations to all of them. 


Creative Corona: Day 30

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The last word in the series goes to poets Matthew Geden and Christina Hession.  Matthew is based in Kinsale, the author of three collections, the most recent entitled Fruit from Sur Vision Books (2020). He teaches poetry to undergraduate writers and on the MA in Creative Writing at UCC. Christina Hession graduated earlier this year with an MA.


Second Chance

The last day drags down the narrow lane,

crosses a stream of cheap champagne,

stumbles out to the headland navigating

the gorse. Wild yellow furze, clusters


of suns at the centre of small-scale solar

systems unaware of the self-isolation

in another world. Nothing is lost

but what we lose for ourselves,


memories buried beneath the paper-

work. There’s an end to it, he says,

washing his hands. But the truth

is you have taken a winding path


ascending into the mist which advances

in on breakers, subdued splash on the rocks

far below. The wanderer in you is forever

hopeful, hastens now to climb above


it all into the final seconds of a second

sunset, relive the warmth, resurgent

birdsong amongst the ghosts of tractors,

last loitering light and a fingernail moon.

Matthew Geden




Suspend the squalls of the heart,

Stow them with circled calendar dates,

must do lists,

and under stairs detritus

till mañana.


Sit seiza-style

in a faux fur saucer chair.

Pick up a spine-cracked

paperback, and inhale

the perfume of passion

– the aroma of vanilla

and almond.


Savour a marshmallowy

hot chocolate,

perched perilously

on your patella.

Watch flames frolic

in the fireplace,

taking solace from the seething sky,

and whining wind.


is a clean, though imperfect slate.


Christina Hession

Today is our last posting of “Creative Corona”, a month-long platform of writing from students, graduates and writers associated with the MA in Creative Writing at UCC.  A special word of appreciation goes to all the writers who made this project possible.  Their work was donated free of charge and represents a great generosity of spirit in the service of creative commons at a time when conditions for writers are so imperilled.   Many thanks to all.

Mary Morrissy, Associate Director of Creative Writing






Creative Corona: Day 29

Photograph: Dennis Scannell, Irish Examiner

Mark Kelleher graduated from the MA in Creative Writing in 2016 and is currently pursuing a PhD in contemporary American literature at Dublin City University. Mary Morrissy is a novelist and short story writer.  She is the Associate Director of Creative Writing.


Tonight, I am thinking again about breathing.

When I was a child, I did not like the eeriness of bedtime fairytales. Instead, my mother used to read to me from my father’s old science almanacs and add her own twists to their incogitable truths. I never forgot them and some have contributed of late to what seems now to be the fundamental mood of my existence.

For instance, once, when I was off school unwell, she read to me that in a day’s worth of breathing, one is likely to inhale at least one molecule from the breaths of every human who has ever lived. This thought soon became a peculiar source of comfort and many times when I felt the urge to misbehave I put it down to the fact that for a fleeting moment I had Hitler inside me.

I have been doing something different lately – I have been thinking about breathing in the entire world.

This is what was on my mind while looking through the bedroom window just now. It is something I have been doing every night for the last month – looking out there and thinking about breathing, while behind me the man on the radio whispers replies to callers who seem so faraway I sometimes imagine them to be in worlds entirely separate from this one.

The skyline looked totally on fire a few moments ago. The sight of it lifted me out of this room and into the arms of my mother again. I was seven. It was night in summer and we were in a caravan in Swansea. My father was outside with his cigarette and my mother was at my bedside, inventing some truths of her own to help me fall asleep. With her hand lightly squeezing mine, she leaned towards me and said quietly that red evening skies were made by the lonely of the world. Everyone who had no one, she continued, had their own unique light and it shone brightest when they felt at their most alone. Their collective shine was to remind them that they were alone together.

I didn’t know then that my father was dying.

The scenes from my window here are not, I suppose, spectacular. In fact, they rarely change. There are the backs of houses and the backs of more houses beyond. There is a motorway some miles to the west, but it is not visible from here; it registers its presence only through a sound that is scarce now. To the east, two cranes located on a site that has stalled. That dog four doors down seems to only come alive at night. There is no menace in his barking and I do not find it a nuisance. I tell myself that he is singing in the only way he can.

I haven’t seen anyone for days, but it doesn’t stop me from imagining how I would appear to someone if they looked up and saw me here. They may wave and perhaps mouth a greeting of some kind. Of course, it’s just as likely that they might see me and turn quickly away.

What they wouldn’t see is a woman trying in her own way to find her way home.

I’m seventy-six now and for a long time now I have contemplated making a wound in myself just to see if I glow. 

But for now, at least, I am at this window and I am thinking about breathing.

Mark Kelleher


Margaret’s latest shop, ordered online – oh yes, she is computer-literate, thank you very much – and delivered to the front door by an anonymous gloved hand, is lined up on the counter-top like a miniature city. A thuggish, spouty container of detergent, a thin tower of disinfectant spray, a monolithic nine-pack of loo rolls lord it over the low-rise goods, cans of mixed beans, chickpeas, salmon.  She’s not sure why she’s ordered these.  Since Fintan died she hasn’t bothered with cooking much, resorting to hyphenated food.  Film-wrapped.  Oven-ready.  But with someone else doing her shopping, she was afraid she’d be judged nutritionally if she only ordered microwaveable stuff.

She used to be proud of her store cupboard.  There was always something in there she could mix in, or add, to zip up a shop-bought soup or bulk out a stew.

“You’re thrifty,” Fintan used to say. “Like a war bride.”

“Excuse me,” she’d say, “I’m a war baby, born in 1945, thank you very much!”

She liked being 12 years younger than Fintan. She’d been the baby of the family and she’d never lost the notion that everyone in the room was older than she was.  If it hadn’t sounded so foolish, she’d still be declaring her age in fractions – I’m 74½, thank you very much.

Now her age is an underlying condition. She’s vulnerable. It’s official.  She walks and swims and sings in a choir and was, up to a week ago, a perfectly functioning member of society, but now she’s somehow lesser.  That’s why she’s given up watching the news with its fruit machine of fatalities.  She feels targeted. 

When she begins clearing the press to make way for the shop, she realizes she’s been presiding over a food archive. Supplies for emergencies long gone. Late night snacks for when the boys would come in from the pub, ravenous, or Trudie would bring college friends back for a home-cooked meal. With all of them gone, she no longer has to draw on these reserves. Now she finds tuna sulking in brine that expired five years ago last August, soya sauce with a 2012 date, a tin of green lentils from 2007!  Just-in-case provisions – condensed milk from 2001.  Cut-price exotica – sauerkraut that came of age in June 2010. The only up-to-date items are the packets of chocolate biscuits and bars in the “goodie” box for the grandchildren and who knows when she’ll see them again. As for herself, she’s lost her taste for sweetness.

What should she do with the out-of-date tins? Throw them out?  And in which bin, for pity’s sake? And wouldn’t that be wasteful? Could a food bank use them?  Or should she hang on to them in case things get worse? Will there come a time when she’ll be happy to spoon decade-old processed peas direct from the can?  What’s the worst that could happen? Aluminium poisoning? How does that compare to being an untouchable, lungs filling up, tended to by nurses in goggles and space suits, dying alone and being buried without ceremony?

She fishes out the next old tin – it’s tomatoes. You’d think they’d last forever. But no, best before May 16, 2020.

It reads like an epitaph.

Mary Morrissy

TOMORROW: Last word goes to Matthew Geden with “Second Chance” and Christina Hession with “Mañana”







Creative Corona: Day 28

Mary Noonan is the author of two collections of poetry – The Fado House  (Dedalus, 2012)  and Stone Girl  (Dedalus, 2019). She teaches French literature at UCC.  She offers a “dream of the Mediterranean, now that we’re all trapped at home!”  Breda Joyce, who graduated from the MA in Creative Writing earlier this year, revisits a hospital in the past.  

Somewhere Else

 it’s a cold Spring, three cormorants

are flying in, maybe, to huddle on a

rainy weir, but here, at the Wednesday

market, it’s fat strawberries from the garrigue

and golden onions with wild green hair

and inky octopus lolling on reefs of scarlet

bell peppers. Through dapple-dapple lime-

green freckles flickering on piebald bark

and limestone clock-towers and fountains

we drive, stopping at the sign of the scallop-

shell of Saint James to drink the citrus wine

and eat the sweet oysters of Bouzigues.

In the streets of Sète, a seagull presents

himself at locked glass doors –  knock,

wait, hop on, dome-headed pilgrim!

Are you looking for your mate? She’s been

snared in nets, bamboozled by the oysters,

the lake’s slinky contortionists, shimmering

under water on their salty daisy chains.

Gull cries follow us. Somewhere else,

three cormorants are raising a black flag

above an icy river.

Mary Noonan

* garrigue: scrubland in the Mediterranean region


Visiting Rite


I was four and my brother nearly two and I squeezed

my mother’s fingers in the ward with the bad smell.

We found my brother red cheeked and crying in the corner,

hands raised about the gate of his cot.


My mother took an orange from a brown paper bag,

held its coolness against his raging cheek,

then peeled the hissing skin and sprayed

the air with a citrus mist.


She offered him a segment and my brother

squeezed its sweetness between his tiny teeth.

(I took one too, to show him what to do)


When visiting time was up my mother

unclasped sticky arms from around her neck,

laid down her little boy among the orange balls.


I saw tears in her eyes, and I blocked my ears

against my brother’s pleading cries as from his cot

he threw each orange out between the bars.


Now it is my mother who stands inside a gate,

and from her doorstep looks out across

a vacant space. My brother tells her she will be ok

that he will visit soon again and wishes her

a happy Mother’s Day.


Before he leaves, he leans across the gate

to place a bunch of tulips beside a bag of oranges

on the other side.


Breda Joyce

TOMORROW: “Home” by Mark Kelleher and “Expiry Date” by Mary Morrissy



Creative Corona: Day 27

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A “compromised” boy deals with lockdown temptation and a grandmother makes an unlikely COVID-19 connection in these two short fictions.  Jacqui Corcoran is an MA alumna from 2017 while Debra Fotheringham is a current MA student. 


Nobody noticed the new teen in No.9 The Fairways, because he was well locked down under strictest, hysterical instruction. His mother dropped him off late at night, weary and dazzled after another day in the hospital and the three-hour drive from Dublin. She had custody, of course, but with his cystic fibrosis the lad was maybe safer down here. 

Seeing his father softened the parting for the lad, but a few days into lockdown, the novelty had worn off and there wasn’t much to be said between them. Thank Christ for PlayStation, the father thought, but there wasn’t much thinking overall, and both were happy enough, or not unhappy anyway, doing their own things, whatever they were.

The online football could go all hours in this curfew-free house. There were no ground rules, only the mother’s nightly pleadings on the phone to stay put. 

A couple of weeks into it, Kyle’s father shouted at him to come downstairs late one night. He was swaying like a tree and pointing at the bottom of the closed front door.

      “That’s a fucking threshold, right?”

       Kyle clenched his fists, wanting to get back to the game. 

      “You don’t cross it, right? I’m sick saying it to her. You tell her, OK?” 


On screen the players were from all over, but mainly from Kyle’s Dublin school. Half-way through a match one night a locator App pinged and Brian came online.

       “You’re here!” 

Their mothers used to nurse together and the boys had kept sporadic on-screen contact after Kyle moved to Dublin.  

      “Yeah,” said Kyle, relieved he didn’t have to explain. “It’s shit. I can’t go outside the door.

In daylight he would look through his attic window at tracks going through the hilly field of the now closed golf club. More and more seemed to form each day, worming their way towards the flanking forest beyond. He looked out for Brian in the groups and singles out there. One day he thought he saw him walking through the tall grass, but it could have been any boy in any family.


Brian invited him into a local online league. The concentration and lockdown focus forged quick bonds and Kyle’s feelings towards his faceless companions bulged with a sort of urgency. But he didn’t share his team-mates’ joy when they reached the final.  The tick-tock countdown might be the beginning of the end. Soon they would head off to play games with different, real boys.

During the on-screen league final game Lucas said: “We sometimes go down the forest when the folks are asleep. Wanna come?” 

Kyle thought of the trees at the end of the tracks. 

He thought of the threshold. The fucking threshold.

      “Nah, can’t.”  

      “Why? said Lucas, who didn’t like to leave a question unanswered. 

      “My father, he’d probably strangle me.

The match battered along into an overtime debate about who’d take the penalties. 

     “You take our first,” said Lucas and Kyle had to ask twice: “Who, me? Really?

      “About the woods,” said Lucas. “Sure, your father wouldn’t know, he’d be asleep.” 

      “Yeah,” said Aaron, who was usually quiet. “We wanna meet you face-to-face.”  

Kyle was trying to focus on the shot. He was swelled up with it all and finding it hard to concentrate. 

      “Cop on, you lot,” said Brian, and Kyle pulled back his chair, away from the screen, willing Brian to shut the fuck up. Lucas came in quick though, like the brilliant team captain that he was. 

      “I’m only asking him, Brian. You can make up your own mind, can’t you?”  

       They know. Brian fucking told them, Kyle thought. 

He was trying to guide his blurred player towards the goal, struggling to line up and take the shot. 

      “Well?” said Lucas.

      “Maybe,” Kyle said.

      “Maybe what?” said Lucas. “Maybe you can make up your own mind, or maybe you’ll come?

      “Maybe like shut the fuck up and let me take the shot, boy!Kyle said in a thick, comical country accent.

      And all the players online, even Lucas, even Brian laughed at that, because Kyle, it turned out, could be kind of funny.

Jacqui Corcoran



+1 (801) 617-5894/ Text Message/Thu, Apr 9, 10:15 AM

Is this the number I text to have my groceries delivered?

     <nah. wrong number

I’m sorry. Do you know the number for the Neighbours Helping Neighbours organisation? My grandson was delivering my groceries but he’s not feeling well and doesn’t want to risk giving the virus to me if he has it.

     <nah sorry. can u look it up online?

No, my internet isn’t working. I only have my phone. My grandson wrote the number down for me but I can’t read his writing very well. I was going to call him next.

     <I looked it up 4 u. 8019347348. u were just one number off.

Thank you!

     <no prob :smiley:

Thank you so much! My name is Pearl, by the way. I’m very appreciative of your help.

     <I’m Dante

Thank you, Dante. Are you in Salt Lake City too?

     <yep, I live in liberty wells

I see. My home is in The Avenues area.  

     <fancy :mansion:

Well, I suppose it’s considered fancy now. When my husband Ken and I first moved in sixty years ago, it was just another neighbourhood.

     <is ur husband still alive?

No, he passed away ten years ago.

     <sorry :sad_face:

It’s ok. The time we had together was wonderful and I’ve learned to live on my own.

     <cool. ur grandson takes care of u now?

Yes, my daughter lives in New York City but my grandson moved back here to raise his young children and I’ve loved having them close.


Does your family live here too?

     <I live with my mom. I’m 13. she’s a nurse at U of U hospital. She’s been gone a lot lately helping with the virus stuff

She’s doing wonderful work. I hope you’re proud. Are you continuing your schooling online?

    <yeah, I was Zooming with my teachers and class but we had to switch to google hangouts cuz a hackers

I’m not really sure what that means but I’m glad you’re still able to learn.

      <yeah, those are just online video things. its cool but I miss my friends

I’m sure you do. It’s hard to be alone and stuck indoors. I miss my friends too.

     <sorry ur alone too :sad_face:

It’s ok. I’m glad I have a new friend to talk to. Feel free to text me any time, Dante, if you get lonely or even if you need help with your homework.

     <dope. hope u can get ur food

Thanks, Dante. You have a wonderful day, ok?

     <cool. u 2 :wave:


Debra Fotheringham


TOMORROW: “Somewhere Else” by Mary Noonan and “Visiting Rite” by Breda Joyce


Creative Corona: Day 26

Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Poet John FitzGerald won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2014 and his debut collection First Cut appeared in 2017.  He is the director of information services at Boole Library UCC, which part sponsors the Department of English annual reading series.  James O’Sullivan is a poet, publisher and a lecturer in Digital Humanities in the Department of English.  “The Holy Ground” comes from his most recent collection, Courting Katie (Salmon, 2017)


Spring’s other gift

is the illusion of youth.


Today, still in recovery, I sit

on the front terrace, a generous


gin in hand, to hear the birds sing

vigorous as fiddlers — and go


with all my senses in the song

of every bird of Ballymichael,


Dunisky, Warrenscourt, Crossmahon,

all the way back to Kilbarry, where


the quick ticking of a wren,

with the insistence


of Mossie Brady’s polite poetic stammer,

silences everything.


John FitzGerald


The Holy Ground

It greets you like a bookshelf, or the selection

in a sweetshop—Saint Colman keeping a watchful

eye on greedy little boys, and mischievous girls,

reaching for a taste of something sharp and sour—

Black Jacks and Fruit Salads—gobbled all at once,

packed and chewed between watery cheeks.


Joseph guards the western door so children

might not pass with sticky fingers, smudging

the fine limestone from Mallow, the blue

Dalkey granite and Kilkenny marble,

the Belgian slate, and Californian pitchpine.

Here is not a place for unwashed children.


Sailors sang about this oasis, raising anchors,

hoping to find a torn rigging that might send them

for shore with the secrets of their mind piled high.

Vigil is still kept from the hill, but like the shanties,

they have been seen for what they are—the shop fronts

are fading now, and children keep hold of their mothers.

James O’Sullivan

TOMORROW:  “Vector” by Jacqui Corcoran and  “Wrong Number” by Debra Fotheringham