Máire Mhac an tSaoi
“Born in the year the State was founded, Máire Mhac an tSaoi could be considered part of its royalty.”
– The Irish Times
Máire Mhac an tSaoi was born in 1922 to a distinguished political family. Her mother, Margaret Browne MacEntee, was a lecturer in Irish at University College Dublin and her father, Seán MacEntee, was an author and politician who fought in the Easter Rising of 1916. Máire Mhac an tSaoi was educated at Alexandra College, Loreto College, University College Dublin, and the Institute des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne. In 1944, she became the first Irish woman to be called to the bar, and from 1947 to 1962, she served in the Irish diplomatic corps in Dublin, Strasbourg, and Madrid, in Africa and America, and at the United Nations. She also spent a number of years working with lexicographer Tomás de Bhaldraithe on his English-Irish dictionary. In 1962 she married Conor Cruise O’Brien, the Irish writer, historian, and politician. She lived for many years on the summit of Howth Head outside Dublin, and now lives with her daughter in Co. Meath.
In her literary career, Máire Mhac an tSaoi was poet-in-residence at University College Dublin (1991–1992) and was Associate Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Durham, North Carolina in 1995. Her honors and awards include the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry (1988) and an honorary doctorate in Celtic Studies from the National University of Ireland (1992). In 2004 she was appointed Honorary Professor of Irish Studies at NUI Galway.
In 2014, Wake Forest University Press published The Miraculous Parish / An Paróiste Míorúilteach, which includes selections from her five volumes of poetry from 1956–1999, as well as more recent uncollected poems. In addition to poetry, she has published scholarly work, a novella, and several works of translation, including Miserere (1971), a collection of Irish translations from the English of her uncle, the distinguished scholar and translator Monsignor Pádraig de Brún. Her autobiography, The Same Age as the State, appeared in 2003. She has said: “I would be heartbroken if [the Irish language] were to die but I don’t think I would be heartbroken if it survived as a literary language. As long as I’m alive, Irish is alive.”
Praise for Máire Mhac an tSaoi
“A generation before the groundbreaking achievements of Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Biddy Jenkinson, Medbh McGuckian, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Rita Ann Higgins, and others, and in more daunting social circumstances, Máire Mhac an tSaoi’s poetry speaks to and from the intimate experience of women at a time when women’s voices were largely inaudible, on the margins of Irish literature and society.”
– Louis de Paor