Anthologies show lack of representation from female Irish writers

A new “convergence of practising women poets and academics”, Fired!, is responding to the lack of representation of Irish women poets and critics within Irish Literature.

Spurred by this year’s publication of The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets from Cambridge University Press (with only 13.3% of its contributors women), Fired! seeks to readdress this lack of parity. It is asking people to withdraw from literary projects that does not make a “good-faith effort to adequately represent the contribution women make to literature and literary criticism”, as well as highlight the work of Irish woman poets past and present.

We’ll be looking at the Fired! movement in more detail later this month; in the meantime, we’ve analysed a number of past anthologies and critical work, looking at exactly how under-represented women has been in the Irish canon. We’ve counted either the number of poets showcased or analysed (the totals ignoring the number of anonymous works), or the number of essays by female critics. The results speak from themselves, with only two collections achieving over 40% representation. This list will be updated sporadically as we analyse further texts.

A Treasury of Irish Literature
no editor stated (Barnes & Noble, 2017)
Lady Wilde, Katherine Tynan-Hinkson, Ethna Carbery, Eva Gore-Booth, Maria Edgeworth
5 female authors out of 32 = 15.6%

Windharp: Poems of Ireland since 1916
ed. Niall MacMonagle (Penguin, 2016)
Katherine Tynan, Eva Gore-Booth, Dora Sigerson Shorter, Blanaid Salkeld, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanaín, Eavan Boland, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eithne Stronge, Julie O’Callaghan, Paula Meehan, Mary O’Malley, Medbh McGuckian, Sinead Morrissey, Kerry Hardie, Siobhan Campbell, Mary O’Donnell, Lucy Brennan, Colette Bryce, Caitriona O’Reilly, Vona Groarke, Martina Evans, Celia De Freine, Dorothy Molloy, Mary Rose Callan, Mary Branley, Susan Connolly, Louise C. Callaghan, Grace Wells, Moya Cannon, Rita Ann Higgins, Sarah Clancy, Leanne Quinn, Jean O’Brien, Catherine Phil MacCarthy, Vivienne McKechnie, Leanne O’Sullivan, Tara Bergin, Anne Haverty, Jessica Traynor, Doireann Ni Ghriofa, Enda Wyley, Sara Berkeley
42 female poets out of 102 – 41.2%

Northern Irish Poetry: The American Connection
Elmer Kennedy Andrews (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014)
no essays exclusively on women poets, 5 out of 7 exclusively on male = 0%

The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry
eds. Fran Brearton and Alan Gillis (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Edna Longley, Susah Schreibman, Heather Clark, Leontia Flynn, Gail McConnell, Maria Johnston, Fran Brearton, Catriona Clutterbuck, Miriam Gamble, Kit Fryatt
10 female contributors out of 40 = 25%

The New North: Contemporary Poetry from Northern Ireland
Ed. Chris Agee (Salt Publishing, 2011)
Jean Bleakney, Moyra Donaldson, Sinead Morrissey, Leontia Flynn, Medbh McGuckian, 
5 female poets out of 20 – 25%

An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry
ed. Wes David (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010)
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanaín, Eavan Boland, Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Mary O’Malley, Paula Meehan, Vona Groarke, Enda Wyley, Sara Berkeley, Sinéad Morrissey
10 female poets out of 53 = 18.9%

Modern Irish Poetry: An Anthology
Ed. Patrick Crotty (Penguin, 2010)
Caitriona O’Reilly, Leontia Flynn, Collette Bryce, Sinead Morrissey, Rita Ann Higgins, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Kerry Hardie, Meabh McGuckian, Eavan Boland, Dorothy Molloy, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanaín, Máire Mhac an tSaoi, Blánaid Salkeld, Katherine Tynan, Emily Lawless, Jane Francesa Elgee, ‘Mother of Diarmaid Mac Carthaigh’, Mary Tigne, Úna Ní Bhroin, Dorothea Dubois, ‘Philo-Philippa’, Brighid Chill Dara
22 female poets out of 177 = 12.4%

Irish Literature since 1990: Diverse Voices
eds. Scott Brewster and Michael Parker (Manchester University Press, 2009)
Clare Wallace, Maria Kurdi, Martine Pelletier, Lucy Collins, Joanna Cowper, Heidi Hansson, Vivian Vavlano Lynch, Jennifer M. Jeffers, Paula Spencer
9 out of 19 contributors = 47.4%

The Quiet Quarter: Ten Years of Great Irish Writing
Ed. Márie Nic Gearailt (New Island, 2009)
Sharon Hogan, Catherine Ryan, Mary O’Malley, Marguerite MacCurtin, Judith Mok, Dianna Robin Dennis, Nóirín Ní Riain, Brigid O’Connor, Kate Thompson, Mary O’Donnell, Enda Wyley, Marian O’Neill, Colette McAndrew, Derbhile Dromey, Nollaig Rowan, Joan Ryan, Celia de Fréine, Martina King, Mae Leonard, Carmel Maginn, Carmel Dennison, Margaret Lee, Rita Ann Higgins, Nuala Rothery, Aisling Maguire, Ita Daly, Barbara Scully, Enda-Coyle-Greene, Clare Lynch, Kate Dempsey, Kate Duigan, Rosemary Quinn, Mary Gilroy Johnson, Grace Wynne-Jones, Phyl Herbert, Moya Cannon, Hedy Gibbons Lynott, Patricia Nolan, Mary Coll, Ellen O’Toole, Vona Groarke, Ann Bree, Leland Bardwell, Geraldine Mills, Mary J. Byrne, Máiríde Woods, Isobel Mahon, Josephine Molloy, Geraldine Mitchell, Ann Henning Jocelyn, Dolores Whelan, Noreen Walshe, Sylvia Cullen, Sarah Ní Riain, Mary P. Wilkinson, Maggie O’Kane
56 female poets out of 132 = 42.4%

Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland, 1968-2008
Elmer Kennedy-Andrews (D.S. Brewer, 2008)
3 female poets out 17 written about = 17.6%

The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry
ed. Justin Quinn (Cambridge University Press, 2008)
Katharine Tynan, Ethna Carbery, Emily Lawless, Eva Gore-Booth, Susan L. Mitchell, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan,Catherine Walsh, Medbh McGuckian, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanaín. Sinead Morrissey, Vona Groarke, Caitriona O’Reilly
14 female poets out of 66 discussed = 21.2%

The Blackbird’s Nest: An Anthology of Poetry from Queen’s University Belfast
Ed. Frank Ormsby (Blackstaff Press, 2006)
Helen Waddell, Joan Newmann, Sabine Wichert, Carol Rumens, Medbh McGuckian, Ruth Carr, Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons, Tess Hurson, Jean Bleakney, Moyra Donaldson, Kate Newmann, Deirdre Cartmill, Sinead Morrissey, Leontia Flynn
14 out of 53 female poets = 26.4%

Magnetic North: The Emerging Poets
ed. John Brown (Verbal Arts Centre, 2006)
Jean Bleakney, Collette Bryce, Ruth Carr, Deirdre Cartmill, Paula Cunningham, Moyra Donaldson, Leontia Flynn, Kerry Hardie, Sinead Morrissey, Cherry Smyth, Sabine Wichert
11 female poets out of 29 = 37.9%

The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry
ed. Matthew Campbell (Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Lucy Collins, Guinn Batten, Fran Brearton
3 female contributors out of 14 = 21.4%

The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse
ed. Thomas Kinsella (Oxford University Press, 2001)
Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill
1 out of 62 = 1.6%

Irish poetry since 1950: From stillness into history
John Goodby (Manchester University Press, 2000)
Catherine Walsh, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanaín, Eavan Boland, Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
5 female poets out of 42 primary texts consulted and referenced = 11.9%

The Ireland Anthology
ed. Seán Dunne (Gill & Macmillan, 1999)
Deidre Madden, Wendly Walsh, Mrs S.C. Hall, Elizabeth Bowen, Dervla Murphy, Kate O’Brien, Lady Gregory, Nell McCafferty, Polly Devlin, Nora Hopper Chesson, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, Maria Edgeworth, Eavan Boland, Elizabeth Bowen, Jennifer Johnston, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Katherine Mansfield, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Nuala Ní Dhomhnail, Helen Waddell, Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander, Paula Meelan, Molly Keane, Alice Taylor, Myrtle Allen, Mrs Delaney, Edna O’Brien
26 female authors out of 176 = 14.8%

Irish Poetry After Yeats
ed. Maurice Harmon (Merlin Publishing, 1997)
0 female poets out of 7 = 0%
(thank you to Emer Fallon for this stat)

Irish Poetry since Kavanagh
ed. Theo Dorgan (Four Courts Press, 1996)
Edna Longley, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eavan Boland
3 female contributors out of 12 = 25%

Poetry In Contemporary Irish Literature
ed. Michael Kenneally (Colin Smythe Ltd, 1995)
Geraldine Meaney, Edna Longley, Linda Revie, Kathleen McCracken, Clair Wills
5 female contributors out of 23 = 21.7%

Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays
ed. Elmer Andrews (Macmillan Press, 1992)
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanaín, Edna Longley, Patricia Craig, Barbara Buchanan
4 female contributors out of 15 = 26.7%

The Poet’s Place: Essays in Honour of John Hewitt, 1907-1987
Eds. Gerald Dawe and John Wilson Foster (Queen’s University Belfast, 1991)
Eve Patten, Sophia Hillan King, Patricia Craig, Geraldine Watts
4 female essayists out of 23 = 17.4%

The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry
Eds. Peter Fallon & Derek Mahon (Penguin Books Ltd, 1990)
Sara Berkeley, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Eavan Boland, Medbh McGuckian,
4 female poets out of 35 = 11.4%

Poets from the North of Ireland
ed. Frank Ormsby (Blackstaff Press, revised edition, 1990)
Meadh McGuckian
1 female poet out of 27 = 3.7%

The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry
ed. Paul Muldoon (Faber and Faber, 1986)
Meadh McGuckian
1 female poet out of 10 = 10%

The Rattle Bag
eds. Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (Faber and Faber, 1982)
Dame Juliana Berners, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Daryush, Emily Dickinson, Suzanne Knowles, Sylvia Plath, Laura Riding, Stevie Smith, Judith Wright
10 female poets out of 139 = 7.2%

Faber Book of Irish Verse
ed. John Montague (Faber and Faber, 1974)
Eavan Boland, Eilís Dillon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Máire Cruise O’Brien, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill, Helen Waddell
6 female poets and translators out of 125 = 4.8%

A Choice of Poets
ed. R.P. Hewett (Harrap, 1968)
0 female poets out of 14 = 0%
revised 1999 edition included 3 women (Bronte, Nichols and Plath), 3/35 = 8.5%
(thank you to Wendy Erskine for this update)

1 Comment

  1. Mary O’Donnell

    Colin, such essential work you have done. Thank you!


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