Joan McBreen to Give Public Reading at Emory

Irish poet's work resonates with readers

Published 09-29-2010

Irish poet Joan McBreen will give a public reading at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010 at the Woodruff Library on the Emory University campus.

The reading will be followed by a reception to celebrate the completed processing of McBreen’s papers, which she placed with the Emory Libraries’ Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) in 2008. Both events are open to the public at no charge.

McBreen’s papers join MARBL’s rich collection of Irish literary works, dubbed an “Irish literary village” by Irish poet Eamon Grennan, who placed his papers with the library last spring. MARBL’s collection also includes the works and/or papers of W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Paul Muldoon.

McBreen has published several volumes of poetry, including The Wind Beyond the Wall (1990), A Walled Garden in Moylough (1995), Winter in the Eye: New and Selected Poems (2003) and Heather Island (2009).

She is more widely known as the editor of two anthologies. The White Page: Twentieth-Century Irish Women Poets, published in 1999, garnered praise for drawing attention to overlooked female poets. Her 2009 anthology The Watchful Heart: A New Generation of Irish Poets - Poems and Essays, highlights lesser-known younger Irish poets and has received positive reviews for its selections.

Mother of six children and a primary school instructor for many years, she quit teaching in 1986 to pursue a career as a poet, taking workshops and getting feedback on her writing. She earned a degree in women’s studies from University College, Dublin in 1997.

McBreen has become a prominent Irish poet and anthologist, says Ron Schuchard, Goodrich C. White Professor of English and a faculty advisor to MARBL. McBreen was a member of his seminar in 1988 when he was teaching at the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo, Ireland. He began including her poetry in his Emory courses in the mid 1990s and has noticed an increasingly strong interest his students have shown in her work.

“It’s a very subtle poetry of observations and perceptions,” Schuchard says of McBreen’s verse. “It’s not flamboyant or extravagant in any way. She has a wonderful eye and a striking ability to perceive nuances of emotion, and that really resonates with readers, who find the poems accessible and moving.”

MARBL manuscript archivist Laura Carroll, who led the processing of the collection, says there are several notable items in the MARBL collection: McBreen’s poetry drafts, showing multiple and meticulous revisions; her correspondence with fellow Irish poets and friends Anne Kennedy, Medbh (pronounced Maeve) McGuckian (MARBL also holds her papers) and Grennan; and McBreen’s project notes from The White Page, including her ideas, solicitation letters, thoughts on who to include, all the way up to the finished product.

A display on Level 2 will accompany the debut of the McBreen papers, showcasing some of the poetry drafts and poems, correspondence with other poets, and her work on The White Page anthology. The display will be on view Sept. 23 through Oct. 7.

The reading will take place in the Jones Room on Level 3 of the Woodruff Library, 540 Asbury Cir., Atlanta, GA 30322. Selected books by McBreen will be available for sale and signing. The reading is sponsored by Irish Studies and MARBL.

For more information, call 404.727.6887, e-mail or visit

For media inquiries, contact: