Terry McDonagh – A Journey in Words

I must lie down where all the ladders start  in the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart. W.B Yeats


A writer begins ‘where all the ladders start’ even if he doesn’t know where he is going or what this journey is going to ask of him. It is an exciting, exacting journey, real and symbolic where the artist moves freely between the conscious world of daily grind and the semi-conscious, veiled world of the imagination. In special moments the veil is lifted and the two worlds become one.

Terry photo

But writing can be a chore – hard work – an endless maze of rejection slips and glimmers of hope: a poem gets published and all is forgiven; a book comes out and there’s joy and hosanna all along the imaginary high streets.

Terry McDonagh’s literary life began to find expression in Hamburg in the early nineties when he came into contact with Olaf Hille Verlag. Prior to that it was a patchwork of unfinished and occasionally published poems.

The Road Out (1993) was published by Olaf Hille and it resonated beautifully around the ‘scene’ in Hamburg.

Prior to that a play: I wanted to Bring You Flowers/ ich kann das Alles Erklaeren was published by Fischer Verlag (Aachen) in 1991. The author remembers seeing the book in a bookshop in Hamburg and his young son, Sean, trying to attract the attention of the all customers to the existence of the book. This son is now grown up and is a very successful actor. A literary life grows up by hook or by crook.

Olaf Hille Verlag became Blaupause Books and A World Without Stone was published in 1998. One thing leads to another it would seem. Ireland Literature Exchange funded the translation of a book of poetry into German, Kiltimagh, in 2001. Mirko Bonne was the translator.

In 1999, Blaupause Verlag, in collaboration with Thalia bookshops and Hamburger Abendblatt, introduced Terry McDonagh’s Elbe Letters go West / Briefe von der Elbe. This beautifully produced hardback struck a cord with the city.

Ernst Klett Verlag, Stuttgart brought out One Summer in Ireland in 2002 and that is still doing the rounds in German schools.

Terry McDonagh took a break from teaching drama in 2001 to take up a post as artist in residence in Melbourne (thanks to Joachim Matschoss) and that wonderful experience resulted in a poetry collection: A Song for Joanna (Hamburg, Melbourne, A Journal in Verse (Blaupause books, 2002).

Joanna and Terry have a son – who is a great little reader – Matthew.

  • In 2004, Ireland Literature Exchange again supported the translation of Terry McDonagh’s work – this time into Indonesian: Tiada Tempat di Rawa – thanks to the late author and professor, Dami N. Toda who translated the work with Indonesian poet, Sapardi Djoko Damono. The collection was published by Indonesia Tera, Magelang.
  • In 2006, Blaupause Books published BOXES – poetry for young people. This opened a whole new, vibrant world of literary opportunity. With the support of Poetry Ireland, Terry was able to establish his place in the Irish school and library programmes.
  • Many years ago, poet and novelist, Philip Casey had suggested Terry McDonagh should write about Cill Aodain – his birthplace and birthplace and birthplace of the Anthony Raftery (17178-1835), the blind bard who died in County Galway.
  • As late as 2008, this dream became reality when, in collaboration with American Artist, Sally McKenna, a beautifully illustrated hardback, Cill Aodain & Nowhere Else was published by Blaupause Books and funded by Mayo County Library and The Leader Programme.
  • Arlen House, Galway published terry McDonagh’s latest collection of poetry, The Truth in Mustard, in January 2010.
  • Terry McDonagh’s writing has it’s own audience and it continues to grow in confidence. Nor only has it found a market in his books but it has been published worldwide in literary journals and anthologies.
  • With uileann piper, Diarmaid Moynihan he forms the poetry/piper duo, Raithneach. Twelve of his poems have been put to music for voice and string quartet by the late Eberhard Reichel.
  • 2010: Poetry, ‘The Truth in Mustard’
  • 2012: ‘In the Light of Bridges – Hamburg Fragments’ (Impressions of life in Hamburg in verse, stories and drama)
  • 2013: Poetry, ‘Ripple Effect’
  • 2014: ‘Michel the Merman’ (a tale based on legends and stories of the Elbe and the North Sea…illustrated by Mark Barnes).
  • 2015: Poetry for young people…’Echolocation’
  • Further Examples of Workshops/Readings:
  •  Various aspects of creative writing and theatre in education workshops for European Council of International Schools in Nice, Paris, Hamburg, Berlin – 1995 to 2002 / He was founder member of Hamburg’s First Int. Writers’ Festival (’97) / Dramatising Poetry – a workshop for Drama teachers in Shakespeare Centre, Stratford upon Avon (1999) / Creative writing residencies in Bonn, London, Dublin, Melbourne, Sydney, Ireland, Brussels, Stuttgart, Budapest, Kuwait city and, recently, in Coole Park, Bangkok, Singapore / Writer in residence in Melbourne 2001 – University of Melbourne, RMIT, Caulfield Grammar and other schools / Writing/Drama: ‘silence between words’ workshop in Hannover for Association of German International Schools (2003) / Introduction to creative writing/drama for teachers in the Mayo Ed. Centre, Castlebar, 2002) / Co-founder of FELT theatre in education, company, Hamburg, 2003 / Ubud/Bali International Writers Festival, and readings/lecture Universitas Sanata Dhama, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2004, Toured Melbourne and Sydney with Hamburg Int. School Theatre Group / Workshops/readings in Mayo County libraries 2006: Writer in residence in Bangkok and Singapore in spring / Writer in residence in Coole Park, Co. Galway / Introduction to creative writing and drama, for primary teachers, Mayo Education Centre, summer / Artistic Director of In Sight of Raftery, Arts Festival, Kiltimagh, June / Creative writing, readings and workshops in Slough Libraries (England) / Creative writing workshop in Museum of Country Life Castlebar / Creative writing workshops in National Library of Ireland, Dublin / Worked with active retirement groups and other writing groups throughout 2006: Ongoing workshops with Poetry Ireland, Writer in Schools programme / Armagh libraries / Clifden Arts Festival, Co. Galway / Baboro International Arts Festival in Galway, for young people / Sonas Arts festival 2006, Louisburg, Co. Mayo /Mayo Libraries 2006 / Hamburg Rover Rep, / Museum of Country Life, Castlebar / Ongoing readings/workshops with Poetry Ireland, Writers in Schools programme throughout Ireland / Workshops, in National Library, Dublin. / Junior writers’ club in Museum of Country Life 2007: Dubai/Abu Dhabi. / In Sight of Raftery festival in Kiltimagh / Ed. Centre Sligo / Raithneach in Museum of Country Life / Ballina, Kerouac, Beat festival Scotland / Raithneach at Clarinbridge Arts Festival / Workshop in Coole park / J.C.S.P. Dublin, workshop / Culfada national School, Sligo 2008: Hamburg Reading in Rover Rep Theatre sponsored by Irish Embassy Berlin / A.G.I.S. Workshop in Hannover / J.C.S.P workshops Dublin / Brandenburg International School, Berlin / International School Hamburg / Museum of Country Life / Sligo Ed. Centr / Poetry Irl/Clifden Festival, Outreach programme / Poetry Irl/Killnadeema/Loughrea, Co Galway / Launches of Cill Aodain & Nowhere Else / Education Centre Sligo / Recorded The Adventures of Spike the Hedgehog / Clifden Arts Festival / Workshops in Schlewig-Holstein with Ida Ehre Schule Hamburg / CBI readings in libraries / Clarinbridge Arts Festival / Our Lady’s The Bower Arts festival Athlone / PEN & Ink Writers Kiltimagh / Living Scenes, Clarlestown (ongoing) / In Sight of Raftery Festival, Kiltimagh / Reading from CillAodain & Nowhere Else in Park Hotel Kiltimagh / St Louis Community School, Kiltimagh, Drama, Creative Writing programmes / Kilkenny: With Poetry Ireland and Barnstorm Theatre Co. workshops in schools / ‘Living Scenes’ programme in St Joseph’s, Charlestown (supported by NUIG) / Clare libraries poetry competition. Prizes to be presented on World Book Day, March 5th in Ennis / Drama: Directing, TAKEN, by Sean Walsh (Rehearsals in progress) 2010: Booklaunch in Booksellers, Madrid. Thanks to John Liddy, The British Council, Irish Ambassador., Justin Harman, Matthew Loughney of James Joyce Pub for his generosity and Vaughan Radio for making my visit such a success / Education Centre Castlebar: May 4th and 5th /May8th Hoechstadt Library, Germany,

  • 2015 was a very busy year. I worked with Poetry Ireland on several occasions. The Writing Academy, ‘Write to Read’ project at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin;  working with Baboro in Galway on Galway City of Culture 2020; my annual trip to Int. School Bonn; working with Museum of Country Life; the Clifden Arts festival; a wonderful experience of a residency with Western Care on a Romeo and Juliet project with staff and clients; workshops with children in Claremorris Town Hall; Siamsa Sraide Festival Swinford; Kenny/Naughton Festival Aughamore; readings in schools such as Westport NS (The Quay); Gymnasium Suederelbe, Hamburg; Newport NS; St Louis and St Aidan’s Kiltimagh; St Tiernan’s Crossmolina; the launch of my latest poetry collection, Echolocation in Castlebar Library; the launch of Pen & Ink Anthology (All in my Text) in Kiltimagh and many other exciting experiences for which I am grateful.