Unlegendary Heroes

Unlegendary Heroes

Geraldine O’Reilly & Mary O’Donnell

14 January - 5 March 2021

For the last two years the visual artist/printmaker Geraldine O’Reilly and poet Mary O’Donnell have collaborated on Unlegendary Heroes; a project where Geraldine selected ten of Mary’s poems and responded in a series of ten visual images in watercolour, which were then printed using silk screen.

The 10 poems deal with aspects of female life and experience, including one of O’Donnell’s most essential and defining poems Unlegendary Heroes, often cited and quoted from. This poem is included on The Poetry Foundation’s website and also appears in Windharp: Poems of Ireland since 1916, (Penguin Ireland, 2015) and was developed as a performance piece for the Irish Consulate in Boston’s Women’s Voices in Modern Irish Poetry in November 2020.

Other poems deal with the upbeat modern woman who sashays through a celebrating crowd (At the Wedding, A Stranger), an iconic crone figure who intercuts two other generations with her need for nourishment (Feeding the Crone), and on to the contemporary bitter poetic enactment of hair-cutting for economic survival in a subsistence culture (Twenty Inches of Hair). As well, one of Dublin’s great cafes is evoked as four generations of women are recalled (Meeting outside Bewleys) and in contrast to this, a group of walkers bear witness to a heron’s flight (Heron and the Women).

The artwork responding to the poems displays Geraldine O’Reilly’s acclaimed creative achievement in the manner in which her public has come to value: sensitive, powerful response to the experiences and moments which define the everyday, both in Ireland and globally.

The poems are taken from Mary O’Donnell’s highly-praised work in such collections as Unlegendary Heroes, Those April Fevers and her most recent volume, Massacre of the Birds.

The pages are presented in a limited edition (of 12) solander-boxed set of screen prints and poems, set by Mary Plunkett of Belgrave Press, in hand-made boxes created by award-winning book-binder Eilis Murphy of Folded Leaf, and printed at Graphic Studio Workshop, Dublin (Ireland’s oldest Fine Art print workshop). All the poems and illustrations are printed on 285gsm Fabriano Rosapina Bianca printing paper.

An Artists Talk featuring Geraldine O’Reilly and Mary O’Donnell in conversation and with readings from the featured work, will be held in February 2021 at Dunamaise Arts Centre. Full details to be announced in the New Year.


Funded by

The Arts Council


Dunamaise Arts Centre

Church Street Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland.

Contact The Dunamaise Arts Centre

Box Office Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Friday: 10am to 5.30pm
Saturday: 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm.
One hour prior to curtain on the evening of a performance.
Box office 00353 57 866 3355.

General Enquiries: info@dunamaise.ie

Our Sponsors

The Arts Council Laois County Council

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