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Karen J. McDonnell

Poet Karen McDonnell


Karen J. McDonnell grew up in Ennis. She spent many years in Dublin working in international banking and as an actress before returning to live in the Burren in north Clare. As a mature student at NUI Galway, she focused increasingly on writing, including Notes from the Margins, a poetic song cycle about women on the edges of history, and literary non-fiction: Unsettled — a West Bank Journal. She won the 2014 WOW Poetry Award and was runner up in the 2015 Wild Atlantic Words and the 2015 Baffle poetry competitions. She was shortlisted for the 2017 Poems for Patience Award.

Genre: Poetry
Number of publications: 1

This is a book infused with insight and mythic assurance; a book of intuitions made loud and voices marked by vision, the work of a poet who will be read for her adeptness in tracing the heartlines of human experience…

— Martin Dyar

Sample Work

Sample Poems From This Little World

Shell Gathering

Coming home from the funeral
we stop in the hot day
for ice-cream at Crusheen.

The sun hammers down.
A day for the beach and shell gathering.
No weather for heat-seeking black.

Out on the Mare Nostrum, an Israeli eye
scans a Gaza beach
where children play football.

A held breath.
A lining up of crosshairs.
Slight pressure on the fingerpad.

The air shivers, but the sea remains calm.


Berlin. May Day. 1945

Magda Goebbels, having killed her children,
steps into the room and lays out her cards.
She brushes a blonde wisp from her forehead
and begins a game of Patience. It is hard

to fathom what she contemplates. Queen on King.
Her hands wage war with colour. Red upon Black.
Magda thinks of tooth fairies. She is hearing
small teeth rasp as the glass capsules crack.

Out in the cold Berlin morning she stands.
She swallows cyanide drenched in their names.
Her thoughts are drowning in snapshots and
home-movies spliced into split-second frames.

She clasps Hedda’s milk tooth — a final treasure.
Magda’s husband shoots her — for good measure.

Shells whoosh in, shredding the children.
And their fathers run, to gather them in.


This Little World
This Little World Poetry by Karen J. McDonnell Published by Doire Press

ISBN: 978-1-907682-51-3 | Pages: 64 | Published: 2017

This Little World focuses both on the internal subjective world that we inhabit due to social media and 24/7 access to news sources, as well as the little worlds we create for ourselves in our relationships with family, friends and ‘the other’. Karen’s poems respond to the past and the immediate, the personal and the global, including the current plight of Syrian refugees.