Mary Mulholland has always been passionate about poetry, but only in recent years has devoted herself to that passion. At the same time she brings to her poems a life that a friend once described as resembling a Russian novel.

Her poetry regularly features in competitions, poetry journals and anthologies, and in her public readings.  

Recently she graduated from Newcastle/ the Poetry School with a MA in Writing Poetry. Five years ago she set up the Red Door Poets, a closed group who meet fortnightly. 

Writing has always been an essential part of her life: she started out as a journalist, became chief subeditor of Country Life, then wrote freelance before turning to creative writing. Her book of short stories came out in 2017 and she’s currently working on a film script set in volatile 1920s Guyana which explores her family heritage.  

Mary is a qualified Transpersonal Psychotherapist, and holds a BSc Hons in Psychology (Birkbeck). Her interest in the unconscious, the unseen, and the meaning of life led her to further training in shamanism and myth, and her poetry explores these psychological, spiritual and natural worlds. 

Her work is also influenced by her love of harmony, beauty and art (she has a degree in History of Art from Bristol University and is an amateur portrait painter).

Another dimension of her poems comes from her love of travel and a childhood spent in Egypt, Cyprus, Malta and France which imbued her with an adventurous spirit. She continues to pursue her love of offbeat travel, including a solo-trip round Japan, trekking the Sahara, and off-roading in Guyana, Philippines and Oman.

Mother of three and grandmother, her writing also appears under her pseudonym M J Whistler. 


some poems

My Mother’s Daisy Ring 

I never knew its provenance, never saw her wear it

but that day when we divided up her jewellery

I took a ring, old yet new, held it to the light.

A daisy head of seven diamonds, sparkling, as she did,

for sun she craved and colour, as if afraid of night.

I never knew its provenance, never saw her wear it.

O the tales she would spin of her magic colonial past, 

of her childhood where bad things never happened. 

I took this ring, old yet new, held it to the light.

My sisters urged me hurry as I wrestled with my choice, 

tempted by more familiar amethyst, rubies, gold – 

I never knew its provenance, never saw her wear it.

Unguarded, she had at times a hooded silent look,

or I'd hear her sing, her voice soft and low.

I took her ring, turned it, held it to the light,

slipped it on, a perfect fit, my mother’s solis oculus,

her petals furled at dusk, containing what we cannot know.

I never knew its provenance, never saw her wear it, 

but I will wear her ring, shining new, hold it to the light.

The General’s Widow

The world sees only her public face, 

all pearls and smiles, but once he’s gone,

she locks the door, busies herself 

on their once-shared bed now covered 

with a pink satin spread, starts making a 

cast of her husband’s head. She’ll paint it 

bright to adorn the mantelshelf, replace 

those snaps of his sons and ‘himself’. 

Still she can smell his cigars in the air

as she sits at noon in his fireside chair, 

contemplating her scarlet masterpiece.

The funeral’s over, it’s such a release,

she’ll spend the night making paper planes,

hurl them at his red eyes, nose and brains.

Breton Girl Spinning

                   after Paul Gauguin, 1889

She came out of the breadfruit tree,

a breadfruit body, 

fruit of the bread, the wine, a Breton girl

She wants to spin a path to the sky,

calls her angel to send her wings -

wings to match her apron of rose,  

wings like the russet sails of fishing boats.

She calls for cinnamon wings to fly her away

into the lapis-blue sky of her dress.

Then she'll leave the cowly dog, the dogged cow,

the thatched roof and the narrow fields

with their orange and brown, creams and greens

she’ll leave the shadow of her breadfruit tree. 


published poems etc 


'Madness of Crowds' in the Fenland Poetry Journal, 2020

'The Tasmanian Spider is a Good Mother like You' in The High Window, 2020

'Twenty Seven' in The High Window, 2020

'By Any Name' in The High Window, 2020

The Making of Dreams in Blue Nib Poetry Journal 2020

'Restocking after the Break' in Blue Nib Poetry Journal 2020

'Bluebeard's Cousin' in Ink, Sweat and Tears poetry magazine 2019

'The General's Widow' and 'The Chemistry of Tears'  in Momaya 'Masks' Poetry Review, 2019

'Mothwings' in Bridges Journal, 2018

'Breton Girl Spinning' in Sentinel Quarterly Poetry Journal 2016


Coldweather Anthology, 2019

Coldweather Anthology, 2018

Metaphor for Women, 2015

Bridges Anthology, 2018

Bridges Anthology, 2019

Poetry from Tate Modern, 2010

Poetry from Tate Modern, 2011


The Kilim Bride and Other Stories, 2017

‘Lordywens’ in Mechanical Institute Review 9, 2012, 

‘River Chants’ in Decongested Tales, 2011

The Threshold Guardian’ in The Writers Hub, 2011   

The Tale of Vérité’ in The Writers Hub, 2012 


first prize

Momaya International Poetry Competition, 2019


Sentinel, 2016

Momaya, 2019


Plough, 2020

Bridport, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Wasafiri New Writing Prize, 2011


Acumen, 2020

Torbay Poetry Prize, 2018

Primers 1, 2016

Mslexia, 2014


Red Door Poets

Red Door Poets was set up in 2015.

We are a closed group of established

poets who meet fortnightly in London

and give periodic public readings. 

Chris Hardy

Gillie Robic 

Katie Griffiths

Matthew Paul

Hanne Busck-Nielsen

Elizabeth Horsley

Tom Cunliffe

Beatriz Echeverri

Mary Mulholland


©2020, Mary Mulholland

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