©2020, Mary Mulholland



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 Chemistry of Tears 

My therapist says crying is good for you.

I know people who cry.

I come from a family where tears were taboo,

a family of girls who never cried.

My dentist asks what’s going on

clenching my jaws has cracked all my teeth.

But I haven’t, I don’t, I didn’t 

not even when my parents died or 

I got divorced or my children left home,

the kitchen flooded, the roof caved in. 

I only clench slightly at Christmas. 

He says I wouldn't know, it happens at night.

But nor do I sleep. Horses are put down

when they grind away their teeth.

Holding tools mid-air he gently says, 

sometimes violin strings snap.       

I ask my therapist if I’m a violin.

She says, what kind of music do you play? 

like a rush I feel them, deep inside –

that’s where they stay.

The Bee House 

         after Matisse, L’enterrement de Pierrot, 1947

He lies like a captured dolphin 

skin loose on his bones, in preparation,

his room 502, Paris suburbs.         

I’ve brought him honey, but  
it takes him back to last summer:

the swarm inside the Mas. 

It’s good luck, they bring messages

from the other side, he said yet

made me call the bee-catcher. 

The bees fell silent as we sat outside,

as the Cevennes sky turned yellow,

red, black, broken by stars, and he 

kissed my hand like we’d once been lovers.

In his silent aquarium, I take his hand: 

you’ll be with the bees, on the other side. 

Slowly his smile returns: he lists 

girlfriends from his eighty-eight years.

They’ll all come, crying like mermaids, 

flinging knives. His look asks if I will too. 

I say, Pierrot’s name will be eclipsed 

by his, white horses will carry him forth.


published poems etc 


'Mothwings' in Bridges Journal, 2018

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

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

'Breton Girl Spinning' in Sentinel Quarterly Poetry Journal 2016

The Making of Dreams’ in Blue Nib Poetry Journal 2020

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


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


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

'Breton Girl Spinning, 1889,' Wasafiri New Writing Prize, 2011


Mslexia, 2014

Torbay Poetry Prize, 2018

Primers 1, 2016


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

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