Gail McConnell


  • Room 02.002 - 2 University Square

    United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am open to PhD applications in the fields of Contemporary Poetry; Modern Irish and British poetry; Poetics.


Research output per year

If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile

Research Interests

I joined Queen’s in January 2013 and I publish literary criticism and poetry. I am interested in the possibilities and politics of language and form.

I am the author of Northern Irish Poetry and Theology (Palgrave, 2014) and two pamphlets of poetry: Fourteen (2018) and Fothermather (2019). A book-length poem, The Sun is Open, is forthcoming with Penned in the Margins (autumn 2021).

My monograph analyses the relationship between theology and form in the work Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon. I have also written on Northern Irish poetry after the peace process, and on Seamus Heaney and photography. 

With a playfully genderqueer title containing both father and mother, Fothermather explores love, queerness, baby talk, new parenthood and forms of attachment beyond biology. It was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry AwardFothermather has also been made into a programme produced by Conor Garrett for Radio 4 and the Seriously… podcast. It was a BBC Radio 4 Pick of the Week and one of The Observer's Picks of the Week.

Fourteen explores creatureliness, bonds, breaks and IVF. ‘Type Face’, a long poem, concerns my experience of reading a Historical Enquiries Team report about my father's murder. The Sun is Open approaches, or tries to approach, an archive of materials relating to this event, and the cells of childhood memory, examining the sunlit forms of living that going on before, during and after the moment of death. 

I have had the pleasure of hosting public conversations with a variety of writers including Alice Oswald, Tracy K. Smith, Siri Hustvedt and Michel Faber. I have given and hosted readings at universities and in a wide variety of festivals and venues (Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Mountains to Sea/ Poetry Now, Happy Days International Beckett Festival, Dublin Writers Festival, Aspects Festival).

I was Principal Investigator for 'Listening to Voices: Creative Disruptions with the Hearing Voices Network' funded by the AHRC (2015-16). The project brought together voice-hearing networks, independent artists and academics to develop resources for creative listening practice, to analyse notions of ‘voice’ and to foreground what is challenging and meaningful about the collaborative process and the politics of authority in textual production.

My research has been published in boundary 2, Irish University Review and The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry. I co-edit The Irish ReviewMy poems have appeared in Poetry ReviewPN ReviewVirginia Quarterly Review, The Manchester Reviewpast simple, Eborakon, The Tangerine and Stand and been reviewed in Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review, Cyphers and Sphinx. I have received two awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.



‘a special talent’ - Poetry Ireland Review

Fothermather is a playful and intriguing venture into understanding identity’ - Poetry Book Society

‘language gives way to newness and wonder’ - PN Review

Fothermather… startles and astounds with wit and the fulsomeness of love’ - Donika Kelly (author of Bestiary)

‘Poems that deal with issues of the utmost gravity – matters of life and death – nevertheless display a rueful lightness of touch’ - Ciaran Carson

‘Here are the fragments and little moons of the everyday, changed by the filter of an explicit conceptual architecture... a continued formal orchestration and lyrical capability’ - Cyphers

‘There is a poetry which makes other poetry look and sound like it’s been recorded on C90 cassette tapes. Gail McConnell’s pamphlet Fourteen – impressive, dense, playful, formally nimble – marks out one such completely new register in Irish poetry.' - Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

‘An astonishing series of nineteen poems, where the traditional literary equation between stanza and room, or the biologistic equivalence of room and womb, yield to pages of undersea fluidity and pre-linguistic play... Fothermather is a vision of queer parenthood [whose] many formal pleasures... are accompanied by a needling vulnerability. This is a book of thoughtful welcome and letting-go, where language gives way to newness and wonder.’ - Vahni Capildeo


‘Often outstanding… McConnell’s analysis of Seamus Heaney’s much-read early poem, “Blackberry Picking,” is a bravura piece of close reading, bringing to the surface (or rather, showing how it is already there on the surface) Heaney’s drive toward a poetics of sacramentalism and Real Presence (all of this read brilliantly alongside his confessed debts to Hopkins). McConnell applies this degree of clarity to many other poems... More than any other critic, McConnell makes Heaney’s Catholic reflexes on the level of diction, metaphor, structure, and symbolism fully visible; at the same time, she shows how those very reflexes trouble the poet, and produce a degree of counter-pressure that is itself just as central to his achievement… Her readings are telling, detailed, and hugely sensitive ones. A fine and significant study.’ - Professor Peter McDonald, breac

‘Gail McConnell is an insightful and incisive writer. Northern Irish Poetry and Theology… is striking in its care and attention to detail. The close readings of each poet’s work are the sites of deep insights and persuasive questioning. A compelling analysis… Northern Irish Poetry and Theology is an important and challenging document within contemporary criticism that clearly situates Gail McConnell as a key figure within upcoming Northern Irish criticism.’ - Literature and Theology 

‘Gail McConnell is adept in her uses of the theology of the text… An admirable analysis… rich hermeneutical drive’ - Irish Studies Review

‘A significant contribution to the field, deepening our understanding of the theological issues at stake in modern Irish and Northern Irish poetry.’ - Irish University Review


I am convenor of the MA in Poetry: Creativity and Criticism, and I convene and teach on a range of postgraduate modules: 'Reading and Writing Poetry', 'Structure and Serendipity', 'The Poetry Collection' and 'Irish Poetry from W.B. Yeats to the Present Day'. I also teach on the MA in Irish Studies and as part of the Irish Studies Summer School.

I teach across a range of undergraduate modules and supervise dissertations. I lecture and teach at stage one on 'English in Transition' and 'English in Context: An Introduction to Contemporary Fiction'. At stage two I have introduced a new module, 'Modern Poetry', and lecture on 'An Introduction to Critical and Cultural Theory' and 'Irish Writing'. I currently convene the third year module 'Contemporary Literature: Poetry and Precariousness in the Twenty-First Century'. 

Current PhD supervision

Jamie Anderson, 'Things in Northern Irish Poetry: From Mahon to Morrissey'. AHRC-funded.

Dawn Watson, 'Breaking with Tradition: The Power of the Prose Poem in the Changing Landscape of Contemporary Poetry'. (With Dr Leontia Flynn) AHRC-funded.

Susannah Dickey, 'Strange Courtship: A Study of Narrative in Several Contemporary Works of Poetry'. (With Dr Stephen Sexton) AHRC-funded.

India Harris, 'The Atlantic Archipelagic Lyric'. (With Professor Fran Brearton) DFE-funded.

Eva Isherwood-Wallace, 'Sculpture and Silence: Laura Riding and her Female Contemporaries'. (With Professor Fran Brearton) AHRC-funded. 

Completed PhD Theses

Patrick Macfarlane, 'Yeats and Labour'. AHRC-funded. Completed August 2020.

Tara McEvoy, 'Forms of Dissent in the work of James Simmons and Padraic Fiacc: poetry, politics, and publishing in Northern Ireland, 1960–1980'. (With Professor Fran Brearton) AHRC-funded. Completed September 2020.

Timothy Carson, '"Perpetual Benedictions": Wordsworth and the Bible'. (With Dr Daniel Roberts) Completed June 2017.

Stephen Sexton, Creative thesis: If All the World and Love Were Young; Critical Thesis: “A Body That is Made into A Sign”: Elegy, Translation and Ekphrasis in Anne Carson’s Nox (With Professor Sinéad Morrissey). Completed May 2017.

Charlene Small, 'The Father Figure in Contemporary Irish Poetry’. (With Professor Fran Brearton) Completed March 2015.

Alice Lyons, 'The Breadbasket of Europe: new poems and moving images; Perpetual Speech: Hollis Frampton's Gloria! as Lyric Poem’. (With Professor Ciaran Carson and Dr Colin Graham) Completed May 2014.



Dive into the research topics where Gail McConnell is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 4 Similar Profiles
If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.