The Monthly talks to Moyra Donaldson about being awarded a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland – Part 1

How did you feel when you heard you were one of the recipients of the MIA?

Delighted and surprised. There is an application process, similar to the SIAP application, and I applied and then put it to the back of my mind. There are only 4 awards each year, across all the art forms, and though I felt I met the criteria and was excited about the project that I had proposed, as it such a competitive field, I didn’t dare to hope.

What will this mean for your career?

The money will make a substantial difference because it frees me to work on my writing for a year and that is an important factor; I can set aside my freelance work and have the time to concentrate on my own writing. Less concrete, but just as important, is the sense of validation, that external confirmation that my work has value and substance. Perhaps as artists we shouldn’t need that reassurance, but it is nice to get it.

Many people would have considered you in that category already. Is this a recognition of the work you have been doing for some time?

I have never been part of academic circles and I am not connected to the institutions that help you with your career. I have always worked away on my own and in my own way. By doing it that way I think sometimes the spotlight doesn’t always land on you.

I have been developing my skills, improving my abilities, improving all the areas of my work for many years. I have persisted at the craft and have been lucky enough to have really supportive publishers, most recently Doire Press. I have eight collections of poetry. This award is a recognition not only of the work I have done, but also potential for the future.

That seems quite important?

I have been working on developing my voice. I am surer about that voice now, more comfortable with it, much more so than when I started out. I think that this award recognises that my voice is relevant, has something to contribute, and should get recognition.

What is the project you will be working on?

I am going to work on a project that examines the relationships between mothers and daughters. I am also interested in the idea of a mitochondrial Eve and of matrilineal societies.

My own mother was a massive influence in my life and appears in my poetry and in my dreams on a regular basis. I have two daughters and I just recently became a grandmother to a baby girl. I want to say something about that closest of female relationships which I feel doesn’t often get much attention.

It is an interesting relationship, often complicated. A relationship that can be problematic and difficult, can be very loving and caring, and can also be quite difficult to manage.

I will be exploring that subject and particularly exploring female voices. It is early days for the project and I am of course open to whatever paths the poetry takes me down.

For more information about Moyra Donaldson’s career – see

artist forms link
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