Postcolonialism in the poetry of Mary Dorcey

Rose Atfield


In Irish cultural and political convention, woman's place has been colonised, subjected to restricted and marginalised interpretation and representation. Postcolonialism in the work of Mary Dorcey is the result of a process of recognition and exposure of colonialism in its denial and repression of identity and the restoration and reconstruction of that identity in political, sexual and literary contexts.

Dorcey recognises and exposes colonialism in the context of sexuality and presents a postcolonial stance in response, robustly stating, "Lifelong brainwashing from the cradle to the grave to remain faithful to heterosexuality is still not sufficient to keep everyone suppressed. The entire force of Church and State, the entire weight of international culture, is not enough to suppress the strength of nature. The instinct to joy and love and intimacy is irrepressible."

Another kind of colonialism exposed is that of the literary and cultural establishment in Ireland and the consequent denial of the female voice. Dorcey explores and exposes relationships between mother, daughter and lover in the 'Queer Place' of post-colonial Ireland. The state/church patriarchy of persecution, which Dorcey has openly resisted as a lesbian writer and academic, is addressed in her poetry through the subversion of structured verses. From these, her words move out into more fluid forms, expressing her ideas and feelings, which clearly reflect this resistance.

Dorcey's especial talent is to take the ordinary and examine its emotional potential, to demonstrate the fundamental need to recognise and celebrate human anguish and ecstasy, to acknowledge Irish women poets' postcolonial presence in the political, sexual and literary contexts they inhabit. She clearly contributes significantly to the claim that, "…women's poetry currently leads Irish poetry in its role in prompting the people of this island towards recognition that accepting and celebrating difference is the truest basis of personal and group identity".


Irish women's poetry

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