Literary Arts + Studies


Mairéad Byrne

Mairéad Byrne emigrated from Ireland to the US in 1994, for poetry. On the plane over, she read about the Internet for the first time. Diversity of poetic cultures and connectivity have defined her life ever since.

She earned a PhD in Theory & Cultural studies (2001), and an MA in American Poetry (1996) from Purdue University –home of the first Computer Science Department in the US. Her poetry collections include Famosa na sua cabeça (Translated by Dirceu Villa, Dobra Editorial 2015), You Have to Laugh: New & Selected Poems (Barrow Street 2013), The Best of (What’s Left of) Heaven (Publishing Genius 2010), Talk Poetry (Miami University Press 2007), SOS Poetry (/ubu Editions 2007) and Nelson & The Huruburu Bird (Wild Honey 2003). Collaborations with visual artists include Jennifer’s Family, photographs by Louisa Marie Summer (Schilt Publishing 2012), Michael Mulcahy (Gandon Editions 1995), Eithne Jordan (Gandon Editions 1994) and Joyce – A Clew, with Henry J. Sharpe (Bluett & Co. 1982).

She has taught at Purdue University, Ithaca College, the University of Mississippi and Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs. Since coming to RISD in 2002, she has designed and taught courses in Material Poetics, Sound Poetry, Visual Poetry, Contemporary Poetry, Metaphor, the Irish Comic Tradition, Writing as Art + Design and poetry workshops at three levels. 

Academic research/ areas of interest

I am increasingly interested in all aspects of material poetics: visual, aural, all aspects of the spoken, and performance. Live, print and digital environments offer poetry different stakes in terms of the senses. Tone, volume, pace, noise, the body, gesture, movement, attitude, theatricality are issues in the live arena; the plane of the page, font, color, volume, weight, texture and relationships between these elements are critical in print; color, light, mobility, links, sequencing, linearity and alternative systems of reading, text and image relationships, synesthesia: these are some of the issues in digital publication and performance. Each environment defines its audience too, with live performance being, counter-intuitively, both more multiple and less local than digital or print publication, which, in different ways, are more cloistered though widely distributed. Time, energy, responsiveness and interactivity are defined differently in each environment, as is humor, the matrix of my poetics.