Gail McConnell

One of Kei Miller’s selected writers for the International Literature Showcase


“McConnell’s brilliant and wonderfully experimental collection on parenthood is the kind of work that teaches us how to ask questions we might never have thought to ask. Does parenthood always have to be gendered? Can a parental figure occupy a role that is neither ‘father’ nor ‘mother’? These poems are formally playful as they try to invent a new language and a new possibility for people who resist the limiting construct of gender.”

Kei Miller

Curious about language, queerness, parenthood, the living and the dead

Gail McConnell is a writer and critic from Belfast. Her forthcoming book of poetry, The Sun is Open, flits between a child and adult self in approaching an archive relating to her father’s murder. Fothermather explores love, queerness, baby talk, new parenthood and forms of attachment. It was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award and made into a BBC Radio 4 programme and Seriously… podcast (Pick of the Week in The Observer and Radio 4). Fourteen explores creatureliness, IVF, bonds and breaks. Gail is Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast and author of Northern Irish Poetry and Theology.

Listen to a Corrymeela podcast episode with Gail McConnell

‘The Sun is Open employs a grammar in which everything is significant, from Wendy Houses, to the very hairs of your head, to the poetry of First Aid instructions, to slaters. This is meticulous and painstaking – sometimes pain-making work – making the words fit the columns, be they inches of newsprint or entries in an Account Book, negotiating or nudging the meanings into alternative senses. A series of ethical considerations and transactions, credits and debits that sometimes demand to be accounted for, or judged, or at least spoken of in the light of whatever the forensics might or might never unfold.’ – Ciaran Carson

Fothermather… startles and astounds with wit and the fulsomeness of love.’ – Donika Kelly

‘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

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

‘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

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

‘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 (on Fourteen)

‘a special talent.’ – Poetry Ireland Review

‘Each page of The Sun Is Open is rich with exquisite and surprising language, pain, and wisdom.’ Maggie Nelson

I am honoured to have been selected by Kei Miller and look forward to making connections across genres, time zones, borders and cultures.




  • The Sun is Open (Penned in the Margins, 2021)
  • Fothermather (Ink Sweat & Tears, 2019)
  • Fourteen (Green Bottle Press, 2018)


  • ‘No “”Replicas/ Atone””: Northern Irish Poetry After the Peace Process’ (boundary 2, 2018)
  • ‘Heaney and the Photograph: ‘Strange Fruit’ in Manuscript and Published Form’ (Irish University Review, 2017)
  • ‘Towards a Theology of Poetry: Seamus Heaney’s Icons and Sacraments’ (The Irish Review, 2011)
  • Northern Irish Poetry and Theology (Palgrave, 2014)


Fothermather, produced by Conor Garrett (BBC Radio 4, 2020)

Contact Gail


Twitter: @Gail_McConnell_


Penned in the Margins. Contact Kate Wilkinson. Website.