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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.
Byrne 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).
Byrne 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 undergraduate courses in Digital Poetics, Material Poetics, Sound Poetry, Visual Poetry, and Contemporary Poetry, graduate courses including Writing as Art + Design and Writing+, interdisciplinary collaborative courses including Stories of a Living River (anthropology/poetry) and Dada Today (film/video/poetry), and Beginning and Advanced Poetry Writing Workshops. She has also served as chief critic in the European Honors Program in Rome. In June 2016 she received the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching. She was recently awarded writing residencies at the Siena Art Institute (Italy), Cill Rialaig Artists’ Retreat (Ireland), Seoul Artspace Yeonhui and Storyknife Writers Retreat on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.
Academic areas of interest
Byrne is most interested in how digital opportunities open up/challenge all areas of the writing economy: authorship, readership, writing, reading, editing, publication, distribution, performance, archiving, categorizing, teaching and most of all, thinking. Her dissertation addressed metaphor, in popular culture and poetics, and how subjects become subjects. Does metaphor help or hinder that process? She is interested in change, mixture. Diversity is the sine qua non. She was a journalist for many years and worked in theater and the community as a playwright and arts center director. As a writer, she has always maintained a performative practice closely linked to visual arts.