John MacKenna

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For other uses, see John MacKenna (disambiguation).

John MacKenna (born 1952, Castledermot, Co Kildare) is an Irish playwright and novelist.

MacKenna taught for a number of years before working as a producer at RTÉ Radio in 1980. Between then and 2002, when he left the station to spend more time writing, and acting with Meeting Lane Theatre Company, he worked in a number of areas - including music, education, current affairs, documentaries, features and religion - as a senior producer and commissioning editor.

MacKenna produced several memorable radio series, including work on the Amish people of Pennsylvania; the Shaker Community of Sabbath Day Lake; a ground-breaking series called "Someone Has To Do It" and the highly regarded "Secret Gardens of the Heart," which followed a young woman through the last months of her life. His radio documentary series on Leonard Cohen, "How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns", won him a Jacob's Radio Award.[1]

He is the author of several novels, "Clare", "The Last Fine Summer", "A Haunted Heart", and "The Space Between Us"; three collections of short stories, "The Fallen", "A Year of Our Lives" and "The River Field"; two volumes of poetry and a biography of Ernest Shackleton; his memoir, "Things You Should Know" (October 2006) and his story cycle titled "The River Field" (autumn 2007, both published by New Island Books) won considerable critical acclaim.

MacKenna writes for, directs and acts with Mend and Makedo Theatre Co and his most recent works for that company are "Breathless" (2005 & 2010 - Directed by Petra Costigan-Oorthuijs and Richard Ball ); "My Father's Life" (2006); "We Once Sang LIke Other Men (2009); "Redemption Song (2011 Both directed by Marian Brophy). His theatrical work, "Who by Fire", for the Water to Wine Theatre Company is based on the experiences of a Holocaust survivor, and uses Leonard Cohen's songs[2] the mood for a chilling exposition of the continuing threat of totalitarianism. It has toured Ireland to great popular acclaim.

His radio play "The Woman at the Window" - based on the life of the Quaker writer Mary Leadbeater - was broadcast by RTÉ Radio and won a silver medal at the Worldplay Radio Festival in New York in 2007.

In 2008 his play "Corner Boys" (Directed by Marian Brophy) toured the country and "The River Field" was published by New Island Books.

His novel "The Space Between Us" was published in 2009 by New Island Books.

His poetry collection Where Sadness Begins was published by Salmon Books in 2012

His novel, Clare, based on the life of the English poet John Clare was republished in May 2014 in the New Island Modern Irish Classics series, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the poet's death.

Among the awards his works have won are the Hennessy Literary Award, the Irish Times Fiction Award and the C Day-Lewis Award. He also teaches a number of courses in media studies and creative writing at the NUIM Maynooth and Kilkenny.


  1. ^ Leave Me Breathless — Article by Joanne Hayden — The Sunday Business Post October 16, 2005
  2. ^ Review of Who By Fire by James McMahonRTÉ website — Retrieved 9 July 2007

His poetry collection Where Sadness Begins was published by Salmon Books in 2012

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