Mackey, Mary 1945–

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Mackey, Mary 1945–

(Kate Clemens)


Born January 21, 1945, in Indianapolis, IN; daughter of John Edward (a physician) and Jean (an art museum director) Mackey; married Rob Colwell, December, 1965 (marriage ended); companion of Angus Wright (a professor). Education: Harvard University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1966; University of Michigan, M.A., 1967, Ph.D., 1970; studied Russian in the U.S.S. R., 1969. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, canoeing, backpacking, travel.


Home—Berkeley, CA. Office—Department of English, California State University, 6000 J St., Sacramento, CA 95819. Agent—Barbara Lowenstein, 250 W. 57th St., New York City, NY 10107. E-mail—[email protected]


Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN, feature writer, 1965; Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, instructor in English, c. 1971; California State University, Sacramento, CA, assistant professor, 1972-76, associate professor, 1976-80, professor of English, 1980—, and writer in residence; Ariel Press, founder, 1973. Indiana University, visiting professor, 1975; visiting lecturer at Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University; taught film and poetry courses in the Dominican Republic under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. Freelance script writer and sound technician for commercial and educational films. Bay Area Book Council, member of advisory board, 1992—.


PEN American Center West (president, 1989-92), National Book Critics Circle, Feminist Writers Guild (founder and member of national steering committee), Writers Guild of America, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, PEN Oakland (member of governing board, 1999—).


Woodrow Wilson fellowship, 1966-67; fellow, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, 1999.


Immersion (novella), Shameless Hussy Press (Berkeley, CA), 1972.

Split Ends (poetry), Ariel Press (Columbus, OH), 1974.

Silence (screenplay), 1974.

One Night Stand (poetry), Effie's Press (Emeryville, CA), 1977.

(Editor, with Mary MacArthur) Chance Music (anthology), Gallimaufry (Cambridge, MA), 1977.

Skin Deep (poetry), Gallimaufry (Cambridge, MA), 1978.

As Old as You Feel (television documentary special), Columbia Broadcasting System, 1978.

McCarthy's List (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1979.

McCarthy's List (screenplay), Warner Bros., 1979.

Dark Oceans (screenplay), 1980.

The Last Warrior Queen (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1983.

A Grand Passion (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1986.

The Dear Dance of Eros (poetry), Fjord Press (Seattle, WA), 1987.

The Kindness of Strangers (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.

Season of Shadows (novel), Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

The Year the Horses Came (part one of "Earthsong Trilogy"), Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1993.

The Horses at the Gate (part two of "Earthsong Trilogy"), Harper (San Francisco, CA), 1996.

The Fires of Spring (part three of "Earthsong Trilogy"), Onyx, 1998.

(With Renee De Palma) The Spy (screenplay), 2000.

(With Renee De Palma) Running from Orion, 2000.

October at Fools Hope (novel), Fjord Press (Seattle, WA), 2001.

(Under pseudonym Kate Clemens) Stand-in (novel), Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2003.

(Under pseudonym Kate Clemens) Sweet Revenge (novel), Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Breaking the Fever (poetry), Marsh Hawk Press (East Rockaway, NY), 2006.

The Notorious Mrs. Winston (novel), Berkley Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including New Age Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Yellow Silk, Ms., New American Review, Chiron Review, Salon, Poetry Now, San Jose Mercury News, and Harvard Advocate.

Mackey's works have been translated into several foreign languages, including Japanese, Hebrew, and Finnish.


Mary Mackey's first novel, McCarthy's List, is a dark comedy about a paranoid schizophrenic woman wrongly sentenced to death. It details the wrongs done her by various men in her life and suggests, according to New York Times Book Review writer Michael Malone, that at certain times madness might be "a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane situation." Malone found Mackey's imagination "inventive" and praised her "crisp style that only occasionally trips over its own nimbleness."

The Kindness of Strangers is the story of Viola Kessler, a veteran of the German vaudeville stage. Spanning the years from 1912 to 1976, the novel includes worldwide celebrities and political figures as characters. Viola's rise to prominence on the stage ends when she becomes involved in a political scandal. Years later, her daughter Kathe enjoys great success as a television star in New York. In her old age, Viola is concerned for her headstrong granddaughter, Mandy, who is captivated by the Hollywood movie industry. Karen Stabiner of the Los Angeles Times Book Review described the book as a "predictable framework fleshed out with engrossing details."

Mackey's "Earthsong Trilogy" is set in Europe, beginning in the year 4372 B.C. The plots of the three novels are based upon the archaeological work of Marija Gimbutas, whose research has uncovered a peaceful, Goddess-worshiping civilization believed to have been destroyed by Indo-European nomads from the steppes. All three novels feature the visionary queen Marrah, whose life spans the earliest incursions of the violent, nomadic people into her unprepared culture. In The Year the Horses Came, Marrah rescues a strange-looking foreigner named Stavan, who is a member of the warlike Hansi people. The sequels describe Marrah's and Stavan's efforts to save the Motherpeople from being overrun by the Hansi—a task that requires the Motherpeople to become more warlike themselves. "The most touching moments come with the Motherpeople's realization that to survive, they too must learn to kill, a dilemma that is not new to us but wrenching still," observed Alix Madrigal in the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle. The critic added that the trilogy "isn't all history or politics—or polemics, for that matter. It's a good, fast-moving story, with plenty of action and adventure, a large and vivid cast of characters and a tender love story or two." A Publishers Weekly correspondent likewise commended Mackey's work for "plenty of historical detail and a bountiful array of vibrant characters."

Mackey once told CA: "Nearly thirty years ago, Shameless Hussy Press published my short novel Immersion. As far as the editor and I can discover, mine was the first novel published by a feminist press at the beginning of what came to be called the Women's Movement. Set in the rain forests of Costa Rica, Immersion was only eighty pages long, written in a poetic, highly complex, avant-garde style, yet it contained most of the themes that I would explore in my next eight novels and in many of my subsequent collections of poetry.

"Stated as succinctly as possible, these themes are: concern for the ecological integrity of the planet; exploration of issues of gender and power; relationships (harmonious and inharmonious) between men and women; and the conflict (or at times the resolution of conflicts) between logic and emotion, the scientific world view and the religious world view, the mystical and the experiential.

"At the same time I was writing McCarthy's List, I was writing a great deal of poetry about the position of women in America. I strove to craft my poems not into sermons or political tracts, but into intense lyric moments filled with images. In order to read San Juan de la Cruz and Pablo Neruda in the original, I learned Spanish. The influence of these two poets still resonates in my poetry, and I am immeasurably indebted to them as well as to Anna Akhmatova, Walt Whitman, Adrienne Rich, Seamus Heaney, and Marge Piercy. Although I am probably most widely known as a novelist, my first love has always been poetry.

"In some ways my writing has changed a great deal, and in other ways it has been remarkably consistent. In the late 1970s, influenced by Merlin Stone's When God Was a Woman, Charlene Spretnak's Lost Goddess of Early Greece, and the novels of Mary Renault, I wrote The Last Warrior Queen, a fictional reworking of the Sumerian myth of the descent of the goddess Inanna into the underworld. In this novel I explored the implications of a pre-patriarchal civilization where women had temporal and spiritual power. I also looked at the emotional and erotic possibilities of relationships between men and women when they treated each other as partners rather than adversaries.

"Many years later in the summer of 1991, I discovered The Language of the Goddess and The Civilization of the Goddess by archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. Inspired by Gimbutas's research (which indicated that Europe actually may have been occupied by relatively peaceful cultures which were earth-centered, in which partnership relationships between men and women was the norm, and in which women had both spiritual and political power), I set out to write the three novels of the ‘Earthsong Trilogy’: The Year the Horses Came, The Horses at the Gate, and The Fires of Spring.

"Since the category of ‘visionary fiction’ has only recently come into currency, readers have sometimes mistaken these novels for genre fantasy instead of meticulously researched visions of a different world view. Others have been disturbed by the prospect that God might be seen as female (an idea I have always found intriguing, although my personal conviction is that the Divine is beyond gender).

"I have written and I continue to write because I am perpetually fascinated with the infinite variety of the world and its people. I seek to entertain my readers, to move them, to leave them—when they come to the end of one of my novels or poems—a little different than they were when they began."



Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Volume 27, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.


Booklist, January 1, 1996, Whitney Scott, review of The Horses at the Gate, p. 790.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 9, 1979, review of McCarthy's List, June 12, 1983, review of The Last Warrior Queen; June 19, 1988, Karen Stabiner, review of The Kindness of Strangers, p. 8.

New Age Journal, February, 1996, review of The Horses at the Gate, pp. 47-48.

New York Times Book Review, October 14, 1979, Michael Malone, review of McCarthy's List, pp. 15, 28.

Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1998, review of The Fires of Spring, p. 69.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 1993, Alix Madrigal, "Culture Clash in the Neolithic Era," pp. 3, 8.

San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle, January 7, 1996, Alix Madrigal, "The Ancient Matriarchy Confronts Invading Warriors," p. 3.

Washington Post Book World, July 3, 1988, review of The Kindness of Strangers, p. X8.


Mary Mackey: Author, (March 8, 2007).

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Mackey, Mary 1945–

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