EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Irish-American parents Mary Gordon and Edward Monaghan, Patricia spent her early years on Long Island surrounded by a large extended family. Several years of illness kept her housebound during formative years, during which time she read voraciously as well as learning to embroider, the first of many traditional crafts that have been an important part of her leisure throughout her life.
When Patricia was in fourth grade, her family moved to Colorado, following the transfer of her father, an Air Force officer. From there, they moved to Alaska where, with the exception of a few years in Minnesota, the family has called home ever since.
Patricia earned her undergraduate and first graduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where she studied English and French literature. She maintains an ongoing interest in French literature, especially in the symbolist poets. After graduate school, she worked as a journalist in both Minnesota and Alaska, writing about culture, nature, and the intersection of the two. She also earned an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the University of Alaska.
In the late 1980's, Patricia moved to Chicago to pursue higher education. She earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies (Science and Literature) from The Union Institute in Cincinnati in 1994. In 1995, she joined the faculty of the School for New Learning at DePaul University, where she teaches classes in arts and environmental sciences. She holds the title of full professor and resident faculty there.
A member of SIEF, the European folklore society, Patricia is interested in the intersection of folklore and science. She has published a study of environmental messages in Irish folklore and is currently studying the folklore of spring vegetation as well as tracing the mysterious figure after whom the Slieve Aughty hills in Co. Clare are named. In addition, she continues to study ways in which artists dialogue with science and has published on the French poet Rimbaud's objection to Descartes' division of mind and matter.
Patricia's four books of poetry share an emphasis on the book as more than a random collection of poems. Each centers on a specific theme. Her first book, Winterburning, explores the paradoxical connection between fire and ice in the arctic. Her second, Seasons of the Witch (winner of the Friends of Literature Award for poetry and the COVR award for best multimedia work), traces the seasons as metaphors for a woman's life; the poems have been set to music and recorded by Alaskan women artists and are available both within the book and separately. Next, Dancing with Chaos used the language and concepts of dynamical systems theory to examine human relationships.
Patricia's most recent full-length book, Homefront , dealt with the impact of war on families. Folk composer Michael Smith set a number of the poems to music, and they have been recorded by Jamie O'Reilly as Songs of the Kerry Madwoman. In early 2011, The Grace of Ancient Land , a chapbook, was published by the Voices from the American Land series. It uses the framework of the traditional Mass to express the power of rural life in America's heartland. A longer version of this work, together with poems set in Ireland and capturing the connection of nature, culture and spirituality there, will be published next year by Salmon Poetry under the title Sanctuary.
SPIRITUALITY AND MYTHOLOGY
Throughout her career, Patricia's work has dealt with issues of spirituality, especially women's spirituality. In 1979, she published the first encyclopedia of female divinities, a book which has remained steadily in print since then and was recently republished in a two volume set as The Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. She has also published an encyclopedia of Celtic myth, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Folklore. She has edited a three-volume collection of essays entitled Goddesses in World Culture, published in late 2010 by ABC-CLIO.
Patricia brought her lifelong interest in Ireland together with her commitment to women's spirituality in The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit, a travelogue of Irish heritage sites and their relation to goddess figures. Her other books on this subject are The Goddess Path and The Goddess Companion, both introductory books on the subject; Wild Girls: The Path of the Young Goddess, a group of stories for girls about youthful goddesses; and Magical Gardens, a book of garden designs based in mythology that was reissued in early 2012.
A practitioner of qigong, za-zen and several other forms of meditation, Patricia collaborated with yoga teacher Eleanor (Teri) Viereck to write the encyclopedic Meditation: The Complete Guide , which was published in 1999. A revised and expanded edition was recently published, including several new sections and expanded resource lists.
A longtime member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), Patricia is also a companion of the Fourth Order of Sts. Frances and Clare, an interfaith religious organization. She teaches workshops on women's spirituality through the Women's Thealogical Institute and the Temple of Diana.
Patricia is an avid gardener with a large organic garden, orchard and vineyard that she tends with her husband, Dr. Michael McDermott, in their spare time after her teaching and his clinic work at Cook County Hospital. She is a committed locovore who enjoys cooking with nettles in spring, tomatoes and beans and corn and everything else in summer, squash in fall, and dried beans and onions in winter. Preserving the harvest is an annual ritual that brings joy to both Patricia and Michael (he likes to say he "puts up with Patricia" in late summer)
In addition, Patricia enjoys traditional crafts including knitting, crochet, embroidery, and needlepoint. Such crafts connect her with the age-old traditions of women's work, which she treasures and loves to share with friends.