Mary O'Malley was born in Connemara, Ireland, and studied at the National University of Ireland in Galway. She lived for eight years in Lisbon, where she taught at the New University. She served on the board of Poetry Ireland for eight years and on the committee of the Cuirt International Poetry Festival, for which she wrote her educational programme. She taught the Master's Degree in Writing and Education in the Arts at the National University of Ireland in Galway for ten years, was a professor of Irish Studies at Villanova University, Philadelphia, in 2013 and has enjoyed residency scholarships in Paris, Tarragona, New York, NUI Galway, Derry, Belfast and Mayo. He has been actively involved in environmental education programmes for over twenty years, particularly in those dedicated to the sea and peatlands.
She has published seven books of poetry, among them Valparaiso, which she wrote during her stay as a scholarship holder on the Irish Navy research vessel Celtic Explorer. Her work has been translated into several languages. She is currently working on a book of her childhood memories, as well as an essay. She is a member of Aosdána and her poetry has received numerous awards in Ireland and the United States. He writes for RTE Radio, where his work is frequently broadcast. In 2016 she was the Arts Council writer-in-residence at the University of Limerick. In 2018 she received the Michael Hartnett Award for Playing the Octopus, her latest book of poetry.