In praise of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, by Theo Dorgan

Irish Women Writers: ‘Fearless and daring, her well-loved voice is a steadying force and a challenge as we strive to make sense of the chaos that is life in our times’

 Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill: “She has been, for me and for the poets of my generation in both languages, an exemplary path-breaker, finding new ways to tell truths of femininity, language, sexuality and culture.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill: “She has been, for me and for the poets of my generation in both languages, an exemplary path-breaker, finding new ways to tell truths of femininity, language, sexuality and culture.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Born in England to Irish-speaking parents, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill was sent to an aunt in the Corcha Dhuibhne Gaeltacht at age five, and grew up in Nenagh when her family moved back.

If her home language was Irish, her immersion in the vibrant Irish of the Gaeltacht was a kind of rebirth; the manuscripts from that place, diligently studied in the archives of the National Folklore Collection, became a source to which she has constantly returned, to refresh and renew her powers as a poet even as she has built a considerable international reputation.

Her unswerving commitment to writing in Irish has been heroic, and has contributed hugely to making an ancient language a fit and expressive instrument for interrogating our world.

She has been, for me and for the poets of my generation in both languages, an exemplary path-breaker, finding new ways to tell truths of femininity, language, sexuality and culture. Fearless and daring, her well-loved voice is a steadying force and a challenge as we strive to make sense of the chaos that is life in our times.

Other favourites: Eavan Boland and Biddy Jenkinson

Theo Dorgan is a poet, writer, editor, translator, scriptwriter and arts presenter. His latest collection, Nine Bright Shiners (Dedalus 2014), has been shortlisted for the Irish Times/Poetry Now award

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