Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill was born in Lancashire, England in 1952 to Irish physicians, and was sent to live with relatives in the Kerry Gaeltacht at the age of five. She studied English and Irish at UCC in 1969, where she became part of the ‘Innti’ school of poets. Ní Dhomhnaill lived abroad for seven years in Holland and Turkey with her Turkish husband, Dogan Leflef. Her first collection of poetry, An Dealg Droighin (1981) was published one year after her return to Co. Kerry in 1980.
In her poetry, Ní Dhomhnaill uses language as a tool to liberate the marginalized in contemporary Irish society. She writes solely in Irish in a nation where Irish monoglots are non-existent, and in a subversive female narrative that challenges stereotypes of women in Ireland. By writing about women's power, desire, emotions, and struggles, she enables the 'real' woman to emerge from patriarchal stereotypes. Ní Dhomhnaill dispels traditional myths of women and instead delivers to global audiences a self-confident, multi-dimensional view of women who openly display sexuality and a multiplicity of desire. She also strives to move beyond the fragmentation that pervades Irish consciousness as a result of a repressive colonial past. Ní Dhomhnaill asserts that the whole “postcolonial thing” is no longer an excuse for Ireland’s lack of psychic energy.
More importantly, Ní Dhomhnaill expands her target audience in Ireland and beyond Ireland’s borders with English translations created by prominent Irish poets, including Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian, Michael Hartnett, Seamus Heaney, and Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. She feels that translation into English is necessary in order to reach a wider audience. Moreover, she believes that translators must leverage the full potential of English in order to capture the spark and electricity of Irish. Ní Dhomhnaill questions translation approaches that call for extreme fidelity to the original Irish text, and prefers instead to grant her English translators with full creative license to render her original Irish poems into aesthetic texts for English-speaking audiences.
Ní Dhomhnaill's poetry portrays women and the postcolonial subject as strong and active, as well as fragile and vulnerable. This plurality of identity helps to liberate both marginalized roles from their traditional stereotypes in contemporary Irish culture. Her reimagined roles for women and the formerly colonized attain a national and international context through the medium of English translation.
An Dealg Droighin, Mercier Press, Cork, 1981
Féar Suaithinseach, An Sagart, Dublin, 1984
Rogha Dánta- Selected Poems, translated by Michael Hartnett Raven, Arts Press, Dublin, 1988
Pharaoh’s Daughter, Gallery, Oldcastle, 1990
The Astrakhan Cloak, Gallery, Oldcastle, 1992
The Water Horse Gallery, Oldcastle, 1999
The Fifty Minute Mermaid, Gallery, Oldcastle, 2007
(from a Canadian perspective)
/>(article on US Naval Academy website)
(essay in British literary journal)
(official website under construction)
(The Language Issue - poem)
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill on Lyrikline