Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill was born in England, where her parents, both physicians, were practicing. Her father took a position as surgeon at the hospital in Tipperary when Ní Dhomhnaill was five years old, and the family took up residence in County Kerry, a Gaelic-speaking region—the Gaeltacht—in the west of Ireland. This was Ní Dhomhnaill’s introduction to the Irish language, and although the young girl was fascinated by the stories and conversations she heard throughout the community and began to speak Irish as her natural tongue, she wrote only in English. At the age of sixteen, however, it occurred to her that she could more adequately express herself in Irish, and literally in mid-poem, she shifted to that language. The next year, she gave her first poetry reading, an occasion distinguished by the attendance of Caitlín Maude, a poet/singer, who became Ní Dhomhnaill’s role model because she was one of the few women included on the reading list for the leaving certificate (a diploma) course. In the early stages of her poetic life, she found that every poem she submitted for publication was “chipped and chopped with no by-your-leave” by editors who had a conception of poetry that nearly completely excluded the subject, style, language, and outlook that Ní Dhomhnaill was developing. She earned a bachelor of arts degree (1972) and a higher diploma education (1973) from the University College Cork. Then in the kind of radical transition that was...

(The entire section is 500 words.)