Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, regarded as one of the best contemporary poets writing in the Irish language, was born in Lancashire, England, in 1952 to Irish parents who were physicians working for a local mining company. She grew up speaking both English and Irish, particularly influenced by an aunt with whom she lived for a period in County Kerry at age five. The following year, her parents moved to Ireland and Ní Dhomhnaill was raised in the Gaeltacht, or Irish-speaking region, of the Dingle Peninsula on Ireland’s southwestern coast, as well as in County Tipperary. She attended secondary school in Limerick and read Irish poets during her youth. She published her first poems in English in her school magazine. At age sixteen, Ní Dhomhnaill began writing poetry in Irish and sent one to the Irish Times. The poem later won a prize. Ní Dhomhnaill later studied English and Irish at University College Cork. While there, she became a member of the INNTI group, a coterie of Irish-language poets and students who founded a journal of the same name in the late 1960s. Ní Dhomhnaill was the only female member of the group.

Ní Dhomhnaill has published numerous books of poetry since the 1980s, including The Fifty Minute Mermaid (The Gallery Press, 2007), translated by Paul MuldoonCead Aighnis (An Sagart, 2000); The Water Horse (The Gallery Press, 1999); Spíonáin is róiseanna (Cló lar-Chonnacht, 1993); The Astrakhan Cloak (The Gallery Press, 1992); Pharaoh’s Daughter (The Gallery Press, 1990); Rogha Dánta / Selected Poems (Raven Arts Press, 1986), translated by fellow bilingual Irish poet Michael Hartnett and reissued in numerous editions; Féar Suaithinseach (An Sagart, 1984); and An Dealg Droighin (Mercier Press, 1981), her first collection, published after her return to Ireland from seven years of living abroad in the Netherlands and Turkey. The debut collection won her the first of four Seán Ó Ríordáin Awards. Ní Dhomhnaill also coedited with Greg Delanty Jumping Off Shadows: Selected Contemporary Irish Poets (Cork University Press, 1995), which included many poets from the INNTI group. Her poetry has been translated into Estonian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, and Turkish. Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley are among the other poets who have translated her work from Irish to English. In addition to her work in poetry and prose, she has also penned several children’s plays. 

Ní Dhomhnaill’s other awards are the Duais Na Chomhairle Ealaíne um Filíochta, which she received in 1985 and 1988; the Gradam an Oirechtais (1984); the Irish American Foundation O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry (1988); and the American Ireland Fund Literature Prize (1991). She is a three-time winner of the Arts Council Prize for Poetry and a recipient of the Butler Award from the Irish American Cultural Institution. Ní Dhomhnaill was also the first female recipient of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, which she received in 2018.

Ní Dhomhnaill is a member of the Irish arts academy Aosdána. She has also held numerous faculty positions. Ní Dhomhnaill has taught at New York University and was a writer in residence for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in 1998. She has held the Heimbold Chair in Irish Studies at Villanova University, where she taught from 2001 to 2004, and the Burns Chair of Irish Studies at Boston College. She has also served as the Naughton Fellow of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. 

Ní Dhomhnaill lives in Dublin.