Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill writes in the poem "Tom Mac Intyre," from her 1990 collection Pharaoh's Daughter: "A bear took me/in last night's dream/his hairy grip/the weight of fur/that brute groan/...unto me/as it happened/a daughter was given/on every inch/of her body/this fine down/...berserk the light/of her impudent eye."
The poet has a talent for graphic imagery, although most American fans can only guess as to the extremely fine points of her verse, for she writes only in Gaelic. Readers must rely on English translations provided by such lights as Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Medbh McGuckian to preserve the thrust of her intent.
On the occasion of National Poetry Month (April showers bring May flowers, don't you know), the forthcoming publication of Ní Dhomhnaill's new collection of poems, The Water Horse, and the final installment of the 1999-2000 season of the International Writers Center Reading Series, the poet touches down at Washington University's West Campus (formerly Famous-Barr of Clayton, housewares section) to read her verse in both Gaelic and English.
Ní Dhomhnaill was born in England to Irish parents, who then moved the gang back to West Kerry and Tipperary, Ireland. Nuala grew up to write books of poetry in her native tongue that "filter a modern suburban existence through the beguiling miasma of a more ancient Ireland," praised one critic. The Irish Literary Supplement called her the "most acclaimed Gaelic poet of the century." Her volumes include The Astrakhan Cloak and Selected Poems: Rogha Danta. She is also the editor of Jumping Off Shadows: Selected Contemporary Irish Poets, as well as the author of many plays for children and screenplays. She resides in Dublin with her husband and four kids, yet teaches at Boston College.
At the Wash. U. reading, you'll be able to buy her books and get them signed. Her poems are full of power and contain charming turns of phrase you won't hear in the States. Women, especially, will find insightful resonance in her words.
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill reads from her works at 8 p.m. April 11 in the Conference Center of the Washington University West Campus, 7425 Forsyth. Call 935-5576 for more information.
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