Mar 15, 2001 - By Dave Carlberg
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, the spring 2001 Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Professor of Irish Studies, discussed and read her poetry for approximately 100 people this past Wednesday in the Connelly Cinema. She is the second in a series of three Irish poets being featured by the Irish Studies Department, the English Department and the Campus Activities Team.
Dhomhnaill has published nine books of poetry, three plays for children and three screenplays, all in Irish. She also wrote the libretto for The Wooing of Eadoin, sung by the Irish National Chambre Choir in 1994. Dhomhnaill has won numerous prizes for her poetry both in Ireland and in the United States.
Dr. James Murphy of the English Department introduced her, saying, "Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill is surely one of Ireland's most important voices." He mentioned the beauty and power found in the language of her poems and said that they were excellent in both Irish and English.
Throughout her readings, Dhomhnaill focused on the language of her poems. She even used the language to introduce some of her work. She read a poem entitled "The Language Issue" to explain why she stays true to Gaelic while she could gain more fame by writing in English.
To give the audience the full flavor of her poetry, Dhomhnaill read the English translation of each poem, followed by the original Irish. She went on to discuss why she does not translate her own work. While she can speak both languages, she explained that she is not a bilingual poet. She read one of the works that she translated and commented, "I would be the first to admit that it is a very unsatisfactory translation."
Dhomhnaill has had some highly acclaimed Irish poets translate her works for her. Sometimes she would even get English translations of her poems along with letters of admiration sent to her in the mail. She thinks herself very lucky because, as she said, "A good translation is not something you can order like a pizza."
Sometimes, though, the translation of poetry can be very difficult. Dhomhnaill said, "It seems like in the last few years I've written poems that cannot be translated. [They] rely on wordplay within the language." This wordplay is nearly impossible to mimic in English, she continued. Therefore, she had to read some of her poems strictly in Gaelic, without an English version.
She ended her discussion of poetry by exhibiting her idealistic views of people and poetry, saying, "I still think that there is the perfect reader out there." She concluded by reading her poem entitled "The Other."
At the end of the night's activities, Murphy made a few closing comments. He said, "We are pleased to have [Dhomhnaill] here for the whole semester." He also spoke of Michael Longley, the final speaker of the three. Longley has recently won the T.S. Elliot prize, considered the most prestigious award in the poetry world. He is scheduled to speak April 4.