Best book I’ve read is by Dr Seuss... it’s funny, creepy and weird!

Bilingual writer Doireann Ní Ghríofa on what makes her happy, writing her fifth book and a poem about Cork
Best book I’ve read is by Dr Seuss... it’s funny, creepy and weird!
Doireann Ni Ghriofa. Picture: Brid O'Donovan

TELL us about yourself;

I’m a writer of poetry and prose, my fourth book was published earlier this year and I’m currently working on my fifth. I’m from Clare originally but I’ve been living in Cork since I was 17.

Where were you born?

I was born in Galway in 1981.

Where do you live?

I recently moved to Tower, near Blarney. It’s a beautiful, friendly little village, I’m really enjoying settling in here. Everyone walking past has been stopping to welcome us, which is lovely.

Family?

My husband Tim and I met when we were both 19. Now we’re in our mid 30s and we have four children, Fiach, aged nine, Cúán, aged six, Darach, aged five and Laoise, aged two. It makes for a household full of mischief and fun (and tiredness, for the parents!)

Best friend?

Since I came to Cork, I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing people and these deep friendships are the source of great joy in my life. Cork people are sound.

Earliest childhood memory?

My earliest memories are of age four, my mother scrubbing my ears extremely enthusiastically in the kitchen before my first day at school. Our gaelscoil was only starting out at the time — our classroom was a storage room in a local hall — but our teachers were warm and encouraging and it gave me a great start with Irish.

Person you most admire?

Ruth Stone. Both of my grandmothers. Biddy Jenkinson.

Person who most irritates you?

Any and all of the radio hosts that focus on drumming up aggression, they drive me round the twist.

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

I don’t know. I wish I knew, I think we need someone with exceptional vision and courage to sort out the current situation.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

This summer, we spent a week in Ardnagashel, near Bantry, while I taught a course at the West Cork Literary Festival. Ardnagashel is an extraordinary place, it was once an old estate but the house burned down. The grounds have an old arboretum full of interesting trees, a ruined walled garden, a waterfall, and a pebble beach. We stayed in the old stables; it’s said that they’re haunted, but I slept too deeply to notice any mysterious goings on...

Favourite TV programme?

I love documentaries about artists’ lives. There’s something about seeing the breadth of an artistic life that intrigues me.

Favourite radio show?

I used to love John Kelly’s afternoon show on Lyric FM, and I was sad to see it go. He has a new show in the evenings, I must remember to switch on the radio at that time!

Your signature dish if cooking?

I love spicy food, so I tend to make recipes that involve flinging in plenty of veg, spices and noodles.

Favourite restaurant?

The Farmgate Café is my favourite place to eat. Kay and Rebecca Harte are such wonderful, warm, generous people, and you can’t beat the freshness and imagination of the dishes there. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Last book you read?

I usually read a prose and a poetry book side by side. Recently, I’ve been reading Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba, a short, terrifying novel about a little girl arriving at an orphanage. I also read Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh’s The Coast Road, a collection of luminous Irish poems in translation.

Best book you’ve read?

Much as I’d like to give a fancy example from literature, this has to be Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss. It’s funny and creepy and weird. I adore it, and I read it to the children as often as they’ll let me.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

I love Arcade Fire’s new album Everything Now.

Favourite song?

I have a soft spot for Zbigniew Preisner’s Van Den Budenmayer — Concerto In E Minor but I love all kinds of songs... I like Stevie G on Red FM, anything with hard, thumping bass is my kind of thing.

One person you would like to see in concert?

In my old age, I’m no longer so keen on large crowds, so I tend to avoid gigs. I like a quiet life.

Do you have a pet?

A stray tabby kitten adopted us when we moved house. I named her Kitty O’Shea. She has been gifting us brutal blood sacrifices, yesterday I found half a mouse on the step in a pool of blood. Yuck!

Morning person or night owl?

Both. I have a very busy life juggling my writing around the children and other responsibilities, so I try to snatch writing time everywhere I can.

I’ve been known to write at dawn, after midnight, in the school car park. It’s hectic, but I make it work for me. I don’t really have any other choice!

Your proudest moment?

Choosing a life as a writer is a weird decision, and I think it was probably pretty strange for my parents to see me (out of the blue) decide to walk this path.

When I was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature last year, there was a moment in my speech where I looked down from the stage and thanked my parents in the audience. It was deeply moving for all of us.

Spendthrift or saver?

Saver. Out of necessity we live very frugally, scrimp and save.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

No matter where I find myself, I would always try to plant more trees.

What makes you happy? Books! Watching my children play. Growing a little garden. Going home to Clare. Seeing movies with Tim. Chocolate. A walk.

How would you like to be remembered?

In both my writing and my life, I would like to be remembered as someone who brought in a little light and joy.

What else are you up to at the moment? I’m writing a new poem about Cork, commissioned by UCC, and doing research for several commissions for 2018 — looks like I’ll be up and down to Dublin a lot. I’m also finishing my fifth book, a collection of poems in English about language, desire and domesticity. Busy!

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