CORK-BASED poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa will read her new short story at the Farmgate Café in the English Market tomorrow.
The story, ‘The Lightning, The Lightning’, was commissioned by the Cork International Short Story Festival in collaboration with the Farmgate Café’s exhibition, Women of the South: Radicals and Revolutionaries.
The exhibition highlights historical women involved in the fight for Irish independence, social justice, and women’s rights.
It’s a photographic installation accompanied by a series of public events in honour of Munster’s revolutionary women who participated in the foundation of the Irish State.
Ní Ghríofa, a bilingual poet who has just won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, was asked to take the photographs and histories of Women of the South as her starting point: “The Farmgate has been so open and nurturing. I’m used to commissions but usually, they are poetry commissions. The spec I was given was to look in depth at the archival exhibition and to see if that would spark a piece of short fiction. It was kind-of intimidating at the start, as there were so many entry points.”
Sitting with the images, Ní Ghríofa allowed her imagination to wander. “I became very drawn to the shadowy background figures in the photographs and not the headliners. These were normal women who were caught up in this really exciting revolutionary time. Often, the stories presented to us are of the headliners from these historic times who had really public epiphanies. If you think of Countess Markievicz, she was a really admirable figure but very public and dramatic. I wanted to imagine an ordinary woman, to write about the inner revolution in tandem with the outer revolution. It’s about a woman’s own radical internal awakening.”
Ní Ghríofa says that everything she writes is informed by a feminist perspective. “It’s so knit into the fibre of my being.”
The Galway-born writer started to write poetry in Irish and moved on to translating her work into English. She also writes essays and short fiction.
“English is my first language. I don’t understand why Irish seems to be my first language in a creative sense. But I love writing in both languages. I’m drawn to writing about the lives of women, the female body and the experience of motherhood. Those themes come up, regardless of what language I’m using. But strangely enough, when I’m writing in English, I tend to write a good bit about the pull and ambivalence between English and Irish. When I’m writing in Irish, I tend to write a lot about domesticity.”
Ní Ghríofa, a mother of four young children, says she has really become herself since she started to write. She has an exciting commission coming up. As part of the Arts Council’s project, Making Great Art Work, Ní Ghríofa is involved in a collaborative project with leading contemporary music ensemble, the Crash Ensemble.
Celebrating 20 years, the group is commissioning 20 pieces of music from different composers, pairing Irish composers with international ones.
They will present ten events in various venues: “They have commissioned ten works of poetry from me to be performed at each event. I’m going on tour with the Crash Ensemble next spring and summer. One of the grand finales will be in Cork next autumn as part of Sounds From A Safe Harbour. It’s a huge project for me. I absolutely love collaborating. It makes me even more ambitious for my work and pushes me out from my comfort zone.”
Doireann Ní Ghríofa will read her new short story at the Farmgate Café at 6pm tomorrow as part of the Cork International Short Story Festival. See corkshortstory.net.
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