This much I know: Theo Dorgan, Poet

I’ve spent much of my life raging against stupidity and injustice. 

I don’t like to say that I have regrets but maybe in the past I could have given more time to, and thought more carefully about, my own writing. Maybe that is why I’ve become manically over-productive in the last few years.

I grew up in Blackpool, Cork.

I started reading at the age of four and simply never stopped. I was a very self-directed child. One of my fondest memories is taking the bus into the city library on a Wednesday and Saturday to get my books.

I assumed that I would be a writer because I found reading so absorbing. It came as something of a shock to me that it was not as easy as reading.

I can be very disciplined and organised when I’m working on a particular project with a time frame, but other than that, I have always had a fatal habit of leaving things to the last minute.

I don’t really ever think of not working. I can’t imagine not writing, but getting down to it is the problem. I’m often too lazy to get down to it.

I need different environments for different types of writing. A first draft can come anywhere: on a train, at my desk. The first drafts of my two sailing books and my novel were written within a month each — but then the rewriting takes time and I do need peace and quite for that.

I live in Dublin with the poet and playwright Paula Meehan. I am lucky to live with someone who understands how I work. We compensate for each other — if one is absorbed in work, the other takes up the slack. I met Paula in February 1990 when she contributed a piece to The Great book of Ireland which I was editing. I just thought ‘ah, there you are’. It was as simple as that.

I love walking, paintings and boats. I came to sailing by accident, it was a late vocation. I signed up for a course and realised ‘I like this’.

When I was last on a long trip from Chile to South Africa we took a bit of a battering one night and just as I was on the brink of sleep I thought it would be hell to die and to be locked inside my own chattering mind forever. The best advice I ever received was from Paula before that trip — she told me to ‘stay in the boat and don’t go talking politics in The Falklands’.

My favourite place in Cork is Allihies — or a certain phone box on the top of Patrick’s Hill in a thunderstorm, from which you can see the whole of the city lit up by lightening.

My idea of misery is to be utterly powerless.

I have no idea if there is an afterlife. I’m an agnostic. I wouldn’t have the temerity to state that there is no God and yet I’m not a believer because I don’t know if there is a God. I believe in doing the best I can here and now, that this is all there is.

My biggest challenge so far has been getting it right.

The trait I most admire in others is honesty.

Home is wherever Paula is.

I don’t miss Cork because I never left it. I just live elsewhere.

Theo Dorgan is Ambassador for Cork Heritage Open Day which celebrates the built heritage of Cork. Over 40 buildings will open their doors today free of charge to the public — ranging from medieval to military, civic to commercial and educational to ecclesiastical. See corkheritageopenday.ie Theo Dorgan’s latest collection of poems Nine Bright Shiners is due out in October.


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