Doireann Ní Gríofa: 'I had the honour of dissecting  a body'

Doireann Ní Gríofa: 'I had the honour of dissecting  a body'

Poet and author Doireann Ní Ghríofa is leaving her body to UCC's anatomy department.

A faded scar on one of her fingertips serves as a reminder of the formative year Doireann Ní Gríofa spent dissecting human bodies as a dentistry student.

Though she decided to change her career path and is now a poet and author, the echo of the experience has lingered. So much so she has signed a form leaving her body to UCC’s anatomy department, where, aged 17, she studied as part of her training.

“I had the honour and the privilege of being one of a group who dissected a human body. And that experience had such a profound impact on me that I felt it would be a gift to sign my own body back to UCC. I love the idea of completing that circle,” she says.

From Kilnamona, Co Clare, she lives in Tower, Co Cork, with her husband and four children - aged 12, ten, eight and five - along with two hens that arrived during the summer.

  • A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Gríofa, is published by Tramp Press.

What shape you in?

I started to exercise during lockdown and built slowly from a daily walk to a daily jog. Now I’ve come to the point where I’m fitter than I ever have been in my whole life.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

Every morning, I have a big bowl of chopped fruit depending on what’s available or what’s in season at the time. I have that with my porridge.

Have you got a guilty pleasure?

I love to sit down with my husband at the end of a long day and have a glass of wine - always red - while watching the telly or a box set.

What would keep you awake at night?

I suppose with coronavirus, I do fret about family up in Clare. I really miss them, so that kind of homesickness and worry would keep me awake at night sometimes.

What do you do to relax?

I love listening to music. When I’m in the car, I’d be belting out the lyrics to the songs. I have a memory for lyrics and I’m completely tone deaf.

Who are your sporting heroes?

The Clare hurling team that won the All-Ireland hurling final in 1995 - it was an unforgettable moment for me. I feel like that team taught a whole generation of Clare people what it meant to be the underdog and to go out and give it socks anyway. I still think of that very often and I still draw great strength from it.

What’s your favourite smell?

There’s a lovely lemon natural wax candle by Helen James at Dunnes Stores. Anytime I’m sitting down to write or to work I have the habit of lighting it. It gets me in the mood for writing.

Is there anything you’d like to change about your appearance?

I started going grey when I was 17 years old, so if I could change something about my appearance it would probably be if I didn’t have to colour my hair so regularly.

What traits do you least like in others?

Impatience and rudeness, particularly when I’m driving. I think we can all work a little on our manners when we’re behind the wheel.

What traits do least like in yourself?

I can be very quick to put my own needs last. I think that mothers often fall into that habit where we almost don’t realise that we’re even doing it. It catches up with you sooner or later.

Do you say any prayers?

I had a great religious devotion when I was younger. I wouldn’t practise in such a regular way anymore. But I do still catch myself saying prayers or speaking to some higher power quietly in the quiet moments and that brings me great comfort and solace.

What would cheer up your day?

When my husband is working from home and he comes downstairs around 11 o’clock to have his cup of coffee. I love that I get to sit down for a cup of coffee with him at that time.

What quote that inspires most?

One that I have been taking great comfort from recently is by Paul Éluard, a French poet. ‘There is another world but it is in this one’. It’s a reminder that there’s always another layer to life that you can access - whether you can see it or not.

Where’s your favourite place in the world?

I would have to say that my favourite place is the place that I grew up in. I miss the little boreens, and I miss my family, and I miss the people, and I miss the trees. And I’m looking forward to when lockdown is eased and I can go back up to Clare again. I love being in the Burren. I can just feel something inside me settle when I’m there.

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