Bríd Ní Mhóráin was raised in Camp, County Kerry, on the outskirts of an Irish-speaking area. In 1975 she was awarded a B.A. in Irish, Spanish and German from University College Cork and in 1990 a Masters Degree from Trinity College, Dublin. From the latter emerged Thiar Sa Mhainistir Atá An Ghaolainn Bhreá (West in the monastery the fine Irish can be found), a non-fiction prose work discussing the decay of the Irish language as the vernacular of the Iveragh Peninsula. She began writing poetry in the mid-eighties and the startling maturity of her early work was acknowledged by success in the Oireachtas, the premier series of competitions for Irish-language literature, where she won prizes in 1988, 1989 and 1992. Her first collection of poems, Ceiliúradh Cré (A Celebration of Earth), was published by Coiscéim in 1992. Over four succeeding volumes, culminating in 2010’s Pietas, Ní Mhóráin has established herself firmly among the leading Irish-language poets of her generation.
Nature functions as a sounding board in much of Ní Mhóráin’s poetry. Again and again her work points us toward life’s essential dramas as they play out in the theatre of the natural world. Keen powers of observation – in tandem with a precise and formal lyric control – allow her to bear witness with an unusual resonance and clarity.
When she writes in ‘I bhFothair na Manach’ of trampling flowers while walking with her husband, the blooms’ desecration communicates not only depths of tenderness and partnership but also the intensity of her devotion toward nature in all its fragile detail. ‘I nDraip’ creates a similar effect, the poet imagining herself and her partner enjoying the freedom of choughs flying along a cliff-face with no need for more shelter than a crevice high on its steep slope. In ‘An Mhilaois’ or ‘The Millenium’, meanwhile, she manages in one descending swoop to bring us from the unruffled world of her early childhood, where she goes to draw water from a local well, to the present with all its disturbances and turbulence.
Poems of loss litter each of Ní Mhóráin’s collections, but 2010’s Pietas is truly a book of mourning. Here she not only laments the passing of close relatives and friends, but also the expiration of youth and opportunity, while all the time affording the old, feeble and senile the dignity they so richly deserve. In several poems she mourns her own childless state, while also sounding a note of hope as she depicts a soul not untouched by the gravity of the experience, yet somehow still ‘intact’.
Since 2003 Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, a cultural body with a commitment to the Irish language and to the Kerry Gaeltacht heritage, has employed Ní Mhóráin as writer-in-residence. She has facilitated countless creative writing workshops during this time, offering advice and encouragement to poets and prose-writers across all levels of ability. Her work involves frequent visits to local schools, the latest such initiative geared toward the encouragement of blogging and social networking through the medium of the Irish language. Ní Mhóráin has also served as mentor to a number of individual emerging poets under the influential and long-running scheme Scéim na n-Oidí.
Ní Mhóráin’s respect for life, for tradition and for the natural world comes through in all her work, which is wrought against an unobtrusive but richly learned backdrop of mythology and folklore. She received an Arts Council Bursary from the Irish government in 2011 and is currently working on a new collection of poems.
Ceiliúradh Cré, Coiscéim, Dublin, 1992
Fé Bhrat Bhríde, An Sagart, Dingle, 2002
Síolta an Iomais, Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Conamara, 2006
An Cosán Bán / The White Path, Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, Kerry, 2008
Pietas, An Sagart, Dingle, 2010
Poems by Ní Mhóráin with translations at Connotation Press
Video of Ní Mhóráin reading at The White House, Limerick
Review of Pietas (in Irish) by Mícheál Ó Ruairc