Annemarie Ní Churreáin

- Ireland -

Annemarie Ní Churreáin is a poet from the Donegal Gaeltacht in northwest Ireland. She is a recipient of The Next Generation Artist Award from the Arts Council of Ireland and a co-recipient of The Markievicz Award. Her work has been shortlisted for the Shine Strong Award for best new first collection in Ireland and has been highly commended in The Patrick Kavanagh Award. Ní Churreáin has held the role of literary fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Germany, and The Jack Kerouac House, Florida. She was the 2019-20 Writer in Residence at Maynooth University of Ireland and a 2020 Artist In Residence at The Centre Culturel Irlandais Paris.

In her debut collection Bloodroot (Doire Press, 2017) Ní Churreáin bears witness to the lives of unmarried mothers in Ireland over the past 100 years. Interweaving wild landscapes, history and family autobiography, this collection is dedicated to her foremothers. 


The title poem references the journey my grandmother took in the spring of 1951 from Northern Ireland down into Westmeath where she gave birth to my father at the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home. It was here, in the same year that Noel Browne resigned as minister for health following the failed Mother and Child Scheme (which the Catholic Church called ‘anti-family') that my grandmother was forced to relinquish her child to adoption. It is at this point in the history of the State that poetry as a form of protest began like a code to write and rewrite itself into the DNA of who I am”.


Of her work The Yale Review has surmised that “Ní Churreáin often captures a whole world of cultural and historical implications in a single, simple, but metaphorically rich image.” The Los Angeles Review of Books states “that Ní Churreáin can condense the prototypical life of a young Irish woman into half a page while sustaining the poem’s impact is testament to her ability as a storyteller, the vividness of her language, and the universality of the portraits she is painting...”.The Irish Times praised Ní Churreáin‘s poems which “with their musicality and sensuousness, as well as their fearlessness, mark the welcome appearance of a fresh and vivid new voice”.


In her second collection The Poison Glen (The Gallery Press, 2022) Ní Churreáin explores the history and legacy of the stolen or missing child by looking to the left-behind sites of orphanages, state industrial schools, homes and hospitals including the famed Dublin Foundling Hospital established in the 1700’s. Many of these poems subvert text from government records, or repurpose Catholic prayers or rituals, or turn joyfully to folklore, superstition, cures, magic charms and pre-Christian incantations. The resulting collection is a careful, complex lattice-work rooted by the compelling mythology of The Poison Glen in northwest Donegal.


Of this book Ní Churreáin says “The Poison Glen revolved out of me the ways dreams revolve, and the act of writing is transformative. In my pursuit of a landscape through which I might better understand the legacy in Ireland of mother and child separation, I began to mine the ancient stories of Donegal. I (re)connected with the myth of Balor of The Evil Eye who is said to have locked his daughter Eithne into a tower on Tory Island and stolen her three infant sons. According to popular retellings, Lugh, the only surviving son, returns from his fosterage as an adult and slays Balor causing a poison to spill from his eye out into the surrounding glen. It’s a tale of family splits and intergenerational wounds and, inspired by the restorative justice circles of Ireland under Brehon Law, I decided to place each member of the mythological family into a circle and to give each voice a turn to speak”.


In The Dublin Review of Books poet Thomas McCarthy hailed the collection as “a poetry of furious energy and stunning verse-craft. There are poems in The Poison Glen such as ‘Creed’ and ‘The Screaming Room’ that are simply masterpieces, the former with those startling opening words “I believe in the queer, round window; / in the queer white bird ‑ watcher of bar and bolt – ” and the latter poem with its scorching truths: “I come from women who found themselves / in trouble … In their honour I can never again be silent.” Hers is a poetry that is fire and rage burning, with an intensity of feeling that reminds me of the intensity of a young Maire Mhac an tSaoi’s work, such a work of passion and intense longing”.


The Poison Glen was listed as one of The Books of The Year 2021 in the Times Literary Supplement (UK) and The Irish Independent. The book is currently being toured at festivals in Ireland and at universities in the U.S.


As a librettist Ní Churreáin has a long-standing collaboration with Irish composer Michael Gallen of Straymaker (Ireland). She was a co-writer of the libretto on  Elsewhere, a new large-scale opera based on the story of the 1919 Monaghan Asylum Soviet. Set up by Donegal man Peadar O’ Donnell, the soviet presented a revolutionary vision of what a care-centred society could look like. The story of Elsewhere unfolds through the visions of Celine, a patient of the asylum who, decades later, remains ‘locked in’ to the moment of the Soviet, believing herself to be its leader. Co-commissioned by Cie Miroirs Étendus, the Opéra de Rouen-Normandie and Creative Ireland, the opera was co-produced in Ireland by Straymaker with support of the Arts Council and the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. The work debuted at The Abbey National Theatre of Ireland in 2022 and in that same year was nominated for an Irish Theatre Award. Elsewhere will tour internationally in 2023.


Ní Churreáin is also author of a letterpress book about Dublin titled Town (The Salvage Press, 2018) which appears in special university library collections worldwide.


Ní Churreáin has a diverse and busy full-time practice as a poet and writer. She enjoys international readings and touring. Her poetry has been translated into Greek, Italian and a selection of her poems has been republished in Galician as  ‘From a broken rib / Dunha costela rota’ (Urutau, 2022). Ní Churreáin is the 2022 Guest Editor of The Stony Thursday Book 44. She is a mentor to emerging poets on the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. In 2022 Ní Churreáin founded the Solas Writers Residency at The Song House (formerly The Poet’s House) in northwest Donegal. Ní Churreáin is an active member of the Irish Writers in Prisons Panel. She now lives in Dublin and lectures at the Yeats Academy of Arts, Design and Architecture ATU Sligo.