‘I absolutely guzzled cigarettes; I drank them’ - poet and playwright, Damian Gorman

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: poet and playwright, Damian Gorman

Damian Gorman
Damian Gorman
1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

I do some rudimentary stretching and yoga, followed by 10 minutes with bar bells. It is a blessing to me, and to the world, that this is all in my own bedroom and visible to no-one except my other half, Greta.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for….

Breakfast? Well, here’s how yesterday went for all three: Breakfast - granola with bananas and blueberries.

Lunch? A plate of chips in town.

Evening meal? Vegan mince and onion pie at home, served with mixed veg and potato, parsnip and mustard mash (my speciality).

3. Is nutrition important to you? Do you take health supplements?

It is important to me that my diet is almost wholly vegetarian. It is also important to me that it’s half-decent, in the sense that it doesn’t leave me either hyper or sluggish or moving between the two. I wouldn’t know where to start with supplements.

4. Ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

Yes, and it never went well. I was overweight when I was young. Dr Walsh, our GP, said the weight would fall off, and it did, when I was about 15. But before that, my mother had me on all sorts of regimes, which she joined in with. The one that still haunts me is those weeks when we had poached eggs on top of boiled onions for every evening meal. Good times...

5. Weekend treat?

Breakfast in Tank and Skinny’s beach-front cafe in Buncrana (when in funds).

6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

By walking, telling and listening to jokes, and singing into myself.

7. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Go walking or swimming - and walk or swim in the nicest places available to you.

8. Were you a fan of PE/school sports? Have you a memory of those days you’d rather forget?

No, I was not a fan of school sports, nor they of me. But I do have one bizarre memory of a day when, because of chronic, widespread illness, I was drafted into a school Gaelic squad. I accidentally fisted a point over the bar while trying to protect my face. And, directly from the kick-out, I scored a stunning goal while attempting to rid myself of the ball.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

I’m teetotal. I haven’t had a drink since my first child‚ Molly, was born. (I’d used up my quota by then.) Molly was 37 earlier this year.

10. Stairs or lift?

Stairs. (I’m old, but I’m not that old.)

I haven’t had a drink since my first child, Molly, was born. Molly was 37 earlier this year says poet and playwright, Damian Gorman
I haven’t had a drink since my first child, Molly, was born. Molly was 37 earlier this year says poet and playwright, Damian Gorman
11. What book are you currently reading?

Denis Bradley’s Peace Comes Dropping Slow – an honest, necessary memoir of the Troubles. I would recommend it to anyone. I know some people think we need no more witness to that time in all our lives, but I hold the opposite view – which is that now is the time to cast the net wider, a net with a finer mesh – so that we miss absolutely nothing: no testimony or story that might help us carry with us the lessons of our recent history.

12. Best Netflix/streaming TV?

Schitt’s Creek. Beautifully (restoratively) warm, funny and off-the-wall.

13. Any new skills/hobbies?

I have spuds and onions in, for the first time. They seem to be doing rightly, but I’ll know for sure round the Twelfth.

14. How do you relax?

By bouts of forgetting, or remembering: forgetting to worry, or remembering just how very lucky I am. (Reading or watching some utter trash occasionally helps too.)

15. What would you tell your younger self?

That you don’t have to be as afraid as you think you do. Also, that you should learn to value the work that you do – to value it fairly to everyone, including yourself.

16. What are your goals for 2024?

To be a half-decent human being and to continue to earn enough to keep myself. And to advance the writing of those stories – those poems and films and plays – that I know are mine to tell.

17. What time do you go to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I’m usually in bed before midnight and, usually, I fall asleep quickly. But, I waken with the light – which, while fine in the autumn and winter, is less so at this time of the year.

18. Biggest gripe or regret?

That I ever started smoking. I absolutely guzzled cigarettes; I drank them between the ages of 14 and 42. There seemed to be nothing quite so cool and I suppose they afforded some sort of nervy calm. But, apart from the fact that I was playing Russian roulette with my own health, I deeply regret that my fag money was supporting plutocrats who knew that their industry was hurting people, killing people, for years before they let us know what they knew.

19. Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

My priorities changed when I became a father and have never changed back.

20. Has coronavirus – or any epiphany or life event – changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Many people, and brushes with my own mortality, have altered my attitudes. But an encounter with Jean-Paul Sartre’s dictum that “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you” had a particularly profound impact on me, and at least one other member of my family. In other words, things happen to us. And either we live our lives hidden in the overhang of them, or we refuse to let our horizons be dimmed. It’s not always easy trying to live guided by this thought, but what’s the harm...?

Damian Gorman is the writer and director of new play, Available Light, written for Stage Beyond, the award-winning Derry-based theatre company that works with adults with learning disabilities. The show is dedicated to Catherine Campbell, a Stage Beyond founding member who died earlier this year, aged 44. It will be performed in the Millennium Forum, Derry, on Wednesday June 19, at 7.30pm. Tickets available at the box office, tel 028 7126 4455, or at

Damian Gorman’s selected poems and memoir As If I Cared is available from Blackstaff Press.