Poetry Essays Eavan Boland

Poetry Essays Eavan Boland-71
By that time, far from seeing the ordinary life as a devalued theme, I was convinced it could be a powerful lens.

By that time, far from seeing the ordinary life as a devalued theme, I was convinced it could be a powerful lens.

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When Eavan Boland began publishing her poems, in the 1960s, she faced two problems.

The first was that she was a woman in a homogenous, conservative, and extremely Catholic Ireland.

In response, her work remained modest, often focusing on domestic life: the sound of a kettle boiling, of a child falling asleep.

But it also merged the public with the private, and sought to look at a past that was left out of history books, skipping across centuries in a single line, like a camera gliding through time. The following interview was conducted over several long correspondences by email.

It belonged to a past where ordinary lives were lived and where, if they were remembered at all, it was in whispers and fragments of memory.

By the time I’d found my voice as a writer, I knew I was a poet of the past and not of history.The past, on the other hand, was a place of shadows and losses. It also claimed the right to say what was worth recording.When I looked at my mother’s life I knew I wouldn’t find its meaning in a history book.It’s instructive to see them struggling at the crossroads of self-awareness and language.You can see them pondering whether an Irish identity actually exists.The nineteenth century is a pivotal point in Irish writing, as well as in Irish history.It’s the century in which writers engaged with all kinds of defeat and began to formulate their responses.That’s not to say I admire all their writing, or agree with all their conclusions. I’ve always thought Yeats’s description of their writing as “a fiery shorthand” was just right.But there’s more to the Irish nineteenth century than that. And I see that as a watershed: a powerful once-and-for-all disruption of any kind of heroic history.It was plain that history was the official version.And often enough it was a clear and sometimes heroic narrative in Irish writing. The problem for me was not just that history recorded events.


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