Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland is a woman with an extraordinary talent. She was born with the
ability to make people experience feelings through her words. Boland
captures the reader with her personal and lyrical poetry. She articulates
the pride of her individuality and the confidence of her shared humanity
even from her
Nowhere can be found a land without violence. But nowhere but Ireland can
be found a land with more violence. Eavan Boland uses the theme of violence
in many of the poems that she writes. In some way, shape, or form, violence
is incorporated and used to explain loss, grief, or exploitation. But it is
when Boland contrasts this violence with another aspect of human life that
we find the true meaning of the word, and the truly devastating results it
can wreak on all existence. By contrasting
The poet examines the effect of history, specifically that of Ireland due
to her heritage, on the development of the female poet and the evolution
of poetry in general. One of the major themes within Boland’s poetry is
that of an exploration of who she is as an individual through her
personal and family history with a little bit of national history thrown
in. She questions the importance of the accuracy of history and how much
of a fictive, imaginative quality can slip in to the re-telling of it.

The role of women in Irish society in both the past and present is often
brought into question as is the role, or even the existence, of women
poets. Language also plays a large part in her questioning of history;
the idea being that language is on loan from history and results in “a
connected act” that prevents the poet from ever being alone in his or her

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Boland indicates her need to discover who she is through an examination
of her past in the opening of Object Lessons with a re-creating of her
Grandmother’s story. She knows very little about this family member, only
that she died in the National Maternity Hospital, and tries to give the
woman a story in an effort to give herself one as well. Boland writes:
|This is the way we make the past. This is the way |
|I will make it here |
|…Giving eyesight and evidence to a woman we|
|never know and cannot|
|now recover. For all our violations, the past|
|waits for us…Again and |
|again I visit it and reinvent it. But the woman|
|who actually traveled it |
|had no such license. Hers was a real journey. She |
|did not come back. |
|(Boland 1995, p.5) |
Boland’s grandmother serves as a source of inspiration of a way in which
to write and also to look at history. She may not know much about what
actually happened but it is possible to create a story based on what she
does know. This story can serve as a source of personal identity and
strength. As she thinks about and constructs a story for her grandmother,
she becomes intimately close to her. The lines between reality and
imagination begin to blur to the point where the two cannot truly be
separated into the “truth” of what really happened and the truth that has
been created. There are other examples of this tendency to find the self
in the creation of a past; Boland even mentions an essay by Maxine Hong
Kingston in the book The Woman Warrior. In “No Name Woman,” she talks
about an aunt who was shunned by her family because she became pregnant
which led to her subsequent suicide. In the closing of the essay, she
|My aunt haunts me – her ghost drawn to me because |
|now, after fifty|
|years of neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to|
|her, though not|
|origamied into houses and clothes. I do not think |
|she always means me |
|well. I am telling on her, and she was a spite|
|suicide, drowning herself |
|in the drinking water. (Kingston 1975, p. 16)|
That both writers felt the need to create stories for those who they knew
little about shows a deeper need to create a past and a history for
themselves which then leads to a stronger present identity. It is as if
they are missing large pieces of a more common, general history and, to
fill in those holes, they must create stories for those whose stories are
denied to them.

There is good reason for Boland to want to examine history in her writing
since she begins writing in a time when women poets are unheard of in
Ireland and must find a sort of belonging and place within national
history and the history that she creates for herself. It is very
difficult to be a feminist in Ireland, an extremely patriarchal country,
and much more difficult to be a female writer. The woman is seen as the
nurturer, the sacrificer, the one who devotes her life to others; a woman
would not have the luxury of being as self-centered and individualistic
as would a writer, specifically a poet. Strict laws about marriage1 and a
general lack of rights for women does not favor the ambitions of a woman
poet. In works such as “The Rooms of Other Women Poets,” Boland questions
where her predecessors are, who she has to turn to for a guide and
inspiration, and what ground has already been broken and what has yet to
be plowed. Since she does not know who the “other women poets” are she
must invent them and guess as to their thoughts and desires. She
accomplishes this by almost channeling the spirit of the women of the
past through language. As a child, and even now, Boland was constantly
moving and being shuttled to place to place with her family because her
father was an ambassador. In Object Lessons and in poems such as “An
Irish Childhood in England: 1951″ (Boland 1990) she attempts to
rediscover a language that she felt cut off from, a language she can call
her own. She believes that poetry in and of itself is “a connected act”
in which the words and language used are on loan from history and the
people who have used them previously. In this way she is able to
construct an almost support group of poets and writers from the past who
have suffered the same difficulties that she has, had the same thoughts
and worries, and accomplished similar goals. This fellowship of poetry
through language and creativity runs throughout Boland’s poetry and is
easily one of her sources of inspiration.

1 Until 1966, women were forced to quit their jobs upon marriage. Section
49 (2) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act read: “Every female officer
shall be deemed to have retired from the Commonwealth service upon her
marriage…” It is important to note that women lost their rights as paid
workers and that though the term was gender neutral, the “marriage bar”
was never forced upon men. (Sawer 1996, p.7)
The second poem deals somewhat with history and my personal interpretation
of a specific event that many people are familiar with and most people have
an opinion on: September 11th, 2001. Whereas many people write about this
event by either telling how they personally experienced it or with a sort
of reverential, heroic or patriotic interpretation, I chose to take a more
political stance and include the commonplace. I feel that this poem is an
example of the defiance of the “romantic heresy” that Boland discusses. I
took a very public, very national event that would fit perfectly into the
traditional Irish classification of what a poem should be written about and
examined instead that which is effected more in everyday life. An example
of this is the line about what the local restaurants had put on their
billboards, or the hundreds of miniature American flags attached to cars
everywhere one looked. The fact that the speaker is thinking about all of
this in a bathroom stall in a local Wal-Mart Supercenter is a perfect
indication of how the ordinary is affected by national events.