Eavan Boland a ‘trailblazer’ who changed landscape of literature, funeral told

Poet didn’t just open doors, she ‘blew them off the hinges,’ says daughter Eavan Casey

The funeral  Eavan Casey (née Boland) Dundrum, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

The funeral Eavan Casey (née Boland) Dundrum, Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Eavan Boland will be remembered as a “trailblazer” who changed the landscape of Irish literature and inspired people around the world, the late poet’s daughter has said.

Speaking at the distinguished poet’s private funeral, which was held at the Holy Cross church in Dundrum, Eavan Casey said her mother’s death still felt “incomprehensible” but that Boland would leave a “monumental legacy” behind.

“She didn’t just open doors, she blew them off the hinges,” Ms Casey said. “She’s a trailblazer and she changed the landscape of Irish literature and we couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s my best friend and an absolute rock and it’s difficult to know what we will do without her. But she would want us to be happy and carry on her legacy as a poet, a mother, a wife, a grandmother and a best friend.”

Boland died suddenly on Monday at the age of 75 after a stroke at her home in Dundrum. She is survived by her husband, the writer Kevin Casey, her two daughters, Eavan and Sarah, and four grandchildren.

In memory of her mother, Eavan Casey read Boland’s 1994 poem A Woman Painted on a Leaf, which speaks of a woman’s sense of growing old and facing death.

“I want a poem I can grow old in. I want a poem I can die in. I want to take this dried-out face, as you take a starling from behind iron, and return it to its elements of air, of ending – so that autumn which was once the hard look of stars, the frown on a gardener’s face, a gradual bronzing of the distance, will be, from now on, a crisp tinder underfoot.”

Eavan Boland was described as an amazing mother and grandmother.
Eavan Boland was described as an amazing mother and grandmother.

Sarah Casey also paid tribute to her mother with a reading of And Soul, a poem Boland wrote about her own mother’s death. Ms Casey said she would have liked more time to gather her thoughts about her mother and that she was determined to do justice to all of Boland’s “amazing achievements and her extraordinary life that we are so proud of.”

“What it keeps coming back to for me is what an amazing mother she is to us and in her later years the most amazing grandmother. Her kindness and her generosity – it came from a place where she wanted our lives to be easier and better every day.”

During the Mass, family members presented a number of gifts to the altar including a poem written by Boland to celebrate 100 years of Irish women’s suffrage, which she read in 2018 at the UN headquarters in New York.

An iPad was also brought up to represent the poet’s passion for technology, while her grandchildren presented some of their toys to represent the love Boland had for her family.

Until last month, Boland had been teaching at Stanford University in California, where she had been a professor since 1996, but had returned home in light of the coronavirus pandemic to be close to her family and had been enjoying teaching remotely, her family said.

The late poet’s funeral Mass was only attended by a small number of family members in light of the Government advice regarding public gatherings. However, it was streamed online to an audience around the world.

In the absence of a full celebration of her life, Boland’s family requested ahead of the funeral that all those who knew and loved the poet light a candle at 11.30am on Friday.