In praise of Eavan Boland, by Gerard Smyth

Celebrating Irish women writers: ‘She pioneered a poetic language for those living unseen lives in the new territories of Dublin suburbia’

Evan Boland: A pioneering voice of the unheard in the ‘City of Shadows’. Photograph: Joe St Leger

Evan Boland: A pioneering voice of the unheard in the ‘City of Shadows’. Photograph: Joe St Leger

 

From her early poems to the most recent, in A Woman Without a Country, Eavan Boland brings a spirit of deep inquiry to her experience of womanhood and motherhood, marriage and the domestic space, her Irishness and the historical and psychic inheritance that comes with that state. She pioneered a poetic language for those living unseen lives in the new territories of Dublin suburbia.

Few poets have written, in prose form, so well and so intensely on the origins of their work as Boland has. It could be said that she set out to recalibrate the Irish poem from a dissenting perspective and, in doing so, took on a whole tradition.

Central to her poetry is her attachment to Dublin, her “ City of Shadows”: its river and landmarks and store of memory are lovingly but never blindly the subject of homage that is evocative and fully aware that hers is an “old, torn and traded city”.

But she brings to her poetry a wider sense of an Ireland with its intersections of past and present. Every new book is a consolidation of her gifts. Other favourites Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paula Meehan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Máire Mhac an tSaoi.

Gerard Smyth is Poetry Editor. His eighth poetry collection, A Song of Elsewhere (Dedalus Press), has just been published

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