Visiting Poets

Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland

Hailed by critics as “Ireland’s premier woman poet,” Eavan Boland is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including The Lost Land (W.W. Norton, 1998), An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-1987 (1996), and In A Time Of Violence (1994).

In addition to her poetry, she has also written a volume of prose entitled Object Lessons: The Life Of The Woman And The Poet In Our Time (1995), and was co-editor of The Making Of A Poem: A Norton Anthology Of Poetic Forms (2000), with Mark Shad. Her poems and essays have appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, the AtlanticPloughshares, the Paris Review, and the American Poetry Review.

Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1944, and graduated from Trinity College in 1966. She has taught at Trinity College, University College, Bowdoin College, and was a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She is on the board of the Irish Arts Council and a member of the Irish Academy of Letters, and is a member of the English Department at Stanford University.

Select Poems

-and not simply by the fact that this shading of

forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,

the gloom of cypresses,

is what I wish to prove.

When you and I were first in love we drove

to the borders of Connacht

and entered a wood there.

Look down you said: this was once a famine road.

I looked down at ivy and the scutch grass

rough-cast stone had

disappeared into as you told me

in the second winter of their ordeal, in

1847, when the crop had failed twice,

Relief Committees gave

the starving Irish such roads to build.

Where they died, there the road ended

and ends still and when I take down

the map of this island, it is never so

I can say here is

the masterful, the apt rendering of

the spherical as flat, nor

an ingenious design which persuades a curve

into a plane,

but to tell myself again that

the line which says woodland and cries hunger

and gives out among sweet pine and cypress,

and finds no horizon

will not be there.

From IN A TIME OF VIOLENCE (W.W. Norton & Company, 1994)

In the evening

after a whole day at the easel

my mother would put down her brush,

pour turpentine into a glass jar,

and walk to the table.

Then she took a mirror,

hand-sized, enameled in green,

and turned her back to the canvas.

And stood there.

And looked in it.

It was dusk.

The sheets were ghostly.

The canvas was almost not there.

In the end all I could see was her hand

closed around the handle.

All I can see now

is her hand, her head.

Her back is turned to what she made.

The mirror shows her

whit is over her shoulder:

a room in winter.

A window with fog outside it.

A painting she sees in not finished.

A child. Her face round with impatience,

who will return,

who has returned,

who only knows no that she has seen the rare and necessary –

usually unobservable-

last discipline.

From THE LOST LAND (W.W. Norton & Company, 1998)

A city of fog and strange consonants,

I read it first and at first I was

An exiled child in the crackling dusk of

The underworld, the stars blighted. Later

I walked out in a summer twilight

Searching for my daughter at bedtime.

When she came running I was ready

To make any bargain to keep her.

I carried her back whitebeams

And wasps and honey-scented buddleias.

But I was Ceres then and I knew

Winter was in store for every leaf

On every tree on that road.

Was inescapable for each one we passed.

And for me.

          It is winter

And the stars are hidden.

I climb the stairs and stand where I can see

My child asleep beside her teen magazines,

Her can of Coke her plate of uncut fruit.

The pomegranate! How did I forget it?

She could have come home and been safe

And ended the story and all

Our heartbroken searching but she reached

Out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.

She put out her hand and pulled down

The French sound for apple and

The noise of stone and the proof

That even in the place of death,

At the heart of legend, in the midst

Of rocks full of unshed tears

Ready to be diamonds by the time

The story was told, a child can be

Hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.

The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.

The suburb has cars and cable television.

The veiled stars are above ground.

It is another world. But what else

Can a mother give her daughter but such

Beautiful rifts in time?

If I defer to grief I will diminish the gift.

The legend must be hers as well as mine.

She will enter it. As I have.

She will wake up. She will hold

The papery flushed skin in her hand.

And to her lips. I will say nothing.

From IN A TIME OF VIOLENCE (W.W. Norton & Company, 1994)

Poetry Center Reading

Fall 1997
Spring 2012