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Eavan Boland

1944–2020

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland, on September 24, 1944. Her father was a diplomat and her mother was an expressionist painter.

At the age of six, Boland moved with her family to London, where she first encountered anti-Irish sentiment. She later returned to Dublin for school, and she received her B.A. from Trinity College in 1966. She was also educated in London and New York.

Boland's poetry collections include A Poet's Dublin (Carcanet Press, 2014), A Woman Without a Country (W. W. Norton, 2014), New Collected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2008), An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-1987 (W. W. Norton, 1996), and In Her Own Image (Arien House, 1980).

In addition to her books of poetry, Boland was also the author of the essay collection A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet (W. W. Norton, 2011), which won the 2012 PEN Award; Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (W. W. Norton, 1995), a volume of prose; and After Every War (Princeton, 2004), an anthology of German women poets. With Mark Strand, she co-edited The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (W. W. Norton, 2000).

Boland's awards include a Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry, an American Ireland Fund Literary Award, a Jacob’s Award for her involvement in The Arts Programme broadcast on RTÉ Radio, and an honorary degree from Trinity College. A member of the American Academy of Arts & Science, she taught at Trinity College, University College, and Bowdoin College, among others. She was also a regular reviewer for the Irish Times.

Boland was a professor of English at Stanford University, where she directed the creative writing program. She lived in California with her husband, the author Kevin Casey, and died on April 27, 2020.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

A Poet's Dublin (Carcanet Press, 2014)
A Woman Without a Country (W. W. Norton, 2014)
New Collected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2008)
Domestic Violence (W. W. Norton, 2007)
Against Love Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2001)
The Lost Land (W. W. Norton, 1998)
An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-1987 (W. W. Norton, 1996)
In a Time of Violence (W. W. Norton, 1994)
Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990 (W. W. Norton, 1990)
The Journey and Other Poems (Carcanet Press, 1986)
Night Feed (M. Boyars, 1982)
In Her Own Image (Arien House, 1980)

Prose

A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet (W. W. Norton, 2011)
The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (with Mark Strand; W. W. Norton, 2000)
Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (W. W. Norton, 1995)

By This Poet

6

Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet

How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, 
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all 
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting 
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe 
what really happened is 

this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and 
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of 

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.

Amethyst Beads


And when I take them out of
the cherrywood box these beads are
the colour of dog-violets in shadow. Then
at the well of the throat where
tears start
they darken. Now I wear at my neck an old stress
of crystal: an impression of earthly housekeeping.
A mysterious brightness
made underground where there is no sun
only stories of a strayed child and her mother bargaining
with a sullen king. Promising and arguing: 
what she can keep, what she can let him have. Shadows 
and the season violets start up in are part of 
the settlement. Stolen from such a place
these beads cannot be anything 
but wise to the healing arts of compromise,
of survival. And when I wear them it is almost
as if my skin was taking into itself
a medicine of light. Something like the old simples.
Rosemary, say, or tansy.
Or camomile which they kept
to cool fever. Which they once used to soothe a child
tossing from side to side, beads of sweat catching 
and holding a gleam from the vigil lamp. 
A child crying out in her sleep
Wait for me. Don’t leave me here.
Who will never remember this.
Who will never remember this. 

Heroic

Sex and history. And skin and bone.
And the oppression of Sunday afternoon.
Bells called the faithful to devotion.

I was still at school and on my own.
And walked and walked and sheltered from the rain.

The patriot was made of drenched stone.
His lips were still speaking. The gun
he held had just killed someone.

I looked up. And looked at him again.
He stared past me without recognition.

I moved my lips and wondered how the rain
would taste if my tongue were made of stone.
And wished it was. And whispered so that no one
could hear it but him. Make me a heroine.