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Eavan Boland

1944–

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 is 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. A member of the American Academy of Arts & Science, she has taught at Trinity College, University College, and Bowdoin College, among others. She is also a regular reviewer for the Irish Times.

Boland is currently a professor of English at Stanford University, where she directs the creative writing program. She lives in California with her husband, the author Kevin Casey, and their two daughters.


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.

Quarantine

In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

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.