Poetry as a "Humane Enterprise": Interview with Eavan Boland on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Her Literary Career

By Villar-Argaiz, Pilar | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Poetry as a "Humane Enterprise": Interview with Eavan Boland on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Her Literary Career


Villar-Argaiz, Pilar, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Few poets have written so eloquently as Eavan Boland about the silencing of women's voices in the literary and historical past. Throughout her prolific career as a poet she has defended a new Irish aesthetics rooted in everyday life, a subject matter not particularly sanctioned by the Irish poetic tradition, which chiefly revolved around the traditional subject matter of the heroic, dismissing the ordinary world of women as a trivial issue. In blurring the borders of the political and the private realms in Ireland, Boland has renewed the conventions of the public poem, the domestic poem and the nature poem. It is now clear that, after ten volumes of poetry, she has founded a new Irish literary tradition of her own recognisably different from that of poets such as W.B. Yeats, one of her fondest male precursors. From this perspective, she is not only a constituent part of contemporary Irish poetry but also an essential voice of worldwide literature in English.

The recent publication of A Journey with Two Maps (New York & London: Norton, 2011) again evinces how her strong voice has asserted itself above the echoes of her male literary predecessors. In this new prose book, Boland reflects on the different 'maps' she has followed on her journey as a woman poet. Some maps are dictated by the poetic past and the inherited craft; others by subversion and innovation. But Boland has not only been a traveler in search of accurate maps; she is also, at this stage, inevitably and unquestionably, a map-maker herself, a cartographer whose work has provided guiding signposts for younger women poets in the difficult task of overcoming what she defines in this interview as the "aching silence at the center of a national literature". Interestingly, although Boland now enjoys critical acclaim among readers and writers, she never enacts that authority in poetry. An idiosyncratic feature of her work is the powerless stance taken in her writing to subvert the communal authority that has been at the centre of Irish poetry.

This interview is meant to be a tribute to Boland's work on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her fruitful literary career. Here, Boland addresses with hindsight crucial aspects in her poetry such as its exilic nature, her relationship with the poetic past, her view of poetry as a "humane" enterprise, the women poets who influence her writing, the interplay of communality and individuality (and how that affects her poetic voice) and the present multicultural atmosphere of Ireland, among other issues. Undoubtedly, the many readers and critics of Boland will appreciate such generous public exposure of the private (and at times esoteric) world of the poet's imagination.

Key Words. Eavan Boland, interview, 50th anniversary of literary career, Irish poetry, women and literature in Ireland.

Solo un escaso numero de escritoras han logrado transmitir de una manera tan elocuente el silencio al que las mujeres han estado sometidas por el pasado literario e historico; Eavan Boland es una de ellas. A lo largo de su fructifera trayectoria como poeta, Boland ha defendido una estetica arraigada en el dia a dia, tema que no ha sido legitimado por la tradicion poetica irlandesa, centrada fundamentalmente en lo heroico, trivializando por ello el mundo cotidiano de las mujeres. Al sobrepasar las barreras de lo politico y lo privado en Irlanda, Boland ha renovado los limites establecidos previamente por el poema publico, domestico y pastoral. Es evidente que, tras diez volumenes de poesia, esta escritora ha inaugurado una nueva tradicion literaria irlandesa reconociblemente diferente a la de poetas como W.B. Yeats, uno de sus precursores masculinos mas preciados. Desde esta perspectiva, Boland no es solo una parte constitutiva de la poesia irlandesa contemporanea, si no a su vez una voz esencial que ha de tenerse en cuenta en la literatura mundial en lengua inglesa.

La reciente publicacion de A Journey with Two Maps (New York & London: Norton, 2011) pone de manifiesto nuevamente como su potente voz se ha impuesto por encima de los ecos de sus predecesores masculinos. …

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