Eavan Boland’s new book: “her brilliance justifies the journey”


I’ve only met the eminent Irish poet Eavan Boland a handful of times, but we have one unexpected thing in common:  both our books – her A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet and my  An Invisible Rope: Portraits of Czeslaw Milosz – were named in Publisher’s Weekly top ten books for the spring, in the “Belles Lettres and Reflections” category.  (You can read my euphoria here.)

I was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement in May, and on June 10, so was she.  High praise from Abigail Deutsch:

“Delightfully surprising critiques spring from her analysis. The bland poet Speranza, Boland writes, subjected her poems to a ‘word-bath of acid, in which details and subtleties are dissolved”. Of Charlotte Mew, Boland notes: ‘There is a sort of salt and spray about reading Mew for the first time: her poems are not like anything else’. This formulation conveys the reader’s proximity to something at once thrilling and perhaps threatening. Boland has a rare gift for providing critical evaluations so compressed and illustrative that they approach poetry themselves.

That control sometimes slips. Boland takes a roundabout route through this volume; before introducing her ideas, she will often explain why we might dismiss them and point out why we shouldn’t. Her terms can be vague, and her organization tortuous. She loops about the concept of the ‘domestic poem’, for instance, several times. But when she finally homes in – using the concept of the sublime to explain the disparagement of the domestic – her brilliance justifies the journey.”

A Poetry Foundation interview with Eavan, “Of Antibiotics and iPods,” is here.

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