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This review is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

THEY'VE CHANGED MY BAEDEKER EAVAN BOLAND, Domestic Violence (Carcanet) £8.95

Eavan Boland's Domestic Violence has the sense about it of a pause - not so much a hesitancy as a summation preparatory to a decision on where to go next. There is no poet now writing who is more acutely aware of history, its burdens and opportunities, than Boland. And there are very few authors who submit their own work to the self-criticism that Boland subjects her writing to. In her prose writings, Boland has provided an exegesis of her trajectory as a poet in which the explication of her career is both a public and private act: the situating of herself within literary and cultural traditions provided the means and opportunity for her to write herself out of those traditions, evolving as a poet by finding another path through the poetic maze.

Boland has written ruefully about the advantages and disadvantages of being Irish. Heirs to an immense oral and literary tradition, that legacy both inspires and stifles Irish writers. If the weight of the literary past (especially Yeats) isn't enough to drive you out of the business, the Irish writer then has to avoid the temptation of Gaelic Land: the facile replication of bardic myths and a reliance on a vocabulary rife with archaic usages to keep the verse ever green. Boland had, or acquired as she wrote herself out from under the legacy of Yeats, an acute sense of how myth - and its accompanying vocabulary - necessarily distorted the poet's ...


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