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This article is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

Time, Memory and Obsession Eavan Boland


AMERICAN POETRY was a rare commodity in the Dublin bookshops of the sixties and seventies. It could turn up, unpredictably and at random, slanted in with books of British verse and Yugoslavian translation, so that the mode of its appearance had an adverse effect on the nature of its readership. Not surprisingly perhaps, my first encounter with Elizabeth Bishop's work was not in a bookshop at all. I came across her poem 'The Moose' in an anthology of American verse I had been sent for review. I read the first stanza and read it again. I read the second and marked the place. Later that night, with the children in their cots and the house quiet, I began to read it again.

A Dublin summer night in the suburbs is all dampness and growth. Eleven o'clock marks a turning point: it divides evening from night, the end of one day from the genesis of the next. Television sets are turned off. Cars are driven into garages with an odd, underwater echo. By midnight the only break in the silence is the young dog a few gardens away who starts up at any noise, like a badly rigged alarm.

This sort of night was second nature to me. Every shift and sight in it had a complex familiarity. If the reading of poetry involves, to paraphrase Keats, 'a greeting of the spirit', it may also necessitate a closing of the circuit. As I ...

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