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This article is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

The Lost Land Rita Ann Higgins
One of the central metaphors in Eavan Boland’s work is that of a Lost Land linking Irish history with her own personal experience. She had left Ireland for the first time when she was only six years old. When she came back as a teenager Dublin was a city of smithereens, where she had to collect the fragments of her life and put them together again. The head and the heart were very much affected by the six-year-old leaving home. Memories had to be gathered and sorted and decisions made about how to cope with the child’s, and later the teenager’s, displacement. The blueprint that would help the poet cope with the seismic jolt she had experienced had not yet been mapped out. She measures the distance between the two worlds with image, metaphor and truth.

In her elegy for The Lost Land the young Boland speaks of herself moving between worlds. She allows us to follow that journey. That sense of displacement is a strand that is carried into individual poems and various collections. What is intriguing about Boland’s work is that she doesn’t focus only on her own experiences but places them in a wider context of exile. Beyond her personal horizon there are always other people saying goodbye, picking up a suitcase and leaving and maybe never coming back. They are as much in the poems as she herself. She lays out her stall, neatly, concisely, not a word goes astray: a pristine whack of an opening for all its simplicity. You can hear ...

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