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

The Books We Hold More Closely to Us Elline Lipkin
When I was first introduced to Eavan Boland’s poetry I knew I had discovered someone whose aesthetic, voice, and vision would matter deeply not just to me, but to a generation of poets still troubled by gendered struggles within the poetry world. As a graduate student in creative writing in New York City in the mid-90s, I was often frustrated by the conservative biases of my programme and stunned at how male-­centric the reading lists I was handed often were. When I picked up Boland’s first book of prose, Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Times, I didn’t devour this book so much as I inhaled it. Here was a woman writing eloquently about unnamed issues I knew were real, articulating the ambitions of many other female poets who were also stymied by invisible barriers, the press of tradition, and the need to know one’s voice mattered.

Still prominent on my bookshelves, my text is interleaved with colourful flags of Post-it notes and the marginalia of my more youthful self who was gratified by what Boland was offering – awareness of her own gendered experiences, and her struggle to find her place within the history of poetry. Her taut prose adapted her lyric gift as she parsed the past, with sympathy for her former self and an outstretched hand beckoning along the next generation of women poets. All of this felt like a balm to me.  

During my years in New York City, I met Eavan in person on several occasions. At the request of ...


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