PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: to access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
PN Review Prize winners announced
Carcanet Press and PN Review are delighted to announce the winners of the first ever PN Review Prize. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Peter Scupham at 85: a celebration Contributions by Anne Stevenson, Robert Wells, Peter Davidson, Lawrence Sail

This article is taken from PN Review 118, Volume 24 Number 2, November - December 1997.

Letter to a Young Woman Poet Eavan Boland

I wish I knew you. I wish I could stand for a moment in that corridor of craft and doubt where you will spend so much of your time. But I don't and I can't. And given the fact, in poetic terms, that you are the future and I am the past, I never will. Then why write this? It is not, after all, a real letter. It doesn't have an address. I can't put a name at the top of it. So what reason can I have for writing in a form without a basis to a person without a name?

I could answer that the hopes and silences of my first years as a poet are still fresh to me. But that in itself is not an explanation. I could tell you that I am a woman in my early fifties, writing this on a close summer night in Ireland. But what would that mean to you? If I tell you, however, that my first habitat as a poet is part of your history as a poet: is that nineteenth century full of the dangerous indecision about who the poet really is. If I say I saw that century survive into the small, quarrelsome city where I began as a poet. That I studied its version of the poet and took its oppressions to heart. If I say my present is your past, that my past is already fixed as part of your tradition. And ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image