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This article is taken from PN Review 142, Volume 28 Number 2, November - December 2001.

Two Worlds Eavan Boland

I


This is a piece about Anne Bradstreet. But there is another subject here as well. Its nature? For want of an exact definition, it is subject matter itself: that bridge of whispers and sighs over which one poet has to travel to reach another, out of which is formed the text and context of a predecessor. That journey into the past - not just Anne Bradstreet's but my own - is the substance of this essay.

I have always been fascinated by the way poets of one time construct the poets of a previous one. It can be an invisible act, arranged so that none of the awkwardly placed struts are visible. But invisibility is not my intention. I am interested in the actual process of reconstruction. In the clear and unclear motives with which a poet from the present goes to find one from the past. In the actions and choices, therefore, which have the power to turn a canon back into something less authoritarian and more enduring: back from a set text into a living tradition. The sometimes elusive, yet utterly crucial, difference between a canon and a tradition is also part of this piece. So in that sense I want the plaster work to show and the background noise to be heard.

All of this seems worth saying at the beginning since I found Anne Bradstreet first in a revealing context. Not in her own words: not in ...


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