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This article is taken from PN Review 106, Volume 22 Number 2, November - December 1995.

The New Critics: Eavan Boland's Object Lessons Jody Allen Randolph

Eavan Boland, Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in our Time (Carcanet) £18.95

For some years now, commentators have remarked that Eavan Boland's achievement as an Irish poet resembles closely Adrienne Rich's accomplishment as an American poet. Most often highlighted are overlaps in their themes, subject matters, and constituencies,l but perhaps the most obvious point of comparison is found in the history of their ethical/political stances. Over the last several decades, both poets have, somewhat single-handedly, taken on the male literary establishments of their respective countries in lectures, essays, reviews, interviews, and on radio and television programmes. Both major poets by any standard, Rich and Boland have also developed significant critical presences as prose essayists and theorists. Constructing complex, persuasive prose critiques, in a personal and accessible style, they have created a new prose genre for women poets: a hybrid form of criticism which, to borrow a term coined by Henry Louis Gates in relation to recent African-American writers, might be called 'autocritography'.

Among the most striking similarities one notices in the prose writings of contemporary women poets like Rich and Boland is how much is written in a deeply personal style, a style usually eschewed by academics. Often coming from quite different ideological perspectives, Rich, Boland and others, including Denise Levertov and more recently Louise Gluck, have devoted much of their prose work to exploring what Boland has called 'the improbable intersections' where their personal experience as women intercuts with ...

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