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This article is taken from PN Review 102, Volume 21 Number 4, March - April 1995.

Gods Make their own Importance Eavan Boland


I am honoured to give this lecture here under the auspices of the Poetry Book Society, with all its distinction and devotion to poetry, and in the context of this exciting festival, the Poetry International. My theme is the authority of the poet. But my method will be as much autobiography as argument. If at times this lecture seems to be as much self-portrait as advocacy, then I think the reasons may well be in the nature of the art. Poetry is not a scientific or objective business. Every new poet stands as an archer does, with their head tilted up to see how fast, how far, how close to the air and true to the destination that arrow flies. And the arrow is the poem and the air is the history of the poem. And the archer's report is always blind-sided and hopeful and partisan.

I am an Irish poet. A woman poet. In the first category I enter the tradition of the English language at an angle. In the second, I enter my own tradition at an even more steep angle. I need to be candid about this because, of course, these two identities shape and re-shape what I have to say today. The authority of the poet - that broad and challenging theme - is really, in my case, a series of instincts and hunches. The difference in my case, is that while many poets look to ...

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