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This article is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

Finding a Voice Where She Found a Vision Jody Allen Randolph

It is hard to think of an Irish poet whose work has, over the last two decades, shown as much growth and courage as Eavan Boland's. Eight years ago the widespread establishment view in Ireland had branded her a technically gifted but minor poet. Today, with the recent publication by Carcanet of her latest volume of poetry In a Time of Violence and a selection of her prose essays on the way from Norton, she is increasingly officialized as the feminine laureate, or simply, and more accurately, as a major poet.

The quick shifts in recent years of Boland's status - from woman poet, to feminist poet, to leading woman poet, to major poet - reflect the stresses and turmoil in the Irish literary world as it struggles to come to terms with its own unwinding history of prejudice. Because Boland's trajectory as a poet is both emblematic and symptomatic of resistance and change in the critical environment of Irish poetry itself over the past twenty-five years, this may be the time to offer a cursory account of her achievement to date. And, at a few key points, to take a look at the equally interesting reception of that achievement in Ireland.

Boland became a poet in the early sixties as one of an extraordinarily gifted generation of Irish poets (Heaney, Mahon, Longley, Kennelly), among whom there was considerable contact, camaraderie, and debate. They were, in the sense that structure and form seemed second nature ...


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