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This review is taken from PN Review 125, Volume 25 Number 3, January - February 1999.

A CERTAIN SLANT. OF LIGHT. EAVAN BOLAND, The Lost Land (Carcanet) £7.95

'My passport is green,' was Seamus Heaney's defiant assertion of his poetic patrimony. Heaney's confident nationalism has never been shared by his compatriot Eavan Boland. Boland's poetic career began conventionally enough with her writing nicey-nice lyric poems about Ireland; in one she describes Yeats as the 'sum' of all she could learn. But writing poems called 'Elegy for a Youth Changed to a Swan' soon palled for a poet as preternaturally aware as Eavan Boland and, at least in retrospect, they must seem to her like the poetic equivalent of foot binding. Growingly conscious of her double colonization as both Irish and a woman, Boland used her marginality as a powerful salient from which to scour both the lyric and its subjects. Too urban and modern to ever be seriously interested in pastorals or landscapes, at first, in poems such as 'Famine Road', Boland simply grafted the 'old' lyric to a political and aesthetic recovery of the voices of lost Irish men and women. This was partial progress but Boland, doubly subjected as both Irish and an Irishwoman, was cognizant that she was still following an agenda set by others. Her own felt-life as a woman, the heir to the history she wrote about, was severed from any emotional or even actual links to the past by an Irish history and mythology which was, as written, largely aggressively masculine. Despite its daunting architectural facade, that history turned out to be so full of exclusions, elisions, suppressions, and bad faith ...


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