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This article is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

What Foremothers? Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

IN A RECENT ISSUE of the P·N·Review the American poet (living in England) Anne Stevenson responded to Eavan Boland's essay 'Outside History', which had previously appeared in the Review and was also printed in Ireland as a LIP pamphlet from the Attic Press, under the name A Kind of Scar; the woman poet in a national tradition. In her contribution Stevenson berates Boland for being polemical and for not appealing to the 'long healthy chain of foremothers' that seemingly are available to her as a woman poet in Ireland. 'Why is her imagination not excited by these vivid figures of the past', she asks, 'but set off instead by the defeated image of the Achill woman?' As an Irish woman poet, who writes in Irish, not out of any specifically conscious agenda as such, but because I have no choice (I can write prose in English no bother, and even jingles and verse, but
poetry) I confess to finding myself at a bit of a loss. Long healthy chain of foremothers? poes Anne Stevenson have access to some latest scholarship that I, not attached to any academic institution, know nothing about? Have the canonical precepts of accepted criticism been so thoroughly debunked that all is changed utterly? No doubt it is maybe high time they should be, but how could all this have gone on completely unbeknownst to me, who am, after all, passionately and totally interested in this subject? The whole article and especially this claim about ...

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