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This article is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

The Serinette Principle: The Lyric in Contemporary Poetry Eavan Boland


THE TITLE OF THIS essay is taken from something that happened to me. That, of course, is an awkward way to put it; and deliberately so. Perception itself, even revelation, can be an awkward business. There are intersections of circumstance and image where light seems imminent and there is, so to speak, the sudden, exhilarating noise of a blind going up. This essay begins with such a moment.

One summer morning, I flew to Manchester to record some of my own poems for the BBC. It was a short flight out of Dublin. The programme itself was not long. And then I was left with one of those cumbersome units of time: too short to do anything substantive with, too long to spend all of it at the airport waiting for an afternoon flight back to Dublin. I went to an art museum. I spent an unsatisfactory hour or so looking from Pre-Raphaelite paintings to my watch and back again. Then I browsed in the museum bookshop, bought one or two catalogues and a pamphlet, and went to the airport early, after all.

Airports are not easy places to inhabit. There is only so much steel, so much plastic, there are only so many rotating wheels and passing luggage carts you can ponder. A coffee, a sandwich wrapped in plastic and seemingly composed of it, another coffee. And then you are ready for something more.

So I reached down and ...

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