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This article is taken from PN Review 77, Volume 17 Number 3, January - February 1991.

The Woman, The Place, The Poet Eavan Boland


THERE IS A duality to place. There is the place which existed before you came to it, closed in the secrets and complexities of history; and there is the place you experience in the present. This essay is about such a duality as I discovered it in two locations. I begin with Dundrum, a suburb south of Dublin, where I have lived for eighteen of my forty-five years - longer, in fact, than in any other single environment. The second is an altogether darker, grimmer region, a hundred miles south-west. Both of them prove to me there is the place that happened and the place that happens to you. That there are moments - in work, in perception, in experience - when they are hard to disentangle from one another. And that, at such times, the inward adventure can become so enmeshed with the outward continuum that we live not in one or the other but at the point of intersection.

I suspect this piece is about just such an intersection. It is, of course, a particular version of particular locales. But there may well be a more general truth disguised in it: that what we call place is really only that detail of it which we understand to be ourselves. 'That's my Middle West,' writes Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, 'not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns but the thrilling returning trains of my youth and the streetlamps and ...

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