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This review is taken from PN Review 205, Volume 38 Number 5, May - June 2012.

The Beauty of Plain Lives EAVAN BOLAND, A Journey With Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet (Carcanet) £16.95

Eavan Boland makes it very clear in A Journey With Two Maps that she found the expectations placed on an Irish woman poet restrictive. The ostensible inspiration for the book is the discovery of her mother's painting signed with a teacher's name. Boland retaliates against this male intrusion into female artistry. The careers she describes in this book were built on disobedience against masculine authority in language generally and poetry in particular. 'It is about that moment,' she writes, 'when a poet who has seen the world in one language finds it in another'. Throughout her journey she has resisted the national poetry in preference for the domestic. She left behind the Irish mythologies which dominated her male contemporaries as she searched for a more personal mythology of womanhood. She avoided the imperious pastoral diction, the 'religion of poetry', which creates the view 'that the experience was not important until the poem laid hands upon it', and sought first to invent or rediscover a language which could well describe the inside of a room. She tells a story of sitting in her kitchen at 7 am and realising that it is this space, with its boiling kettle and imported marmalade, in which her life is lived, not the violent world she hears about on the radio. Her book discourses on a counter-history of female poets.

The first of her maps looks at the past; it navigates the difficult landscape of poetic tradition. This is used as an ...


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