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This article is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

Greenish Silks: Reading Eavan Boland’s ‘Silenced’ Tara Bergin
On the road from Dublin to Bray there used to be a big, dismal-looking building, which had a huge sign outside saying YARN FACTORY. I remember passing it in the car as a child, and my dad would tell me that inside there were hundreds of people all working hard making up stories. It was funny to me at the time because of the bleakness of the place, and it was also somehow hopeful to think that such a boring, depressing exterior could be hiding something so exciting.

The ability to tell a story and to spin a yarn in order to create another, alternative world can be central to poetry, and Eavan Boland’s ‘Silenced’, the fifth poem in the sequence ‘Domestic Violence’, is an example of this. Really, it is an example of what poetry can do, in the sense that it tells its story so succinctly, so suggestively, so objectively and yet so personally, that it is deeply shocking, and – as a direct result of its skill – deeply thrilling at the same time.

The poem re-tells the ancient myth of Philomel, the sister of Procne, who is raped by Procne’s husband Tereus, the king of Thrace. When Philomel, in great despair, promises to tell the world about what Tereus has done, he grabs her tongue, and cuts it off with his sword. Afterwards, as Boland describes:

she determined to tell her story
another way. She began a tapestry.
She gathered skeins, colours.
She started weaving.

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