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

Domestic Interior Joan McBreen
The poem ‘Night Feed’ from Eavan Boland’s 1982 collection of the same title has long held a particular place in my own evolution as a poet. The poem also marks a particular place and time in Irish literature. It was a time when Boland was developing her prose critiques and leading workshops across Ireland. While these workshops were open to all emerging poets, those who joined them were mainly women. They were, as the poet Moya Cannon once said, the start of the long process of giving women poets ‘the vote’.

So how did this short-lined, warm-toned poem come to occupy such a celebratory but charged space? My own encounter with the poem and the poet during those years will, I hope, provide some context.

This is dawn.
Believe me
This is your season, little daughter.
The moment daisies open,
The hour mercurial rainwater
Makes a mirror for sparrows.

It’s time we drowned our sorrows.
I tiptoe in.
I lift you up
Wriggling
In your rosy, zipped sleeper.
Yes, this is the hour
For the early bird and me
When finder is keeper.

When I first read these stanzas in 1982 I was struck by their musical elements. The rhymes, half-rhymes and slant rhymes raised the music. Here we had mirror and sparrows, sparrows and sorrows, dawn and daughter, sleeper and keeper. Then the reader is drawn to the images of the mother quietly entering the nursery, of ...


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