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

'Making Money' Lorna Goodison
Another poet might have taken this quarrel with others into the arena of rhetoric, but Eavan Boland has chosen instead to speak in calm and measured tones of the poor Irish workers who produced the high-quality paper on which their colonial masters printed bank notes.

Hers is a poetic voice that is both ancient and modern, one that speaks for people who had no voice but who need to have their story told clearly while keeping the mystery at the heart of it.

I had the great good fortune to hear her read ‘Making Money’ on a BBC radio programme recorded during the Commonwealth Writers’ Conference held in Manchester in 2002; and her dignified recital of a poem on a subject that might easily have produced a rant or an incendiary diatribe against historical injustices filled the recording booth with an air of reverence and respect due. I remember the silence that came after she finished reading that poem; the silence of respect given.

I am deeply moved by the way that Ireland, the country itself, the material world, is the subject of the poem, with references to the rivers, the mountains, the air, the plant-life, all of which are lovingly rendered.

The people, namely the women who ‘came out in the ugly first hour / after dawn’, move through the poem like otherworldly mysterious presences cooking the natural hemp waste, the cotton lint, the linen and flax and fish nets – all of which speak to the old ways of making ...

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