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

A Conversation with Eavan Boland Shara McCallum

shara mccallum: Over the years, your poems have portrayed ‘unheroic’ individuals, often women, who are absent from the grand historical narratives of empire, nation-building, and the like – who stand ‘outside history’ as you describe them. This is true in your most recent poem sequence, ‘A Woman Without a Country’, as well. What is the hold this subject has had and continues to have on you as a poet?


eavan boland: I’ve spoken before about the difference between past and history. And it’s a way of looking at things that’s still true for me. The past still seems to be a place where lives were lived that just couldn’t be translated into what you call the grand historical narratives. History seems different when you start to look at it like this. When you read it through its absences – through women who didn’t even have a walk-on part in it – you see it differently again.


In your last five books you have included long poem sequences. Among other things, I’m interested in the dedication to this new sequence: ‘This sequence is dedicated to those who lost a country, not by history or inheritance, but through a series of questions to which they could find no answer’. This spoke to me very personally and also gave me the feeling that whoever is being (indirectly) addressed is essential to the telling of the story of the grandmother’s life and the poet’s ...


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