Books by Eavan Boland

Released: April 1, 2000

" A practical handbook on poetic form for teachers, students, and poets who are interested both in the structural mechanics and literary heritage of poetic forms."
Asking two working poets to collectively construct an anthology about poetic form can be a risky proposition. Decisions about which forms to present, which poems most effectively illustrate those forms, and in what context to offer them would be a struggle for even one poet to come to terms with. In this anthology, Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Strand (The Weather of Words, etc.) and Stanford creative writing director Eavan Boland (The Lost Land, etc.) combine their poetic savvy to respond to these issues, resulting in a practical introduction to understanding poetic form. Strand and Boland divide the collection up into sections on metrical, shaping, and open forms. Each section offers outlines of the mechanics associated with each type of poem, a brief history of the form, and a thoughtful collection of poems representative of the form's evolution through history. Each chapter concludes with a brief "close-up" reading of one of the provided poems, which helps situate it in a historical dialog with its poetic ancestors and descendants. Thus Gwendolyn Brooks' Harlem Renaissance ballad "Sadie and Maud" is provocatively situated next to an excerpt from Oscar Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." In addition to the ballad, Strand and Boland use this format to introduce and provoke thought about the villanelle, the sestina, the pantoum, the sonnet, blank verse, the heroic couplet, the stanza, the elegy, the pastoral, the ode, and modern open forms. Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1995

An ultimately lackluster testimony to the truism that art and life can't be separated. One of Ireland's major poets, Boland (In a Time of Violence, 1994, not reviewed) uses personal experience to illustrate a straightforward argument on the poetic life. In the male poetry of the past, she states, the feminine was always muse, nymph, and symbol; by being elevated, woman was reduced to a silent object, with no individual personality or voice. By writing poetry, she argues, women reclaim their own subjectivity and turn the poetic tradition of Britain and Ireland on its head. Female poets then assume the responsibility of reexamining and reworking the traditional relationship between subject and object. To highlight this theme, Boland traces her own growing unease with the seeming discord between her life as a suburban housewife and the one about which she, as a self-identifying political Irish poet, was supposed to write. Unfortunately, the technique used does not do justice to the basic premise. Despite a keen eye for image, Boland's rhetorical style is extremely heavy-handed. She sets out to unwind her argument and story as she would a poem, returning to the same images more than once, until, she states, the argument ``loses its reasonable edge and hopefully becomes a sort of cadence.'' Her narrative is repetitious without revealing a new idea or nuance each time, and the majority of her images, although sometimes symbolically potent on their own, are raised and then quickly dropped. The few images she does return to—such as the table where she spent hours as a young woman trying to become a writer or the suburbs where she later lives—don't have the same power as the ones she never fully explores. As a short essay on poetic theory this might have been effective; as a full-length memoir it fails to move. Read full book review >