THE LOST LAND by Eavan Boland


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The much-acclaimed Irish poet, who teaches at Stanford and published the prose volume Object Lessons in 1995, here pursues her perennial themes, best summarized by her in the final words of the title poem: ""Ireland. Absence. Daughter."" Irish history weighs heavily on Boland, as does her status as a female, and her part-time exile in the US, and it leads to her sad and melancholy sense of morality and witness: she suffers the burdens of the past, and constantly worries that her poetry is ill-equipped to change anything. In ""Heroic,"" she imagines herself a patriot immortalized in stone on the public square, while in ""Unheroic,"" she sees an old man's unhealed wound as the perfect metaphor for Ireland's history. ""Colony,"" a 12-poem sequence on colonialism, is often just as dry as that sounds: Boland announces herself in ""the bardic order,"" practicing ""a dead art in a dying land""; she defines herself as citizen and witness to the dispossessed (""the brutal truth""), and as ""daughter"" (""the distaff side of history""). But Boland distrusts her own voice since she speaks ""with the forked tongue of colony,"" her English both a scar and the symbol of oppression. It's easy to see why she never exults in language per se, and relies on plain-speaking for her more powerful verse. Often Boland seems more intrigued with the abstract ideas of ""past,"" ""myth,"" and ""history"" than with simple lyric or narrative. The wonderful ""The Necessity of Irony"" seems to mock her own inadequacies: she can't bear the dramatic irony of hunting for beautiful objects at a flea market while her back is turned to her daughter, a beauty who will grow up and leave. Bluntness and simple forms bear Boland's somber sensibility.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Norton