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About this poet

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland, on September 24, 1944. Her father was a diplomat and her mother was an expressionist painter.

At the age of six, Boland and her family relocated to London, where she first encountered anti-Irish sentiment. She later returned to Dublin for school, and she received her B.A. from Trinity College in 1966. She was also educated in London and New York.

Her books of poetry include New Collected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008), Domestic Violence, (2007), Against Love Poems (2001), The Lost Land (1998), An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-1987 (1996), In a Time of Violence (1994), Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990 (1990), The Journey and Other Poems (1986), Night Feed (1982), and In Her Own Image (1980).

In addition to her books of poetry, Boland is also the author of A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet (W. W. Norton, 2011), a collection of essays, which won the 2012 PEN Award; Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (1995), a volume of prose, After Every War (Princeton, 2004), an anthology of German women poets, and she co-edited The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (with Mark Strand; W. W. Norton & Co., 2000).

Her awards include a Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry, an American Ireland Fund Literary Award, a Jacob's Award for her involvement in The Arts Programme broadcast on RTÉ Radio, and an honorary degree from Trinity.

She has taught at Trinity College, University College, Bowdoin College, and she was a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She is also a regular reviewer for the Irish Times.

Boland and her husband, author Kevin Casey, have two daughters, and she is currently a professor of English at Stanford University where she directs the creative writing program.

The Pomegranate

Eavan Boland, 1944
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere.  And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted.  Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
                    It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate!  How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and 
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry.  I could warn her.  There is still a chance.
The rain is cold.  The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world.  But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.  
She will enter it.  As I have.
She will wake up.  She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips.  I will say nothing.

From In a Time of Violence, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. Copyright © 1994 by Eavan Boland. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1944. Her father

by this poet

poem

And when I take them out of
the cherrywood box these beads are
the colour of dog-violets in shadow. Then
at the well of the throat where
tears start
they darken. Now I wear at my neck an old stress
of crystal: an impression of earthly housekeeping.
A mysterious brightness
poem
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, 
not to mention vehicles and animals—had all 
one fine day gone under?

I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city —

white pepper, white pudding,
poem
In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking – they were both walking – north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and