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Image / Editorial

‘I was a voice’: 10 of the most beautiful lines from Eavan Boland’s poetry


by Erin Lindsay
28th Apr 2020
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One of Ireland’s best loved poets Eavan Boland sadly passed away yesterday, aged 75


While in the midst of an endless stream of Covid-19 news, Ireland grieved the passing of one of our best loved poets, Eavan Boland, yesterday.

Boland died in her home in Dublin, following a stroke. She is survived by her husband Kevin, and two daughters.

Boland is known as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature, with her poems shining a spotlight on the lives of women, especially their domestic lives. Speaking about her life as a poet, Boland once said: “I wanted to put the life I lived into the poem I wrote. And the life I lived was a woman’s life. And I couldn’t accept the possibility that the life of the woman would not, or could not, be named in the poetry of my own nation.”

Boland’s work was celebrated worldwide, and especially here in Ireland — at her inaugural address as Ireland’s first female head of state in 1990, Mary Robinson quoted Boland in her speech, saying “as a woman I want the women who have felt themselves outside history to be written back into history, in the words of Eavan Boland, ‘finding a voice where they found a vision’.”

Many figures in the Irish worlds of art and politics have paid tribute to Boland since her passing. President Michael D. Higgins said of her work: “The revealing of a hidden Ireland, in terms of what was suffered, neglected, evaded, given insufficient credit, is a part of her achievement.”

Here, we pay tribute to Eavan Boland’s life’s work with a listing of ten of the most beautiful lines found in her poetry.

 

In the end
Everything that burdened and distinguished me
Will be lost in this:
I was a voice.

– Anna Liffey

 

…give me your hand:

It has written our future.

Our future will become

The past of other women

– Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women

 

We started walking

When we began to talk

I saw our words had the power to unmake history

– A Dream of Colony

 

In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

– Quarantine

To write about age you need to take something and
break it.

(This is an art that has always loved young women.
And silent ones.)

 – Instructions

I can see the shore of Dublin Bay.
Its rocky sweep and its granite pier.
Is this, I say
how they must have seen it,
backing out on the mailboat at twilight,
shadows falling
on everything they had to leave?
And would love forever?
– The Lost Land
I learned my name.     
I rose up. I remembered it.
Now I could tell my story.  It was different   
from the story told about me.
– Mother Ireland
…how to explain that sometimes I can hear
the river in those first days of April, making
its way through the dusk, having learned
to speak the way I once spoke, saying
as if I didn’t love you,
as if I wouldn’t have died for you.
– The Room in Which My First Child Slept

This is what language is:
a habitable grief. A turn of speech
for the everyday and ordinary abrasion
of losses such as this

which hurts
just enough to be a scar.

And heals just enough to be a nation

– A Habitable Grief

A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
this moment.

Stars rise.
Moths flutter.
Apples sweeten in the dark.

– This Moment

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