978-0-393-31951-4 / 9780393319514

The Lost Land: Poems


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

Eavan Boland's powerful ninth collection is taut with brutal truths and beautiful, sad images--explorations of Ireland's tragic history. In "Unheroic," for example, she finds the best of her country not in its fossilized heroic statuary, but in the unsung and unhealed. Another poem in the first sequence, "The Colonists," is a tour de force of imaginative sympathy and irony, in which the conquerors are at last turning into a ghostly, tearful crew, no longer able to navigate the land they once possessed: "They are holding maps / But the pages are made of fading daylight." A third standout is the lyrical and staccato "A Dream of Colony," a vision of wish-fulfillment in which words can reverse the past:

Each phrase of ours,
holding still for a moment in the stormy air,
raised an unburned house
at the end of an avenue of elder and willow.

Unturned that corner
the assassin eased around and aimed from.
Undid. Unsaid:
Once. Fire. Quick. Over there.

In her essay "Outside History," Boland declares: "A society, a nation, a literary heritage is always in danger of making up its communicable heritage from its visible elements. Women, as it happens, are not especially visible in Ireland." The Lost Land is out to bring women inside history. "Formal Feeling," finds the poet proclaiming that the distaff half will no longer be willfully blinded and kept down by myth; in a triumphant conclusion, she calls upon Eros to "see the difference / This time--and this you did not ordain-- / I am changing the story." Still, for each heightened moment in the volume there are several more grief-stricken ones, and it is this tension that gives Boland's work its strength and shadows. --Kerry Fried

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