Outside History, Homage to Eavan Boland by Felicia McCarthy.

We lost Eavan Boland yesterday, as you would know. What a stout persevering champion of women poets in the climate of Seamus Heaney, a man who, with all of his goodness and kindnesses was still carried by male privilege.  “And still she persisted”, as Moscow Mitch said of Elizabeth Warren.  

Boland was a teacher of perspicacity and patience, a poet of Irish history to the present time. Best buddies with Mary R since Trinity, a wife quietly in love with her husband, a mother, a grandmother, a great poet, a solid poet, a radical poet within the Irish context. A woman of great strength and reserve, she was a great soul, I think. 

We were all privileged to have her here with us.

I chose Boland for my master’s thesis in Women’s Studies in ’91. She was kind enough to invite me to her house, to pick me up at the bus stop,and have warm chocolate chip cookies baked for me as a welcome to this mongrel woman of USA and Irish mix. 

Heaney and Boland are both known for their kindnesses to strangers, but Boland encouraged the disenfranchised women poets, she built the foundation for Irish women poets, researchers, academics and publishers to stand upon. We owe her a round of applause now, and the courage to hold her place inside Irish history.

North American Time is the name I chose for the page which invites North American Writers to send their work to The Blue Nib.  The title relates to Eavan Boland through the poet Adrienne Rich.  In 1983, Rich wrote North American Time as a caution to herself that being comfortable in poetry is not the job.  Everything we write/will be used against us/or against those we love./These are the terms,/take them or leave them./Poetry never had a chance/ of standing outside history.

Boland took the purpose of that poem to heart, and took the title of her own famous poem, Outside History, from it. Rich’s poem defines Boland’s perseverance in taking

her life and the lives of Irish women and women everywhere as subject worthy of poetry.  

Read both of these poems.  Understand your own verbal privilege rises from the debt you owe, be you woman or man, to this great Irish poet who chose to be responsible to her life and her time. Let’s learn from her and do the same.

Felicia McCarthy

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  1. Thank you, Felicia. You eloquently echo all of our thoughts, this morning. I was lucky enough to meet Ms. Boland, more than once. Last time was Summer of 2019, at number 11, Parnell Square. She arrived, wearing a long wool black coat. She spoke about feeling the cold in Dublin. California was much warmer, she quipped. A gracious woman, she announced her end of Term at the Irish Poetry Centre. She welcomed the in-coming incumbent, Ms. Colette Bryce. Eavan Boland, a petite person, filled the room with her presence. Her warmth will, remain. Rest in Peace.

  2. Thank you Felicia, Eav defies words in many ways but here are a uple of things – I knew her but not well. I was in TCD when she was appointed a lecturer in the English Dept. in a very great generation of teachers. I used to come across her in cafes around Dublin talking to a group of students and gettin to talk. They were passionate about her and her delicate wisdom and sat in complete silence when she talked. They were all men! Young men, some of whom I knew. She changed the whole spectrum of poetry as well as giving women a real place. She was generous in so many ways but particularly, artistically.
    Honor O Brolchain

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