I was a woman in a house in the suburbs, married with two small children.
It was a life lived by many women around me, but it was still not named in Irish poetry. But I’ve often said that when I was young it was easier to have a political murder in a poem than a baby. The American poet Elizabeth Bishop once said about her unsettled childhood: “I was always a sort of a guest and I think I’ve always felt like that.” I didn’t quite feel like that, but when I came back to Ireland at fourteen I knew I couldn’t make up for the years I hadn’t been there.
I had to struggle with the sense of not writing in an approved way or a familiar one.
The subjects of the Irish poem back then were often landscapes or historical events or political memory.
I had hoped to meet with Boland at her home in Dublin, before I learned that she was in California, where she lives half of the year, teaching as a professor of English at Stanford University., you say: “My mother was my hero… The dates and events of history had little hold on me.
My mother’s life did.” How did your mother’s influence shape your experience as a poet throughout your career?
It’s instructive to see them struggling at the crossroads of self-awareness and language.
You can see them pondering whether an Irish identity actually exists.
BLVR: You once described your experience of coming back to Dublin at age fourteen as follows: “I returned to find that my vocabulary of belonging was missing. I had lost not only a place but the past that goes with it, the clues from which to construct a present self.” EB: In many ways childhood gives a secret language to people, especially if you’re born somewhere and grow up there and recognize the place as your own. For the years, that is, of not being an Irish child. There were gestures, customs, ways of speech I just didn’t have, and never would. That you can build a self out of what’s missing just as much as out of what’s present. BLVR: Watching a reading you once gave at Boston College, you said: “In many ways, Irish history has been a story of heroes; it has been the casting off of oppression.
And I did think once that those missing pieces were clues that helped you build a self. But the past is a very different place.” EB: As a young writer I began to see a real difference between the past and history, and that had a strong influence on me.