Eavan Boland was born on September 24, 1944, in Dublin, Ireland. Her parents were Frederick Boland and Frances Kelly Boland. Her father was a distinguished Irish diplomat who served as Irish ambassador to Great Britain (1950-1956) and to the United States (1956-1964). Her mother was a painter who had studied in Paris in the 1930’s. Boland’s interest in painting as a subject for poetry can be traced to her mother’s encouragement. Because of her father’s diplomatic career, Boland was educated in Dublin, London, and New York. From 1962 to 1966, she attended Trinity College, Dublin; beginning in 1967, she taught at Trinity College for a year. In 1968, she received the Macauley Fellowship for poetry.
In the 1980’s, Boland reviewed regularly for the arts section of the Irish Times. In 1987, she held a visiting fellowship at Bowdoin College. She married Kevin Casey, a novelist, with whom she had two children: Sarah, born in 1975, and Eavan, born in 1978.
Boland began writing poetry in Dublin in the early 1960’s. She recalls this early period: “. . . scribbling poems in boarding school, reading [William Butler] Yeats after lights out, revelling in the poetry on the course. . . . Dublin was a coherent space then, a small circumference in which to . . . become a poet. . . . The last European city. The last literary smallholding.” After her marriage, Boland left the academic world and moved into the suburbs of Dublin to become “wife, mother, and housewife.” In Her Own Image and Night Feed focus on Boland’s domestic life in the suburbs and especially on her sense of womanhood. In the 1990’s, Boland taught at several universities in the United States. In 1995, she became a professor at Stanford University, where she has served as Bella Mabury and Eloise Mabury Knapp Professor in the Humanities as well as the Melvin and Bill Lane Professor and chair of the creative writing program.
In the mid-1980’s, Eavan Boland became one of Ireland’s most significant poets and certainly Ireland’s most significant woman poet. Her work has done much to promote women’s writing, for her themes have included an awareness of herself as Irish and Ireland’s painful history as well as a consciousness of her role as a woman in her functions as writer, wife, and mother.
Boland’s early life was influenced by her father’s position as Irish ambassador to the court of St. James in London. In London, she attended convent school until she was twelve. It was there that she first became sensitive to being an Irish person living in the country of Ireland’s colonial rulers. Her education continued in another convent school in New York City, where her sense of dislocation and exile intensified. In 1962, the same year she graduated from Holy Child Convent School in Killiney, County Dublin, she published her first pamphlet of poems. From 1962 to 1966, she attended Trinity College, Dublin, where she graduated with first-class honors in English. She briefly became a junior lecturer in English at Trinity, but although she enjoyed teaching she found an academic career to be incompatible with her writing. Thereafter, she limited herself to intermittent terms as lecturer or poet-in-residence. In 1969, she married the novelist Kevin Casey, with whom she had two daughters, Sarah Margaret, born in 1975, and Eavan Frances, born in 1978.
In New Territory, Boland’s first substantive book of poems, she begins to formulate some of the themes that were to remain important to her. In particular she is interested in the function of art. It is in the next volume, The War Horse, however, that Boland begins to come into her maturity. This is reflected in the way she treats Ireland’s tragic history in poems such as “The Famine Road” and “A Soldier’s Son.” Boland’s following volume, In Her Own Image , contains poems that articulate women’s concerns, including anorexia, mastectomy, and domestic violence. Some reviewers suggested that in this collection...
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