The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

A compact lyric in free verse, “Lace” consists of thirty-five lines irregularly divided into eight sections or verse paragraphs. The title evokes a strong visual image, the significance of which becomes clear only as the poem progresses; the tatted filaments of a piece of lace represent, for Eavan Boland, the interlacings of language, sound, and sense as she labors in her notebook to compose an ideal poem. “Lace,” then, is a specialized kind of lyric, because it presents the reader with a version of the writer’s poetics; it is a poem about how, in Boland’s view, poems can be written.

The poem begins with a sentence fragment: “Bent over/ the open notebook—.” Boland’s first statement, lacking both a definite subject and verb, is elliptical and oblique. She tells the reader neither who is speaking nor whom the poem is describing, information that conventionally one might expect at the beginning of a piece of writing. Readers may feel dislocated by this immediate lack of grammatical sense and empathize with the poet’s apparently halting efforts to express herself in words. Readers may also find themselves implicated in that same creative process; readers too, after all, are bent over the pages of an open book, like Boland’s missing subject, trying to decipher her poem. The lack of a definite “I” or “she” permits poet and reader to be drawn more closely, though tenuously, together.

The second section of the poem offers a setting, both time and place. At dusk, light is fading and clear vision becomes more difficult. The poem is located, Boland says, “in my room” at the back of the...

(The entire section is 670 words.)