Awake late at night what I see isfaces, faces, their radiance. And realizeI will never see them again. ThenI come to this place, to this garden:A stretch of grass, fog-wet at dawnreaching past hutch wire, sweet pea,the chiming of small apples falling, stillfalling by which time it will be twilight.At the end of the path is a gatecreaking open on flickeringteatime windows and the Wicklow hills,and beyond their blueness the horizonof a new nation: and here at least,those mean consonants, those actors of injury—Moneta, Mnemosyne—are nowhere to be seen.Where I stand there is no then or once.It is September. Crab apples are litteredin the grass, their skin torn by wild beaks.It is September. In another hour, I will be born.Until then I cannot be alive.Until then I have no need to remember.
“The Garden” from The Historians: Poems.
Copyright © 2020 by Eavan Boland.
Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Eavan Boland (1944—2020) was the author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry, including Outside History and several volumes of nonfiction, and was coeditor of the anthology The Making of a Poem. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she was one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature. She received a Lannan Foundation Award and an American Ireland Fund Literary Award, among other honors. She taught at Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Bowdoin College, and Stanford University, where she was the director of the creative writing program.
“It is a miraculous task that Eavan Boland set for herself in The Historians: nothing less than the redefining of both history and poetry as ongoing individual consciousness transforming into artistic process. In the book’s first poem, 'The Fire Gilder,' this process occurs before the reader’s eyes, posited as an artist mother’s love of silver and gold, 'one was volatile, one was not.' In exact phenomenal mimicry, Boland demonstrates how memory is separated from knowledge (one volatile, the other not). Each poem is a revelation of a past made new and a present equal in the accuracy of eloquent regard. This book is alive as a legacy for all readers—and for the future where Eavan Boland’s greatness will endure.”
“Eavan Boland could never tolerate the silences and erasures of official history. She knew too well who was left out. She wrote to fill the gaps, to memorialize people on the margins, particularly on the margins of empire. She used her own experience to feel her way into the lives of other women, especially Irish women, and brought their experience out of the shadows. In her splendid last book, The Historians, she recalls how she started to write 'burning light, / building heat until all at once / I was the fire gilder / ready to lay radiance down.' I cannot yet accept Eavan Boland’s untimely death, but I’m grateful for the way that all her life she laid that radiance down, and then raised it up.”