Boland, Eavan


Image of Eavan Boland

Image by Copynoir/CC Licensed

Eavan Boland was born in Dublin in 1944 and lived in Ireland until she was six years old. At the age of six, she and her family moved to London, where Boland had her first experiences of anti-Irish sentiment. Dealing with this hostility strengthened Boland’s identification with her Irish heritage. She speaks of this time in her poem “An Irish Childhood in England: 1951.”

I came to in nineteen fifty-one:
barely-gelled, a freckled six-year-old,
overdressed and sick on the plane,
when all of England to an Irish child
was nothing more than what you’d lost and how:
was the teacher in the London convent who,
when I pronounced “I amn’t” in the classroom
turned and said– “you’re not in Ireland now.” (Outside History 107)

She later returned to Dublin to attend school and self-published a pamphlet of poetry (23 Poems) after her graduation. Boland received her BA from Trinity College, Dublin in 1966. Since that time she has held numerous teaching positions and published poetry, books, and journal articles. Boland married in 1969 and has two children. Her experiences as a wife and mother have influenced her to write about the beauty and importance of the common: “I was there with two small children in a house and I could see what was potent and splendid and powerful happening every day in front of me and I wanted to express that.” (Contemporary Authors 1997)

The Works

Through her writing of things common, Boland attempts to give value to experiences which many women share. She believes that the poetic tradition’s disregard for these experiences, which are valued by women, leads to a devaluation of women themselves (Reizbaum 473). She writes from the standpoint of someone who is doubly oppressed, by her gender and by her nationality, and yet her work embraces these identities (Reizbaum 475). Reading her poetry requires an understanding of the history of Ireland and its relationship to England. In addition, she refers to the primarily male poetic tradition of Ireland and her attempts to make a place for herself within the tradition. Another key to understanding Boland’s writing is knowledge of the myths which she incorporates, primarily the myths of Daphne and Ceres.

Works by Eavan Boland

Book cover of An Origin Like Water, 1997.

An Origin Like Water, 1997

  • Boland, Eavan. 23 Poems. Dublin: Gallagher, 1962.
  • —. In Her Own Image. Dublin: Arlen House, 1980.
  • —. Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980-1990. New York: Norton, 1990.
  • —. In a Time of Violence. New York: Norton, 1994.
  • —. An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems, 1967-1987. New York: Norton, 1996.
  • —. The Lost Land. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1998.
  • —. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. Ed. Eavan Boland and Mark Strand. New York: Norton, 2000.
  • —. Against Love Poetry. New York: Norton, 2001.
  • —. Code. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2001.
  • —. Three Irish Poets: An Anthology: Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, Mary O’Malley. Ed. Eavan Boland. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2003.
  • —. After Every War: Twentieth-Century Women Poets. Trans. Eavan Boland. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.
  • —. New Collected Poems. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2005.
  • —. Domestic Violence. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2007.
  • —. Irish Writers on Writing. Ed. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2007.
  • —. Selected Poems by Charlotte Mew. Ed. Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2008.
  • —. New Collected Poems. New York: Norton, 2008.
  • —. The Making of a Sonnet: A Norton Anthology. Ed. with Edward Hirsch. New York: Norton, 2008.
  • —. A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming A Woman Poet. (prose essays) Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2011.


  • Boland, Eavan and Michael MacLiammoir. W.B. Yeats and His World. London: Thames, 1971.
  • Boland, Eavan. Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time. New York: Norton, 1995.


  • Boland, Eavan. “Writing the Political Poem in Ireland.” The Southern Review 31.3 (1995): 485-98.
  • —. “The Woman, the Place, the Poet.” The Georgia Review 44.1-2(1990): 97-109.

About Eavan Boland

  • Brown, Susan. “A Victorian Sappho: Agency, Identity and the Politics of Poetics.” English Studies in Canada 20.2 (1994): 205-25.
  • “Boland, Eavan (Aisling).” Contemporary Authors. Gale Research.  2 November 1997 <>.
  • Haberstroh, Patricia Boyle. “Eavan Boland.” Women Creating Women: Contemporary Irish Women Poets. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996. 59-90.
  • Raschke, Debrah. “Eavan Boland’s Outside History and In a Time of Violence: Rescuing Women, the Concrete, and Other Things Physical from the Dung Heap.” Colby Quarterly 32.2 (1996): 135-42.
  • Reizbaum, Marilyn. “An Interview with Eavan Boland.” Contemporary Literature 30.4 (1989): 471-79.

Related Sites

W. B. Yeats and Postcolonialism

Author: Leslie Crow, Fall 1997
Last edited: April 2012

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