Contemporary Poet and Professor Eavan Boland, Called Heir to Yeats, Reads at Caltech

Published : Saturday, October 13, 2018 | 5:00 AM

Irish poet, author and professor Eavan Boland, who once was called “a rightful heir” to William Butler Yeats, will be reading poetry at Caltech’s Dabney Lounge on Tuesday, November 13, as a guest in Caltech’s James Michelin Distinguished Visitors Program series.

Boland, the Bella Mabury and Eloise Mabury Knapp Professor in Humanities at Stanford University, prides herself in becoming a poet because of WB Yeats’s inspiration. In 2015, she wrote in The Irish Times:

“As a teenager I escaped to a Yeatsian world of lakes, of spirits hidden inside mountain winds and of heroic legends. Then I started out on my own struggle to write a poem in which I could hear my own voice.”

When she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Book Awards in November 2017, the poet Paula Meehan praised Boland and called her the “rightful heir of WB Yeats.”

Boland was born in Dublin in 1944. The daughter of a diplomat and a painter, she spent her girlhood in London and New York, returning to Ireland to attend secondary school in Killiney and later university at Trinity College in Dublin.

Though still a student when she published her first collection, “23 Poems,” in 1962, Boland’s early work is informed by her experiences as a young wife and mother, and her growing awareness of the troubled role of women in Irish history and culture. Over the course of her long career, she has emerged as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature.

Throughout her many collections of poetry, in her prose memoir “Object Lessons” (1995), and in her work as a noted anthologist and teacher, Boland has honed an appreciation for the ordinary in life. The poet and critic Ruth Padel described Boland’s “commitment to lyric grace and feminism” even as her subjects tend to “the fabric of domestic life, myth, love, history, and Irish rural landscape.”

Though Boland has been described as a feminist, her approach is not an overtly political one. In “In a Time of Violence” (1994), which won a Lannan award and was shortlisted for the prestigious T.S. Eliot prize, her poems gesture towards private and political realities at once.

In poems such as “That the Science of Cartography is Limited” and “Anna Liffey,” Boland constructs a world that is influenced by history, the present-day and mythology and yet remains intensely personal. It is a recipe that Boland has perfected in her work since.

Boland has been writer in residence at Trinity College and University College Dublin. She was poet in residence at the National Maternity Hospital during its 1994 Centenary. She has also been the Hurst Professor at Washington University and Regent’s Lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

She is on the board of the Irish Arts Council and a member of the Irish Academy of Letters. She is on the advisory board of the International Writers Center at Washington University.

Boland has published 10 volumes of poetry, the most recent being “New Collected Poems” (2008). “Domestic Violence” (2007), and “An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-87” (1996) with W.W. Norton. She has also published two volumes of prose: “Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time” and “A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet,” which won a 2012 PEN Award for creative nonfiction.

At Caltech’s Dabney Lounge on November 13, she will be reading poetry at 7 p.m. in an event that’s free and open to the public.

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