The Lost Land

by Eavan Boland

Published by W.W. Norton and Company

67 pages, 1998


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Finding What Was Lost

Reviewed by Jonathan Shipley

 

W.B. Yeats once wrote, "Irish poets/learn your trade/Sing whatever is well made." Eavan Boland was listening.

Boland was born in Dublin in the 1940s, has published eight volumes of poetry and has won a Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry and an American Ireland Fund Literary Award. She teaches creative writing at Stanford University, but her mind and heart are in Ireland: "The Lost Land."

A thin volume thickened with powerful and moving words, images, and thoughts of all things Irish; Boland has written a magical work that all who enjoy poetry will find well worth their while to read. What is the "Lost Land"? Boland explains, "not exactly a country and not entirely a state of mind... the lost land is not a place that can be subdivided into history, or love, or memory. It is the poet's own, single and private account of the ghostly territory where so much human experience comes to be stored." And with that vault of love, and time, and history, Boland has given the reader the key.

"Reader of poems, lover of poetry/in case you thought this was a gentle art/follow this man on a moonless night/to the wretched bed he will have to make." An excerpt from the first poem in the book, "My Country in Darkness," shows that these aren't simple poems, easy rhymes, but they tell a story as vivid and real and beautiful and wretched as life is itself.

In the title poem Boland writes, "I see myself/on the underworld of that water/the darkness coming fast, saying/all the names I know for a lost land/Ireland. Absence. Daughter." The poems are haunting, visceral, honest, and tap into the reader's feelings of home and separation.

"Dublin, 1959" reads "Tell me a story about Ireland/I said as a child/to anyone in earshot: about what had been/left behind by a modern world/But not my memory." Again, within Boland's words, there is a sense of home, of memory, and of melancholy. It is beautiful.

One of Ireland's finest contemporary writers, Eavan Boland's newest collection of poems, The Lost Land will find its way onto the shelves of people who love the written word. The Lost Land will find a place in the reader's mind, and heart. | March 1999

 

 

Jonathan Shipley is a graduate of Washington State University and the editor of the literary magazine Odin's Eye. Shipley works for The Seattle Times and anticipates the day when he'll write his own novel for others to review.