Against Love Poetry
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Against Love Poetry

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by Eavan Boland
     
 

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A collection of poems about marriage by one of our most celebrated poets.
These powerful poems are written against the perfections and idealizations of traditional love poetry. The man and woman in these poems are husband and wife, custodians of ordinary, aging human love. They are not figures in a love poem. Time is their essential witness, and not their destroyer

Overview

A collection of poems about marriage by one of our most celebrated poets.
These powerful poems are written against the perfections and idealizations of traditional love poetry. The man and woman in these poems are husband and wife, custodians of ordinary, aging human love. They are not figures in a love poem. Time is their essential witness, and not their destroyer. A New York Times Notable Book and a Newsday Favorite Book of 2001.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For over 20 years, Eavan Boland (b. 1944 in Dublin) has been interweaving themes of the importance of poetry, Irish history, and women's identity. This volume (her ninth book of poetry), which dramatizes conflicts between marriage and freedom ("what is hidden in/ this ordinary, aging human love") could be subtitled "contradictions of a daily love." "Against" overdone "love poetry" ("Let no love poem ever come to this threshold") because it falsifies "the edge of language," she instead seeks "exact patience" and rapport between self and place, man and wife "mated for life." Overcoming her uncertainties, Boland finds relief in a "merciless inventory" that utilizes imagination to transcend computer and moral "codes" ("the code marriage makes of passion"), necessary, fixed things subject to "duty, dailyness, routine." The Yeatsian landscape of her poetry ("salmon-rich/ rivers and birdlife/ and lilac of this island") is the troubled starting point for her search for identity. But to read these poems only as a tour of the Irish countryside is to acquiesce to the "terrible regard" of those who romanticize its "savage acres." Finally, Boland's self-recognition is an expression of an honest spirit that finds strength in "what wears, what endures." For contemporary collections. Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
New York Times Book Review
“Notable Book of 2001. Admirably tough-minded...eloquently expressed.... [Boland] is against thoughtless submission but very much for sacrifices in partnership that result in greater mutual understanding.”
The New Yorker
“Boland's loyalty to the plain words that call forth a whole past keeps the peat fires burning decades after they were lit.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393324242
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/17/2003
Pages:
64
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


I.


MARRIAGE


1. IN WHICH HESTER BATEMAN,
18TH CENTURY ENGLISH SILVERSMITH,
TAKES AN IRISH COMMISSION


Hester Bateman made a marriage spoon
And then subjected it to violence.
Chased, beat it. Scarred it and marked it.
All in the spirit of our darkest century.

Far away from grapeshot and tar caps
And the hedge schools and the music of sedition
She is oblivious to she pours out
And lets cool the sweet colonial metal.

Here in miniature a man and woman
Emerge beside each other from the earth,
From the deep mine, from the seams of rock
Which made inevitable her craft of hurt,

They stand side by side on the handle.
She writes their names in the smooth
Mimiery of a lake the ladle is making, in
A flowing script with a moon drowned in it.

Art and marriage: now a made match.
The silver bends and shines and in its own
Mineral curve an age-old tension
Inches towards the light. See how

Past and future and the space between
The semblance of empire, the promise of nation,
Are vanishing in this mediation
Between oppression and love's remembrance

Until resistance is their only element. It is
What they embody, bound now and always.
History frowns on them: yet in its gaze
They join their injured hands and make theirvows.


II. AGAINST LOVE POETRY


We were married in summer, thirty years ago. I have loved you
deeply from that moment to this. I have loved other things as well.
Among them the idea of women's freedom. Why do I put these
words side by side? Because I am a woman. Because marriage is not
freedom. Therefore, every word here is written against love poetry.
Love poetry can do no justice to this. Here, instead, is a remembered
story from a faraway history: A great king lost a war and was paraded
in chains through the city of his enemy. They taunted him. They
brought his wife and children to him—he showed no emotion. They
brought his former courtiers—he showed no emotion. They brought
his old servant—only then did he break down and weep. I did not
find my womanhood in the servitudes of custom. But I saw my
humanity look back at me there. It is to mark the contradictions of
a daily love that I have written this. Against love poetry.


III. THE PINHOLE CAMERA


solar eclipse, August 1999


This is the day
    and in preparation
        you punch a hole
in a piece of card.
        You hold it up against
a sheet of paper—
        the simplest form
of a pinhole camera—
             and put the sun
on your right shoulder:
            A bright disc
appears on your page.
    It loses half its diameter.
          And more than half
in another minute.
            You know
    the reason for the red berries
darkening, and the road outside
        darkening, but did you know
            that the wedding
        of light and gravity
            is forever?
    The sun is in eclipse:
        if this were legend
the king of light would turn his face away.
                A single shadow
          would kill the salmon-rich
  rivers and birdlife
          and lilac of this island.
                 But this is real—
          how your page records
     the alignment of planets:
          their governance.
                 In other words,
the not-to-be-seen-again
                 mystery of
      a mutual influence:
                 The motorways
          are flowing north.
The sycamores are a perfect green.
                 The wild jasmine
is a speaking white.
     The sun is coming back. As
         it will. As it must.
                  You track its progress.
     I stand and watch.
                  For you and I
    such science holds no secrets:
     We are married thirty years,
         woman and man.
             

Meet the Author

Eavan Boland is the author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry and nonfiction. A professor and the director of the creative writing program at Stanford University, she is the winner of a Lannan Foundation Award. She lives in Stanford, California, and Dublin, Ireland.

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