Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Eavan Boland after Against Love Poetry—one of the most perfect collections of poetry ever written—was published.  The poems in Against Love Poetry have been recently brought to mind.  Thanks Amanda. 

Eavan Boland ‘s new book Against Love Poetry is her ninth.  Her other books, including  An Origin Like WaterIn A Time of Violence and Object Lessons, have established her as one of the leading poets of our time, Irish or otherwise.  Her poems often deal with what one critic has referred to as ‘women’s secret history’; her latest book confronts and refutes the myths and conventions of traditional love poetry, choosing instead to discover ‘the code marriage makes of passion/duty dailyness routine.’ The arguments against love poetry result in a powerful book which should interest long time readers as well as those who are new to her work.

“Born in 1944 in Dublin, Eavan now teaches at Stanford University while also maintaining a home in Ireland.  She took time to answer the following questions.

“CD:  How did  your new book take shape for you?

“Eavan Boland:  It was a series of separate poems. I didn’t consciously connect them. They began to be connected as they accumulated, as  I saw the same images and ideas coming back again. These are marriage poems – I’ve been married thirty-two years. They’re also poems that are in an argument with traditional or conventional love poetry. It was hard to manage the different strands. But  there’s a poem in the sequence of marriage poems in the book – there’s eleven of them in all – called “Quarantine”. And that was  a shaping poem for me. It’s about an incident in Ireland in the nineteenth century: A man and a woman left the workhouse at the time of the 1847 famine. It was in Carrigstyra in West Cork. Those were very desperate times -there was famine fever and starvation. This incident must have been like hundreds of others and would probably have been forgotten but it was left as an anecdote by a man writing sixty years later. The man and woman walked north, back to their cabin. They died that night. In the morning when they were found, her feet were against his chest. He had tried to warm them as she died -as they both did. When I thought of that account, when it came into the poem in the sequence, it was no longer a local, Irish incident. It had become a dark love story, and an exemplary one. And that tied together things for me. All the things I wanted to get at -the stoicism of dailyness, the failure of conventional love poetry- all came together there. […]

“CD: I read  Object Lessons when I was a new mother, and I remember being  struck by your saying something along the lines of ‘once I learned to write with children in the background,’ and I always wondered – how old were your  kids when writing with them awake and around became possible?

Eavan Boland: It’s a good question. My memory is that they were at least four and two before I could let them play near me -say in a room next door with both doors open. I felt strongly about that. My own mother was a painter. She was a wonderful painter, and is a great friend. But I remember my frustration – I was the youngest child of five – when she locked the door to paint. So I made up my mind to have open doors, to make my work interruption-proof  if I could.And maybe that was too ambitious. But to be honest, I came to love the background hum and music of children – providing they weren’t fighting! And to a certain extent it made me relaxed and fatalistic about writing, which was actually helpful. I knew I couldn’t set out two hours to work in, because it mightn’t happen. So I took what  I could, and in some magical way that was always enough. […]”