↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Friday, April 25, 2008

Islands Apart: A Notebook by Eavan Boland

Who exactly is a poet? How do we recognize one, even when circumstances seem to deny the possibility of such an existence? Once I thought Corkery had the answer. Now it looks far less simple. When I try to think these days about what Corkery meant, I keep colliding into other definitions. Nothing about the poet’s identity or survival looks as clear as it did when I first read The Hidden Ireland. And of course nothing looks as singular. It seems to me now there are many definitions of the poet — some of them contradictory to each other.

Maybe it’s that I live in two places, or went to school in different countries, or come from an island where two languages produced two very different versions of the poet — whatever it is, these ideas of the poet’s identity and existence keep coming to me, keep asking for a clearer definition. And if I can’t exactly provide it, I still keep thinking I should try.

The truth is, different ideas of the poet have always existed. Different circumstances make the ideas change, clash, and evolve. I love the story, for instance, of the Irish-born Oliver Goldsmith. To the naked eye, he was an eighteenth-century English poet. He signed up for everything from the civil couplets to the Augustan grace. The British claim him for their own. But he was also the son of a farmer in Kilkenny. He was a student at Trinity College. He left Ireland and went to London and Scotland. He apprenticed himself there to a different way of being a poet. It all shows up in his headlong and haunting poem The Deserted Village.


Post a Comment

<< Home