AGAINST LOVE POETRY
Most recently in The Lost Land and most univocally in In a Time of Violence (1994), Boland has long won admiration for verse that combines Irish postcolonial experience and Irish politics with an outspoken feminism. Her latest collection seeks at once—as the eponymous prose poem puts it—to resist "the servitudes of custom," to cherish "the idea of women's freedom" and "to mark the contradictions of a daily love" for her husband of 30 years. The opening sequence jumps from Boland's own romantic history to the Irish potato famine (subject of many earlier poems), then leaps back to her own marriage: "we never envied/ the epic glory of the star-crossed," but instead "lay together/ listening to our child crying." Later poems consider other topics in Irish and female experience—the Book of Kells, the inventor of the computer language COBOL, "my grandmother/ who died before my time. And hers." Boland's defiant stances, here as before, will remind many readers of Adrienne Rich—but the comparison may not be favorable for Boland: Rich's best work evinces complications, self-doubts and formal challenges the younger poet's rhetoric avoids, while Boland's aural choices mostly copy, rather than add to, Rich's inventions. Nevertheless, Boland's substantial following should continue to love what she offers—righteously indignant, self-confident views of night skies, domestic labors and "an Irish voice" speaking "words taken from the earth"—"All in the spirit of our darkest century." (Sept.)
Forecast:The U.S.-based Boland, who is currently teaching at Stanford University, has a loyal following here as well as in book-mad Ireland. Outside History: Selected Poems, 1980–1990 will be released in paperback by Norton concurrently with this collection.