cover image The Lost Land: Poems

The Lost Land: Poems

Eavan Boland / Author W. W. Norton & Company $21 (67p) ISBN 97

In this, her ninth book of poems, Boland continues to pursue the themes she has made her own, nicely summarized in the last line of the title poem: ""Ireland. Absence. Daughter."" As a woman writing in and about a history-obsessed literary tradition, Boland is interested in forging a new voice and a new role: she is a patriot but not a militant, deeply Irish but living abroad, a poet but also a mother and daughter. (Her essay collection, Object Lessons, touches on similar themes.) The passion in this volume is unmistakable, and it is the passion to witness: ""I am your citizen: composed of/ your fictions, your compromise, I am/ a part of your story and its outcome./ And ready to record its contradictions."" She accomplishes this recording by insistently connecting large words--""nation,"" ""history,"" ""colony,"" ""sacrifice""--with human stories, as in ""Unheroic,"" where ""when I do/ go back to difficult knowledge it is not/ to... those men raised/ high above the certainties they stood on--/ Ireland hero history,"" but to an actual person, a solitary ""quiet man"" whose mysterious illness or wound ""would not heal."" The danger of this sort of writing is that the moral passion and commitment overshadow artistic concerns--and, indeed, some of these poems are too willful to be as enigmatic or delicate as they portend. But Boland is above all a writer of modern myths, and in that endeavor she continues to assemble ""the lingua franca of a lost land."" (Oct.)