- 27 Apr 20
Eavan Boland was one of the pre-eminent literary voices in Ireland. A poet who published her first work when she was just 18 years of age, she died suddenly at her home in Dublin. She was just 75 years of age.
Hot Press is sad to hear of the death of the great Irish poet Eavan Boland. Eavan, who was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College in Dublin, died at her home in the capital city of Ireland.
A highly distinguished poet, her first work, entitled 23 Poems, was published at the age of just 19, in 1962. She established a reputation as one of the pre-eminent Irish poets, at a time when it was extraordinarily difficult for women to find a place anywhere near the top table of Irish literary life. The title of her 1982 book Night Feed is telling: she wrote brilliantly about the everyday experiences of women.
She took a decidedly unromantic view of Ireland – and indeed of life in general – in books like Domestic Violence (2007) and Against Love Poetry (2001). But in everything she did, her humanity and her love of life shone through, as well as her brave and unquenchable feminist worldview. Eavan Boland taught in Trinity College Dublin (where she served as Writer In Residence)), University College Dublin, Bowdoin College and Stanford University, where she was Professor of English.
The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins tonight paid tribute to Eavan Boland, hailing her as "one of the pre-eminent voices in Irish literature."
“With the passing of Eavan Boland,” the President said, “Ireland has lost not only an internationally acclaimed poet, distinguished academic and author, but one of the most insightful inner sources of Irish life, not only in life as expressed but as sensed and experienced.
"It was her particular gift to reveal the beauty in the ordinary.
"Over the years, through her poetry, critical work and teaching she displayed an extraordinary ability to invoke Irish landscapes, myth and everyday experience. She became one of the pre-eminent voices in Irish literature, noted for the high standard she sought and achieved.
"The revealing of a hidden Ireland, in terms of what was suffered, neglected, evaded, given insufficient credit, is a part of her achievement.
"If the long legacy of Irish poetry was a well from which she drew, its contemporary richness was recognised in her critical work. It owes much to her encouragement and generosity to fellow poets.
"A passionate believer in poetry, in the editorial to her final issue as editor of Poetry Ireland Review she wrote:
'The life of the poet is always a summons to try to set down some truth that was once true and will go on being true. No poet should have to worry about the public respect, or the lack of it, in which this art is held’.
"This was a principle by which she lived and wrote.
"She will be missed by all who have read her work and by students who have had the privilege of learning from her in any one of the academic institutions to which she made such a distinguished contribution, including Trinity College, University College Dublin and Stanford University.
"To all of us who had the privilege of knowing her, her passing is a source of great loss and sadness.
"To her husband Kevin, their daughters and the members of her extended family, her colleagues in poetry and her wide circle of friends, Sabina and I send our deepest condolences.”
The recently appointed director of the Arts Council, and former Director of Poetry Ireland, Maureen Kennelly, has also paid tribute to the poet and academic.
"Eavan was one of the most influential voices writing anywhere,” Maureen said. "She was editor of Poetry Ireland Review for the last three years and I and my colleagues there gloried in our connection with her. She was beguilingly direct, frank, funny, energetic and no-nonsense.
"Her voice has humanized many of this country’s old tragedies. We would all be poorer without that elegant voice shining a light on forgotten and ignored voices. She honoured those who have been outside history, writing them back in, and enabling them to find a voice.
"She wrote beautiful tender poems about motherhood – Nightfeed is especially beloved by new mothers. She made it her life’s work to open up the literary culture, sifting it with feminist ideas and making it less enclosed.
"Her fine poems have assured her a place in the galaxy of the world’s great poets. We send our deepest sympathies to her beloved family.”
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Arts and Heritage, Niamh Smyth, also issued a statement tonight.
“I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to Eavan’s family and many friends both in Ireland and in America,” she said.
“Eavan’s contribution to the world of poetry is immeasurable and the poignancy with which she wrote about women's lives will be remembered.
“She will forever remain deeply embedded in the Irish Arts world and revered as one of Ireland's greatest poets.
“My thoughts are with her family and her wide circle of friends at this sad time.”