Eavan Boland Poetry #1

Our first foray into modern poetry. Try to be more excited about it than TS Eliot is here.

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Filed under Poetry: Eavan Boland

9 responses to “Eavan Boland Poetry #1

  1. Jason

    I am really sad to bid farewell to Poe’s mind-twisting and unstable characters. In regards to Eavan Boland and the poetry unit in general, I have mixed feelings about them. One thing I was elated about was the fact that the text will be much shorter than Poe’s. However, it will not be as ‘straight forward’ as Poe’s short stories. With this poetry unit comes a great deal of dissection in order to find the meaning behind it. I don’t know whether I should be excited about this, as after all, we are in a literature class and the heart of this class is ultimately interpreting literary works. But I think the fact that there is a possibility of wrong interpretation, unlike Poe’s where there is possibly ‘endless’ possibilities, caused many of us to be reluctant in welcoming this poetry unit. The fact that Boland is still alive also make evident of the fact that her interpretation is ultimately the ‘right’ interpretation and that any other possible interpretation would be dismissed. Since we already talk about the meaning in class, to be honest, I do not know what to write for this week’s blog. Usually with novels or short stories I would talk about interesting characters or possible intended messages behind the work, but it is hard to write about something with little character and one possible meaning.

    Nevertheless, I am really intrigued by the fact that Boland uses something that we see in our today’s society – anorexia – which I think is one of the many perks of being a writer that is still alive, they could write something that they know would interest the reader. I actually found this poem to be quite shocking, and I like the fact that Bolan depicted the full-fledged truth and didn’t hold back. She expresses the horrors of the daily mental struggles that come with anorexia. She bluntly uses the b-word and other harsh diction like “burning” or “torching” to evoke the confusion and anger that the speaker feels. I liked that from just reading the poem, you could feel how much this person hates their appearance. I think for me, this poem is something that I could personally relate to. I am really grateful that someone was willing to put the words out about the seriousness of this issue, especially since someone really close to me had suffered from this problem. The poem’s structure caused the reader to think about the issue at hand. The end-stopped lines kind of make an enclosure just as when someone is being trapped somewhere. Also, as we read it, we hear these strong pauses in each line that almost obligates us to stop, and think, which gives a sensation of reality behind the poem. A majority of today’s society regards anorexia as something normal, as it is something that is so prevalent in our today’s society. And I think that is the scary part of this issue. I like the fact that Boland addresses this part of the problem as well by showing how the female in the poem seemed to be a subordinate of the society’s definition of beauty.

    Boland was able to illustrate the vulnerability of the female character within the poem “Anorexia.” The author exposes the female identity to the unrealistic expectations of the woman to express the horrid and torturous standards that society lays down upon female individuals. Overall, Boland was able to show the female’s prolonged vulnerability to society the author wishes to emphasize; along with the awareness that the female identity will always fall victim to society. Although I am grateful for her intention in raising awareness of the issue, I sometimes question whether the biblical allusion is necessary as some people might not be able to understand the allusion. Moreover, some readers might be put off by the fact that they have to interpret the poem and some of the might interpret it wrongly. Perhaps Boland was just trying to express an informative based issue in the most artistic way, but is it the most effective way to raise awareness? I’ll leave that to the subjectivity of the readers.

  2. Karen

    Eavan Boland’s Anorexic was a pain to get through. It’s so ambiguous, that once you think you understand what she’s getting at, someone suggests another interpretation of the poem and confuses you all over again. Her other poem ‘The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me’ was far more enjoyable. It felt like one of those black and white movies where chivalry still existed and ladies were scandalized by showing some leg. The setting of Paris made the poem romantic in an old-world sort of way, and not like the clichéd sort of romance we find in chick flicks and their like.
    I love the role that weather plays in this poem, which surprised me because I usually think all the people tooting on about significance of weather are just trying to make something out of nothing. The weather in this poem, however, is truly significant. The combination of the heat, the stormy nights, and the rain and lightning, contribute greatly to the overall tone of the poem. Heat represents young summer love, the stormy nights the difficulties such love has to overcome, and the rain and lightning the times when love cries and yet burns so brightly at the same time.
    Boland leaves us with a cliff-hanger of sorts about whether or not the man gives the fan to her mother. At first I was a little disappointed. I wanted a Titanic-esque reunion as the cherry on top of the cake. Upon further consideration, I think that if Boland were to put an end scene, it would detract from this aura of mystery the poem has. It’s similar to how Jack dies at the end of Titanic, while Rose lives. We’ll never know if their love would have lasted if they had a fair shot at their relationship. In the same way, we’ll never know if the love between Boland’s mother and the man would have flourished, or if her mother would have left him because he never showed up.
    There aren’t many Boland poems I like. I’ve read ahead, and none seems as appealing to me as the Black Lace Fan does. I will however, continue to keep an open mind. Boland has appealed to me once, and the rest of her poems may appeal to me again.

  3. Hartini

    I’ve never really appreciated poetry, or really read much at all. Eavan Boland is the first poet I feel like I’m actually studying. What I appreciate about Boland’s poetry is that it has something that I feel is relatable. Eavan Boland once said that she writes poems to relive experiences, and I think that it adds an unparalleled personal emotional depth to her work. The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me is my favorite of Boland’s poems that we’ve read in class thus far. For one thing, that first stanza threw me off. I was enticed by the strange feeling of having the pronouns switched around so suddenly, and having to guess who the people being referred to actually were. I appreciate how Boland didn’t specify who this “he” character was, and instead left it to our imagination. It leaves so much room for interpretation – is the man the woman’s husband? An affair? Everything becomes a possibility.

    I also find the pacing of the stanzas in the poem to be very interesting. For one thing, the second and third stanzas are noticeably more choppy and “fast” than the first and fourth ones. This adds to the sense of urgency in the stanzas, and suggests that time is an important aspect of the poem. This is supported by the second stanza, in which Boland describes the man’s constant tardiness, and in the third stanza, in which we see the woman waiting on and spending much time just waiting for this man.

    The fifth stanza is particularly interesting, as it directly tells us to figure out for ourselves what comes next. “A man running. And no way to know what happened then – none at all – unless, of course, you improvise”. Personally, I think that the “empty café terrace” is referring to the café that the woman was sitting and waiting at earlier, and that the man was running because he knew he was late and was too late. The image conjures up mild feelings of sadness for me, as it seems that both the man and woman wanted to be there, and would have worked hard to be there at the same time, but that there were other circumstances that hindered the possibility of that.

    One of the interpretations I came across was that the poem was about an affair. For me, this made many components of the poem ‘click’. I think that it’s a fitting interpretation, for it would support the issues of time, and why Boland included how they “met in cafes”. The fact that she was always early and he was always late, yet she seemed to put in extra effort to wait for him, suggests that there might be constraints in their ease of communication – perhaps because their relationship is forbidden.

    I’m ambivalent about what the last stanza is meant to do, and what it truly means. If I were to continue my interpretation based on the assumption that the poem is about an affair, I would say that the blackbird represented it. I think the beautiful hidden wing might represent the beauty of what the man and woman had, even though the world cannot always see it.

  4. Jesslyn

    So far this week, in the indigenous poem written by Eavan Boland, “Anorexic”, he had written quite a masterpiece that unleashes a controversial question to most girls in the world. The poem itself speaks in both a first person yet third person kind of way, which was honestly a bit confusing to me at first at to which I was meant to analyze the poem, however as I had sought it out and read the poem a couple more times, I had realized that it wasn’t written in two perspectives, but it was actually one, yet the character of the female itself had divided another person to be her other self. Her other self that was “hungry” and was identified to be feverish and demanding of food. it was a self that she was loathed, one that she didn’t want to be associated with. At this point, it was pretty apparent that anorexia isn’t just a form of disease, but it was also a mental illness. One that took over a person completely, one that implemented in the person’s mind that she was never enough and could never be satisfied. The poem had also continued with the character mentioning a “him” that she wanted to satisfy. A “him” that she had previously lost, yet now was able to gain back because of her condition. This raised a question to me personally, where it made me ponder to the fact that was “him” the love of her life? Was “him” the person that she had put herself in the specific condition to satisfy? Was he even worth the pain and suffering she had to go through in order to be “enough” for him? It had brought the idea of an unhealthy relationship into my mind, where I think that if “him” was really the love of her life and that she was doing this for him, then it was one that should be stopped. It certainly doesn’t seem like one that should be continued. Shouldn’t our partner in a relationship be able to accept us fully for who we are? Shouldn’t we be able to be completely ourselves without having to be worried that we’d be left because of it? Or had the times changed and we are no longer given that liberty, instead we’re faced with the fact that in order to get or keep a partner in our lives, we’d have to make changes and suit into the requirements of our partner? Had the society and the world become so ugly? I hadn’t quite gotten the last part of the poem, where the character says,
    “into forked dark,
    into python needs
    heaving to hips and breasts
    and lips and heat
    and sweat and fat and greed”
    Which I at first had thought that it was the parts of her body that she was now finally satisfied with, however as I read the few stanzas prior to that particular one, I had interpreted it to be somewhat a sexual representation. The character seems to be talking about having an intimate moment with “him” that she had spoken of before. However, she had ended the poem on a questionable note, with stating “fat” and “greed”, which doesn’t quite make sense, however I guess with the insecurities that had been eating away at her for the past few pages indicates so. The complexity of this particular poem I had personally never encountered before, yet I was quite baffled with the amount of interpretations that I was able to make out of it although it was incredibly ambiguous. I have enjoyed the last few classes that we’ve spent discussing this poem, and look forward to the other either poems or short stories that is in store for our class to further explore.

  5. To be honest, i did like the poem Anorexia by Bolen… though creepy and slightly sickening in some parts, it was extremely well written and had deeper meaning to it. This deeper meaning really showed Bolens skilled approach to her writing. Of all the poems i have read so far in my short life i think i have never read one that so clearly had two meanings and i enjoyed exploring the idea of Eden and the fall of man with the rest of the class.

  6. Stacy!

    Poetry has always fascinated me because of the ambiguity it fosters. Like many expressions of art, it is open to interpretation, all equally as valid as the other if the interpreter provides ample evidence. Boland’s poetries are more difficult to grasp than other modern poetries at first glance. It is made up of well thought out, symbolic language that leaves readers in a curious state – wondering what she truly meant to imply from the creation of such poems. The first poem was discussed in class was entitled ‘Anorexic’, a challenging poem with an inspiring message. Boland critics the modern day concept of the diseases of anorexia – how it has the power to completely obliterate a human being. The entirety of the poem reflects a somewhat personal encounter between Boland and the disease itself. It speaks of the evils of overconsumption of what an anorexic would view ‘evil’; food. Towards the end of the poem, however, you begin to wonder if the entirety of the poem actually only tackles the problem of anorexia, and how the human tendency is to deprive itself of things that may or may not be good for them. When I read the poem the second time, I feel as though Boland critiques society’s tendency to over-consume things of the world; more things, more bags, more shoes, more, more, more. Western Consumerism has become so commonplace that it is not seen as a ‘disease’, the same way some girls would perceive anorexia as a short-cut towards achieving what is portrayed as ‘perfect’ figure. The poem also interestingly has much biblical allusions in it, such as the mentioning of the ‘land of milk and honey’, ‘he’ as Adam, and reference to the body being ‘she’. The ending of the poem ends with three powerful words, ‘sweat, and fat, and greed’, three words that contrast with the rest of the diction used in the poem. This makes me wonder if Boland believes that as humans, we never know where the line between not enough and too much lies. There is never a perfect equilibrium between your desires and your needs, and in this case, the symbolic use of anorexia as a life-threatening disease pinpoints how our greed as humans could lead us to our own demise, and will, if we do not know how to achieve self control over ourselves.

  7. Patricia

    I was just reading through Boland’s poem ‘Quarantine’ and I just came upon a new thought. Throughout our class discussions, the stanza ‘Let no poem ever come to this threshold’ became one of the main things we focused on in that poem. In class, we agreed on the fact that Boland was trying to convey the message that the story she was telling in the poem was not one of shallow love. I like how Boland was able to use something ‘tragic’ and sad to portray something really positive – love. Boland was able to write it in way that readers marvel at the aspect of love and what people are willling to do because of it, instead of focusing on the sad ending of the story due to the Irish Potato Famine.

    • Michael S

      The poem anorexia highlights the plight of the modern day society, which is that of anorexia.

      Boland states that the flesh is a heretic, and that the body is a witch, which deserves to be burned. In the context of anorexia, the woman believes that her fat is evil, since it causes her to look less of the ideal of what society places upon her and thus she is compelled to burn her fat, in order to become what society expects of her.

      However, I must state that there is a growing significance of anorexia in the male populace as well. The ideal for men to become people who have no fat has also invaded popular culture, and so this poem may also be seen in these context perhaps also, due to the changing times.

      By the woman “self-denying” herself of food, she is scorching herself. The woman has gone to denying herself of the pleasures and necessity of food itself, stating that something has messed with her head, causing her to do this to herself. However, she is aware of her self-torture, calling the voices in her head, half-truths, and not absolute.

      The woman also believes that by achieving an angular body frame, via starving herself, she will become holy, or acceptable in the eyes of popular culture.

  8. tiffany

    In Anorexia, the narrator (possibly Boland) does not feel her appearance exerts any element of beauty. She does not appear as woman ought to and does not exhibit the same grace as others seem to. A distorted image is all she sees. The reason behind these perceptions is society. The poem implies that society commands for a female to appear womanly and proportionate; exquisite and perfected. Every curve, every feature, and every ounce of flesh is considered just as valuable as the actual character of a woman’s being. The standards of the woman lie within a foundation that insists only when a woman is beautiful can she be valued. This assumption in turn creates an unrealistic expectation that a female individual must consistently live up to. This is the expectation the speaker of poem is struggling with. Boland incorporates the elements of an anorexic disorder to closely encounter the true sufferings of the female’s vulnerability.
    Boland uses imagery to sharpen the narrator’s feelings of a disfigurement. She feels she is repulsive and unattractive to the eye of every individual, specifically her own. “My body is a witch” the speaker directly comments. The narrator truly believes she carries no worth not only as woman but as a being within society. The extreme expectations that are increasingly set upon a woman, such as the image, begin to create a sense of low self esteem on a female. In result, she begins to push the true reality to the side. The female figure begins to experience an immense amount of pressure on the physical characteristics of the body that the more prominent, meaningful aspects of a person become completely bypassed. No reflection is ever perfect and no image is ever enough. The female then becomes entirely exposed to the tortures of falsified standards that any route to acceptance seems acceptable; in this scenario anorexia. In the poem, an eating disorder appears as the narrators only escape. She must conform to the standards of society no matter the consequences. Because the female becomes so terribly exposed to the power of societal standards the character becomes vulnerable to the world and ultimately weakens; only to fall prey to her absolute destruction.

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