'One of the pre-eminent voices in Irish literature' - Poet Eavan Boland dies aged 75

Eavan Boland has died at the age of 75.
'One of the pre-eminent voices in Irish literature' - Poet Eavan Boland dies aged 75

Eavan Boland has died at the age of 75.

The Irish poet died at her home in Dublin today following a stroke.

She was Professor of Humanities and Director of the Creative Writing Programme at Stanford University from 1996 to her death.

She has continued to publish work for over 50 years with her poems and essays appearing in publications which included The Irish Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and American Poetry Review.

In 2016 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Royal Irish Academy's expressed its sympathy with her family, saying "she was a pleasure to work with".

The President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to her saying she had the "extraordinary ability to invoke Irish landscapes, myth and everyday experience".

She published 10 volumes of poetry, releasing her first collection, 23 poems in 1962 before she was 20 years old.

Her work remains very well known, having featured on the Leaving Cert English syllabus in recent years.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner last August Ms Boland spoke of her confidence that the medium of poetry would move forward in the digital age and even suggested social media platforms would be vital to the art form’s future.

“I don’t want to criticise too much … There have always been people who think of themselves as gatekeepers, who think poetry has something to fear from this. They think it is a sort of populism that it brings elements of social engineering that don’t belong in poetry. I don’t agree with that.

"Poetry has always changed with the changing world. If it doesn’t, it will run the risk of not being a living language."

When asked how her inspirations and motivations have shifted with the seasons of her life, she replies: “The poet Robert Lowell once said: ‘All the poems I’m interested in I can’t write and all the poems I can’t write, I’m not interested in’. I think you spend your time with poems between those two things.”

Boland was also reluctant to view herself as a trailblazer.

“No. I think that does me far too much credit. I did raise certain issues and the conversation changed but I’m afraid that society issues permissions to people to be a poet.

"What you worry about is that someone of great value, a woman, a person of colour, or someone disabled might think ‘I couldn’t do that or I don’t feel I have the permission to do that’.

"What you really want to do is to begin to try and change those permissions.”

Paying tribute this evening President Higgins said: “With the passing of Eavan Boland 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 Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan paid tribute to the internationally acclaimed poet saying she had a stellar career and was "undoubtedly the foremost female poet of her generation".

She said: "Eavan was such an inspiration in her work as a poet, as a reviewer for the Irish Times and as a professor at Stanford University all of which continued right up to her death.

"I would like to offer my condolences to her husband Kevin Casey and her daughters.

"Love will heal What language fails to know. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam uasal.“

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