The Appeal of Eavan Boland's Poetry

Topics: Poetry, Famine, Ireland Pages: 6 (2156 words) Published: February 27, 2011
“The appeal of Eavan Boland’s poetry”
The appeal of Eavan Boland’s poetry is how real she is as her personal experiences are reflected in her poems. Her writing is humble and domestic making it accessible to the reader as she is interested in the voices of the powerless in society such as in ‘The Famine Road’. Being that she is from Dublin her references in her poems make the poems relevant and accessible to readers who are also from Dublin as in ‘The war Horse’. Her appeal to women is obvious as she talks of issues directly relating to mothers as in ‘Child of Our Time’ or ‘This moment’ but also not just mothers as in ‘The Famine Road’. However, her appeal is not just for women as she has feminist concerns but is not a ‘doctrinaire’ feminist, she does not side with only women as even in ‘The Famine Road’ she speaks of Ireland’s famine of the 1840’s which appeals to both women and men.  

Firstly, the structure of ‘The famine Road’ is divided into 4 alternating stanzas for each story, each of which plays off the other in an ironic counterpoint with italics used for the doctor and woman’s conversation. This makes the poem accessible as there is a clear divide between the stories yet they are closely related. Although her use of an irregular rhyming scheme with many half rhymes such as “Relief” and “safe” and her use of enjambment and irregular sentence lengths  ranging from one to six lines long reflect the complexity of the poem so it is not to say her accessibility in her poems makes them easy. The short sentences reflect the cold and dismissive tone of the British “Your servant Jones”. The use of many commas and full stops produces a slower pace to the poem as there is no urgency in the casual tone of the British and the doctor, showing their indifference to the Irish and the woman in both stories.  

Secondly, the tone of the poem is set within the first sentence with the choice of language. The first three words are directly offensive to Irish people, “Idle as trout”, but also impersonal, not addressing them as people. This shows the British indifference and coldness towards them. “These Irish” is immediately dismissive in tone. The complete detachment is heard again with the transformation of a real woman in front of the doctor, turned into a statistic, ‘one in every ten’ and ‘a case’, mirroring the British detachment mentioned previously. The offensiveness continues as they are referred to as “wretches”. However when the soldiers address their fellow British they use their proper names “Colonel Jones” “Travelyan’s”, therefore personalising it. This cold tone is continued within the doctor and the woman’s story as the words “women” and “yours” emotionally detach the doctor and distances him from her and her problem. These unsympathetic tones continue throughout with “their bones need toil” and “keep house, goodbye” showing the cruelty and continuing insults from each. The doctor’s and British feeling of superiority is clearly evident within their speech. “Going nowhere of course” is utterly condescending towards the dying people. The doctors use of the word ‘mysteries’ has held a common belief by critics that it reflects Travelyan’s theory at the time that the famine was God’s mysterious plan to solve overpopulation, the irony being that the problem in this story is infertility. The infertility is in fact in both stories. ‘Barren’ refers to the land during the famine but also the woman is ‘barren’ as she cannot have a child.  

Finally, the imagery used in this poem begins immediately at the beginning, ‘Idle as trout’ but the same image is also carried on throughout as it is referred to again with ‘Blood their knuckles on rock’. These paint a picture of the Irish choosing to be idle and do  nothing out of laziness when in fact they are starving to death which is proven by the images portrayed by the words ‘bones’ and ‘sick’. ‘They will work tomorrow without him’ shows the fact that they are dying from ‘blood...
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