Eavan Boland – Tribute – ‘And Soul’

 

Irish poet Eavan Boland died at the end of April at the age of 75 from a stroke. Born in Dublin in 1944, Eavan Boland is one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature. She created a much needed female balance to Irish poetry on the same level as Yeats and Heaney.

She was known for documenting women’s lives, including their domestic lives. Her work covered the role of women in Irish history and culture. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Book Awards in 2017 for what was described as her art, her eloquence and her stalwart advocacy for poetry.

Her first collection of poems was published when she was still a student and she went on to have a long career as a poet, editor and teacher. In recent years, she divided her time between Ireland the US. She was Professor of English and director of the creative writing programme at Stanford University.

For more information

A link to a tribute to Eavan Boland

A link to Wikipedia


I have chosen the following poem because it reflects her love of Dublin and gives her personal thoughts as she drove through wet weather to visit her dying mother. The Liffey is the river that flows through Dublin.

And Soul

My mother died one summer –
the wettest in the records of the state.
Crops rotted in the west.
Checked tablecloths dissolved in back gardens.
Empty deckchairs collected rain.
As I took my way to her
through traffic, through lilacs dripping blackly
behind houses
and on curbsides, to pay her
the last tribute of a daughter, I thought of something
I remembered
I heard once, that the body is, or is
said to be, almost all water and as I turned southward, that ours is a
city of it,
one in which
every single day the elements begin
a journey towards each other that will never,
given our weather,
fail –
the ocean visible in the edges cut by it,
cloud colour reaching into air,
the Liffey storing one and summoning the other,
salt greeting the lack of it at the North Wall and,
as if that wasn’t enough, all of it
ending up almost every evening
inside our speech –
coast canal ocean river stream and now
mother and I drove on and although
the mind is unreliable in grief, at
the next cloudburst, it almost seemed
they could be shades of each other,
the way the body is
of every one of them and now
they were on the move again – fog into mist,
mist into sea spray and both into the oily glaze
that lay on the railings of
the house she was dying in
as I went inside.

Eavan Boland (1944 – 2020)

Quite clearly it is a soaking wet city and enforces the Ireland rain connection to the mind. But it does give a shadowy grey dismal emotive background associated with pending death.

It is interesting for it is almost as if she connects the unending rain with her mother as if there is a transference or absorption – ‘it almost seems they could be the shades of each other, / the way the body is’. This reflection is readily accessible by the reader and her thoughts obviously dominated by having to journey through the city in wet weather and it being the wettest summer ever.

The title ‘And Soul’ is thought provoking. My thoughts are that ‘soul’ is always secondary and latent, if you like behind everything and in this case very much behind this personal experience when driving in the rain. 

This poem contrasts with my previous Post of Wallace Steven’s poem ‘The Snow Man’ where a different transference is involved and where words need much thought.

RIP – absorbed in Ireland beautiful.

The Meaning of Existence – Les Murray

Several years ago I had the pleasure of attending a reading by Les Murray in Canberra. The following poem was read from a wide selection …

The Meaning of Existence

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.

Les Murray (1939 – 2019) from Poems the Size of Photographs, 2002

In the light of the above poem … the ignorant freedom of my talking mind … I asked him whether he had made the right choice in life … an emphatic yes …words are what he had do … if ignored they would have digested him … he was doing what he had to do.

In Europe he was once asked what a poem was … a poem is a song without music … searching for the words behind the music.

He died at the age of 80 on 29 April. He will be remembered for his clever manipulation of words, great repartee, quick witted and a prodigious producer of poetry. A great example is his fast flowing verse novel character Fredy Neptune, 1998 where LM comes to terms with life and his own spiritual understanding of existence. And, of course, he will be remembered for his vernacular love of the Australian rural country. Today there is a memorial service for him at the NSW State Library in Sydney.

From the Memorial Service … https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-poems-are-the-thing-tribute-to-the-great-les-murray-20190612-p51wvh.html

Les Murray on Wikipedia

 

Why I Wake Early – Mary Oliver – A tribute

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

Mary Oliver died on 17 January. She was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. The New York Times described her as ‘far and away, America’s best-selling poet’.

This short poem is a tribute to her wonderful sun-life philosophy. She was, like Emily Dickenson, not one for the limelight. It is not easy to start each day with the sun in your eyes and to say thank you, thank and treat each day anew in such a disciplined positive way. But the dear star defines life and recognition is quite appropriate even if there is a cloud in the sky.

Here is a fitting link to a tribute from Alan Storey (Methodist Minister of Cape Town, South Africa) …
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-01-22-finally-comes-the-poet-a-tribute-to-mary-oliver/

Mary Oliver on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Oliver