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The Historians

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The Historians by Eavan Boland

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  • National Poetry Day 2021

By Eavan Boland

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A forceful and moving final volume from one of the most masterful poets of the twentieth century.

Throughout her nearly sixty-year career, acclaimed poet Eavan Boland came to be known for her exquisite ability to weave myth, history, and the life of an ordinary woman into mesmerizing poetry. She was an essential voice in both feminist and Irish literature, praised for her ‘edgy precision, an uncanny sympathy and warmth, an unsettling sense of history’ ( J.D. McClatchy). Her final volume, The Historians, is the culmination of her signature themes, exploring the ways in which the hidden, sometimes all-but-erased stories of women’s lives can powerfully revise our sense of the past.

Two women burning letters in a back garden. A poet who died too young. A mother’s parable to her daughter. Boland listens to women who have long had no agency in the way their stories were told; in the title poem, she writes: ‘Say the word history: I see / your mother, mine. / … Their hands are full of words.’ Addressing Irish suffragettes in the final poem, Boland promises: ‘We will not leave you behind’, a promise that animates each poem in this radiant collection. These extraordinary, intimate narratives cling to the future through memory, anger, and love in ways that rebuke the official record we call history.

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