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  • Chris O'Rourke

Boland: Journey of a Poet

Siobhán Cullen in Boland: Journey of a Poet by Druid. Photography by Emilija Jefremova

It's impossible to overstate Eavan Boland's contribution to Irish poetry, and to inspiring women poets the world over during the last half century. With unrelenting honesty Boland's works disclosed the silenced and unseen in the domestic lives of women. Helping throw open the doors of poetry at a time when the women she knew were not poets, and the poets she knew were not women. Where art was often a world removed from where women actually lived. Dismantling myths and the fictions of nationhood, she examined the roles assigned women in Irish history while refusing to be constrained by them. Instead, Boland found another way of speaking. Commemorating the first anniversary of Boland's untimely death on April 27th, 2020, Druid Theatre's Boland: Journey of a Poet, directed by Garry Hynes, sees Siobhán Cullen giving voice to a selection of Boland's poetry and prose, lovingly curated by Colm Tóibín. In charting the shaping of Boland as woman and poet Boland: Journey of a Poet charts a journey singular to Boland, yet one whose experiences, history, and insights will resonate with many.

Over a well timed fifty minutes a patchwork of extracts from Boland's works are read and recited by Cullen, revealing a complex and driven writer. Meanwhile visual artist, Debbie Chapman, paints a portrait of the poet in the background. An image which links Boland to her artistic mother, and to a feminine artistic heritage, both historical shoved into the background. Like Francis O'Connor's set, filled with details artistic and domestic, Cullen's delivery is infused with a quaint formalism. Yet alternating between a direct delivery of Boland's prose and a conventionally styled book reading of her poetry proves to be a double edged sword. If the conversational prose invites you in, the Jackanory styled poetry reading risks Boland's poems looking locked in their pages. Like dusty diary entries from a life lived long ago, in a world removed from today. Yet poems like Night Feed, and Love, remind us that Boland's work is indeed something to grow old and to die in, to live and love in, and is arguaby more relevant today.

Siobhán Cullen in Boland: Journey of a Poet by Druid. Photography by Emilija Jefremova

Determined, fastidious, passionate, Boland emerges as a women never backward about coming forward, with a spine of steel and a rigorous approach to writing. If her generosity of spirit and playful humour isn't very much in evidence, perhaps that's as it should be. One suspects that for a poet for whom kisses do not appear when she writes of love, public displays of affection might have left her uneasy. Well, tough luck Eavan. Boland: Journey of a Poet is a public display of deep affection. Reminding us of a true fire guilder, setting truths to rights and dispelling the noise of myths. A must see for all lovers of Boland and poetry.

Boland: Journey of a Poet, presented by Druid Theatre as part of Druid at Home, was streamed live on April 22, 23 and 24. It is available on demand from April 27 till May 2.

For more information, visit Druid Theatre


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