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Eavan Boland Sample Essay

Carmen Hadassah Martínez Castro

Prof. Leonardo Flores

INGL 3325 sec. 070

Anorexic by Eavan Boland

Eavan Boland was an Irish woman poet who was particularly interested in integrating her own life experiences in poetry, thought it was a little controversial. In Ireland the word women was opposite to the word poem, because it evoke a series of images of communality which were thought to be contrary to the individualism viewed thru the word poem. As a female, Boland wanted to show thru her writings her own experiences which happened to be a woman’s life experiences. These leads Boland reject certain male-centered assumptions that had dominated Irish literary culture for a long term.

Eavan’s ideals placed her as one of the foremost female voices in Irish literature. Her poetry had to break with rhetorical cosmetics and masculinist iconography if she wanted to contribute to recover Irish women’s historical experiences. She wrote subjects which exposed women’s situations in an ordinary and simple, but really vivid way. In her writings we can find subjects like: the fabric of domestic life, myth, love, history, and Irish rural landscape. Also she explored topics like: domestic violence, anorexia, infanticide and cancer, which are situations that can affect both men and women but tend to affect more women than men. Finally, Boland was described as a person committed to lyric grace and feminism, but she just couldn’t accept the possibility that the life of the woman would not, or could not, be named in the poetry of her own nation.

The poem Anorexic by Eavan is a poem in which readers can see a situation in terms of a woman experience; a situation really ordinary in our society. This poem is characterize by strong language (meaning strong words) that make us explore the experience being transmitted thru the poem and is like almost making a mirror for us to see ourselves and evaluate, at the same time that we evaluate the narrators experience. When we read we can see a set of end-stopped lines that kind of make an enclosure, just as when someone is being trapped in somewhere. For example: in the first stanza, Flesh is heretic. My body is a witch. I am burning it. Here, as we read it, we hear these strong pauses in each line that almost obligates us to stop, and think; this just gives a sensation that these words, this poem are only a real experience.

Boland, in this poem is presenting a situation that affects males but yet affects even more females, and because of the vocabulary and the fact that women are more affected by this sickness we could say that the narrator is a female, or the body of a woman talking to itself. In one side, because of the repetition of characteristics of the body being described, like curves and paps we could conclude that the narrator is a female. In the other side it sounds like the body of a woman is the narrator in the poem. For example: in line 16 says, She has learned her lesson. This line is like the body is talking to itself and knows that what he (the body) is passing thru is only a fruit of its sowing.

The poem Anorexic shows us one of the situations that some women experience, and that is really threatening for the life of someone. Thru the poem we can experience what we already know from anorexia, but thru a “real” experience, deducting that the poem was based in a real experience. What suggest that the poem was based in a real experience is the fact that the author liked to integrate her own experiences in her poetry, so probably she suffered from this illness; also could have been an experience from someone she new. The poem says things that are real signs and symptoms that suffer people which have this illness. For example: I am skin and bone, making an image of a real skinny person; I vomited her hungers. Now the bitch is burning, referring to a person that doesn’t eat and the hunger fells like the body is burning inside. Finally we can see that an anorexic person is someone that really is ill and not simply “changeria” of a person like some people may think. As we see in the poem, this type of person suffering from this illness think that they deserve to pass hunger, that they deserve to fell burning, and some like the narrator, think that eating, food, gaining weight is a sin.

The author of Anorexic, Eavan Boland, is just presenting thru her poetry a subject that is pretty common in OUR society and that should concern as all. She takes strong but simple language and turns it to profound and vivid experience to evoke in the reader images and to make us reflect. The poem could be taken as a social critic, because this situation is real and threatening and probably not many people are concern about this. Furthermore this situation is one which the society itself is the cause, because of the standards that sets for “pretty” woman making each woman want to accomplish the standards which in some cases take them to be ill. What Eavan does in not only this but each of her poems is actually pretty interesting because most are based in real experiences or situations which makes the reader reflect, evaluate the situation and in cases themselves and can make a lot of people relate with the poem.

Works Cited

Dictionary.com. 2010 <http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/falling+apart>.

Ellmann, R., O'Clair, R., & Ramazani, J. (2003). The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry (Vol. II). N.Y. , New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Poetry Foundation. (2010). Retrieved from <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=670>.

''Boland's reflective insights are expressed through her precise use of language.'' 

Write your personal response to this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the poetry on your course.

This isn't a bad essay - from a current Leaving Cert student. It's published under our #625Lab section that reviews the strengths and weaknesses of students' essay. Note the corrections - these will help you avoid pitfalls common to many Leaving Cert English essays. For H1 resources on Boland, look here:

Eavan Boland's poems appeal to me because her insights into life are reflective and thought-provoking. (Rephrase this: Eavan Boland's poetry appeals to me because of her reflective thought-provoking insights. It would also be good add in the subject matter of those insights. Otherwise, it is just a meaningless nicety.) Her precise and evocative use of language contributes greatly to this effect. (What effect?) Boland has said that, as a woman poet, she felt that women were merely ''empty decorations'' in poems, who didn't speak or have a voice or thoughts of their own. (A little politically charged. You may get lucky and your examiner could be an ardent feminist. Do you want to count on that though? They could be tired of this kind of rhetoric or think that this is a bit cliche. See my advice on talking about political issues here.)They were merely symbols, so she said that these poems and poets ''made it clearer to me that I must be vigilant to write of my own womanhood in such a way that I never colluded, with the simplified images''. I feel she achieved this in her poems ''Love'', "This Moment'', ''Child of our Time'', ''The War Horse'' and ''The Famine Road'', and for that I admire her. (The author made the assertion that the poet's womanhood stands out in "The War Horse". Does it? Or was it lumped in because the author simply has to talk about this poem?)

In ''Love'' Boland reflects on a time where she and her husband lived in Iowa, where the couple had 'a kitchen and an Amish table', and where they experienced the illness and near-death of one of their children to meningitis. The concrete details and the autobiographical references allow us to see the situation clearly, but what brings the poem alive is the lovely delicate images she uses to express what the experience of loving meant for them: 'And we discovered there // love had the feather and muscle of wings //and had come to live with us, //a brother of fire and air'. She sees love as a living thing, as a bird with wings, with some of the essential qualities of fire and air. (It would worth bringing up the word metaphor here.) It's an image that leads us on to the image that follows of the mythical character of Aeneas as he journeyed into the underworld. (That's all well and good, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the introduction. Anyone reading this will be looking out for Boland's special view of womanhood, not Phoenix feathers.) Boland has spoken of her use of myth as a 'beautiful important way of bandaging the wounded knee of things', and when she uses this specific myth, she makes us realise the fragility that underlines all human relationships.(Thankfully, the author finally reveals the point of her paragraph. It would have been nice to say it at the start.)Aeneas couldn't communicate with his companions in the underworld, nor they with him, and in the same way, Boland realises that she and her 'dear companion' will one day be parted in death: 'You walk away and I cannot follow'. (Long sentence = punctuation errors. Avoid long sentences like the plague.) No matter how strong their love has been and still is, it has suffered change and loss over time and will suffer even more in the future. When she uses the myth of Aeneas as a framework for insights into what love is, it helps to make it both personal and universal at the same time, which is why I agree with the statement. 

In her poem ''This Moment'', Boland managed to find her inspiration in the seemingly unexciting setting of the suburbs, and she made her environment the subject of this poem as she did in many of her poems. The poem starts off with short and snappy sentences and there is a mention of things 'getting ready // to happen' which adds a sense of stillness and anticipation, there is a feeling that something important is going to happen. (Still no mention of the powers of womanhood though...) The language of the poem is simple yet effective in creating an atmosphere of stillness and mystery. At the start of the poem it seems as though nature is waiting for the moment to happen, a child then runs into its mothers arms, and the moment is so full of love, so beautiful that 'Stars rise// Moths flutter. // Apples sweeten in the dark.' It is as if nature is finished waiting after the moment has happened. We get an insight into two things in this poem. The first is motherhood as the moment that nature was waiting for and celebrated was the mother embracing her child. (Excellent!)The second is ordinary, suburban life, like in ''Love'' Boland seems to find inspiration in a theme that wouldn't generally be regarded as poetic inspiration. (So messy. Not only is the sentence messy, but the content is all jumbled up. The first "insight" was Boland's insight about how special motherhood is, which is perfect for the tone of the essay. However, the second "insight" is the author's insight into Boland's poetry, not Boland's insight about life. It simply doesn't make sense put them onto the same list.)Boland's precise use of language expresses these reflective insights brilliantly. (Boland's language expresses insights. Boland's use of language highlights these insights. However, to say that Boland's use of language expresses an insight doesn't make sense.)

Boland wrote her poem ''Child of her Time'' in response to a photo of a fireman carrying the lifeless body of a child from the debris of the Dublin bombings in May 1974. This poem is also dedicated to her friend's child, Aengus, who died suddenly to cot death. This poem greatly examines the cost of political violence: the child is an innocent victim of ''The Troubles''. In the opening of the poem we see that this 'lullaby' that is usually used to put a child to sleep isn't calming or harmonious like other lullabies. The 'tune' comes from the child's 'final cry', the 'rhythm' from the 'murder' and the motive for writing it is the fact that the child will never hear it. The second stanza evokes the child's world. The conditional clause 'should have' is important as it shows that adults have clearly failed the child. Finally, stanza three shows us that Boland thinks adults must learn from this, 'idle talk has cost'. Hopefully and paradoxically, this act will open people's eyes. Boland feels that we are all culpable of this as it is our job to keep our children safe and the only real innocent is the ''Child of our Time'' who died before his time. This poem excellently expresses Boland's reflective insights. (The author missed an opportunity to highlight Boland's maternal tone of empathy and responsibility which would have gelled nicely with her introduction. Also, the author comes close to retelling the poem a bit too much. There is no mention of poetic techniques at all).

Image credit: Eve Bennett
Boland's use of language in ''The War Horse'' really expresses her reflective insights. The title of this poem conjures up images of violence and conflict, but the first line brings us to a suburban setting, far removed from war and violence. The poem opens up the same way as ''This Moment'' in that there is anticipation of something that is going to happen. The onomatopoeic 'clip clop' of the horses hooves isn't normal for a suburban setting. The use of enjambment in the poem keeps it moving and mirrors the movement of the horse. (Nice!)The horse is after breaking into Boland's yard and is causing damage to her garden. The horse lowers its head, sniffs the ground, exhales and is gone. The short sentences 'He is gone' and 'No great harm is done' are almost like a sigh of relief and a release of tension. The language that is used is interesting as it is language usually associated with the battlefield, the dead rose is 'expendable' and is nothing more than a 'mere line of defence'. (The author seems to be feverishly remembering any point that comes to her mind about the poem. They are all correct, but there is no flow. She may as well have listed them out as bullet points.) Boland then moves to reflecting on the way we take refuge in our own safety, we have a fear of being called upon and are relieved when danger passes us by and leaves us unhurt. Boland uses precise language in this poem to express her insights which is why agree with the statement. (Ok, this paragraph addresses that the language is precise. But what's the insight that we're meant to be taking away?)
Finally, in ''The War Horse'', Boland brilliantly links the suffering of the people during the Irish Famine to the suffering of a childless woman. The poem opens with a letter from Trevelyan to Jones in which he dismisses the suffering of the Irish. He suggests that these people be put to work to cure their 'laziness'. Boland uses slightly archaic phrases and similes like 'Idle as trout' and 'give them no coins at all', in the letter.(Yes, she does, but you need to explain what it adds to her message and why that's important!)The suggestion from the relief committee of setting them to work, building roads that led nowhere, was a mixture of cruel and ridiculous. The poem moves to a doctor speaking to a female patient. We don't know what the woman's complaint is, but it is being treated as something common. The doctor's coldness reminds us of Trevelyan. The doctor is blasé, he doesn't seem to realise the devastation of his words. (Perfect place for a quotation!)Like Trevelyan, the doctor then tells the woman to busy herself like those of the Famine times. The poem ends with the woman's thoughts, she views her body like a famine road going nowhere, this is a strange metaphor as it implies that the only purpose of a woman is to bear children. The comparison between how the Irish were treated and how women were treated is explained as follows by Boland: 'womanhood and Irishness are metaphors for one another. There are resonances of humiliation, oppression and silence in both of them and I think you can understand one better by experiencing the other'. (This part is pretty deep and pointed towards H1 territory. There is a problem, however. This author clearly likes to quote Boland's remarks. The difficulty is that it's pretty hard to remember a long sentence like that (never mind do it for all five poets). So when you're doing your practice essays, keep in mind that these manoeuvres may not be practical in the exam. So what's the use in doing them now? An alternative would be to paraphrase Boland's remark and explain how it is seen in the poem itself.) I think Boland uses excellent language techniques to express her reflective into womanhood and Irishness in ''The Famine Road'' which is why I agree with the statement. (The author's unchanging refrain about agreeing with the statement is a little bit grating. Rephrase the statement, at least.)

From reading Boland's poems, we can see that they are indeed reflective and insightful. Her poems explore personal themes; her own marriage, her a experience of being a mother, her sense of being a woman who is a poet and is Irish, and yet expand those themes so they come to seem universal. What makes her poems so effective is the extraordinary vivid and precise imagery she uses to convey these insights which is why I agree with the statement ''Boland's reflective insights are expressed through her precise use of language''.

Leaving Cert English papers are marked using "PCLM"

Clarity of purpose:

- The message isn't very clear. This essay is hugely sabotaged by its introduction. 

- The author backed up her points with quotation. She could have had a little bit more quotation.

- What about purpose? She clearly really tried to make it relevant to the question, but a lot of the time it is like a shopping list of "thing I know about Boland". While simply repeating the statement  within the question helps hugely, you can see in this essay that it isn't a panacea. 

Coherence of Delivery

- The author uses a poem by poem structure and it's consistent. That's good.

- There are no real transitions eventhough there was ample opportunity. That's not so good.

Efficiency of Language

- Mostly decent sentence structure: especially in the introduction. Then came long, messy sentences. For most people, it would be good to remember that less is more when it comes to sentence structure. Keep it simple and clean. You don't need three clauses attached to one main idea. Just move on to a new sentence.

- The logic breaks down in a few places as I've shown above.

Accuracy of Mechanics

It's all been tidied up here, but remember that this counts for 10%!

There was another essay sent in for the same title 

that I felt was worth showing you. The essay itself was excellent, but its introduction really let it down:

From my study of Boland's poetry, I have observed that her opinions are shown through her clear-cut use of language. The themes I intend to discuss and are most dominant in her poetry are war, and violence and marriage. These themes are expressed with a high standard of accuracy as Boland gave up her life as a writer in the bustling city to settle down and fulfil her role as a writer, wife and mother in the tranquil countryside. (There is no relationship between her accuracy and where she lived. Non Sequitur.) She lived through a period of time when violence broke out in Ireland as a result of this, her opinions on war and violence are valid and accurate. (Can an opinion be accurate? Also, a person who committed the violence she discusses also lived though that period. By the author's logic, their opinion is also valid and accurate. This is, of course, not possible.) The poems I will discuss are "The War Horse", "Child of Our Time", "The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me" and "The Shadow Doll" as they express her thoughts on marriage in the 19th Century and war and violence. They also contain many aspects of poetry which effectively emphasise her opinions. (It's better to be a little bit more specific. Even if the author had just mentioned her use of metaphor and enjambment, it would make more sense.)

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