Identity in the Works of Eavan Boland and Seamus Heaney
Many times poetry is reflective of the author’s past as well as their personal struggles. One struggle that poets write about is of identity and the creation, as well as loss, of individual identities. Using a passage from the essay Lava Cameo by Eavan Boland, I will show how two poets use their craft to describe their struggle with identity. Eavan Boland and Seamus Heaney both write poems which express an internal struggle with roles of identity and how they recreate their roles to fit their needs. Through retrospection and reflection, both poets come to realize that the roles they led as well as those they reinvented have created their own personal identities. Boland, in her essay Lava Cameo, touches on several emotions (loss, despair, etc) and episodes in her life which capture the essence of her identity. It is this notion of individual identity that is a central theme throughout Boland’s essay and some of her poems. Boland, through retrospection and hindsight, has been able to recognize the roles that society has dictated that she follow. These roles were not necessarily created for any rational reason (ex: female role as subordinate and even as marital property). One passage in particular captures the internal struggles Boland has endured. This passage runs from pages 27 to 29 in Boland’s Object Lessons. It begins by saying, "It may not be that women poets of another generation…" and ends with "…but because of poetry."
The passage begins by discussing how Boland may be experiencing some unease that female poets before her time may not have experienced nor have even considered for a fleeting moment. Boland claims that she had stumbled upon a realization, one that forever changes her views on her craft of writing poetry and her significance in poetry. She begins to realize that her world is in conflict with the world of poetry as she knew it. She states, "…I found my poetry and my sexuality on a collision course." Poetry like any art form is said to either dictate life or life is to dictate it, which she makes reference to with "…the active lens of poetry." With that understanding she made connections between the traditions of the real world and those of the fictitious worlds created in poetry. Men created the traditions and customs associated with poetry. These traditions have objectified women and placed them as the primary focus of much of poetry, often times in a subordinate manner. Boland states that in poetry women were used as "…metaphors and invocations, similes and muses." Boland’s experiences as a woman do not fit into the traditional poems that men had written. Due to this, she felt an internal struggle when trying to master her craft between her role as a woman and the role of women observed in traditional poetry.
Boland would practice her craft and write line after line expressing her mind as a human being. In the end however, she found it inescapable that her...