Originally published by Trinity Alumni News, May 2020
Eavan Boland, who died on 27 April, emerged as a writer with the pamphlet 223 Poems in 1962, when she was in her first year of study at Trinity. It was a time and place in which poetry was vital and present. Eavan recalled in 1999, 'I went to Trinity and was amazed to find living poets my own age.'
She belongs to a luminous era of poetry in the modern history of the College, with close contemporaries including Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Brendan Kennelly, Michael Longley, and Derek Mahon. In 1967, she began work as a junior lecturer at Trinity, and while she moved on to award-winning literary journalism at The Irish Times and RTÉ, and then to full-time poetry, in 1989 she returned as the fourth Writer Fellow, in the presigious Arts Council residency hosted by the School of English.
Boland published eleven collections of poems, in which her ground-breaking subject matter, and her bracing command of language and form, evolved continually and beautifully. Her two volumes of prose, including the essential Object Lessons (1995), ring with the clarity of true, compassionate authority. In all her work, she recognised and dismantled the obstacles which her vocation presented to women.
The international esteem in which Boland was held grew following her appointment to Stanford University in 1996, where she directed the Creative Writing programme, and culminated in 2018, when she was commissioned by the Irish Government and the Royal Irish Academy to write a poem commemorating the centenary of women's suffrage in Ireland, which she read before the United Nations General Assembly. Another centenary is central to Trinity's place in her story. In 2004, she was among seven women who received honorary degrees to mark the hundred years since women were first admitted to the College.
Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women is the name she gave to her poem for the UN. She was an irreplaceable figure in contemporary poetry; our future is lit by her legacy.