The rich tapestry of Eavan Boland’s poetry has been revisited and proclaimed in the weeks since her death, and especially her celebration of motherhood, marriage, domestic life. For me, her sense of place, and in particular her place in Dundrum makes her our poet in a special way.
Eavan brought her deep sense of history as well as her lived-in present, and prescience about the future when she wrote about Dundrum. In the beautifully crafted prose piece in ‘A Poet’s Dublin’, she paints a vivid picture of an older Dundrum village, its history, its 1950s elegance, describing the shops selling smoked bacon and homemade butter, the streams that powered the paper mill, the mill cottages and the Harcourt line. She brings to life a now long-gone elegance where a long Main Street was shielded by ‘the shadows and leaves of poplars and rowans and mulberries shielding it from any appearance of busyness or stress.’ And then, the sense of change coming – ‘But already a noise was beginning, just out of earshot. The noise of a new Ireland.’
In ‘A Poet’s Dublin’ the poems capture more of those powerful images of south Dublin suburbs from Dundrum and Balally across to Dun Laoghaire. In the poem “Re-Reading Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘Deserted Village in a Changed Ireland’ “she writes;
A spring morning
A first gleam of sunshine in Mulvey’s Builder’s yard.
The husbands and wives in the walled graveyard
Who brought peace to one another’s bodies are not separated.
But wait, Mulvey’s yard closed down years ago.
The cemetery can’t be seen from the road.
Now visitors come from the new Town Centre
Built on the site of an old mill,
Their arms weighed down with brand names, fashion labels, bags
Hard to know which variant
Of our country this is. Hard to say
Which variant of sound to use at the end of this line.
What a powerful evocation of the past, a vivid sense of change coming, and a question hanging there about the future. We in Imagine Dundrum believe that with sensitive planning, and engagement with local people, the challenge embedded in these lines is to blend Dundrum’s rich heritage and its present strengths to bring a bright future for Dundrum as a modern urban village of which Eavan Boland would be proud. We hope that together we can do her proud.