Staring Inward: Eavan Boland’s Archive of Silences in Domestic Violence


  • Marcos Hernandez Universidad de La Laguna



Eavan Boland, Contemporary Irish Poetry, Irish history, Silence in literature


The critical revision of the ways in which literature represents the conflict between voice and silence has traditionally led to the consideration of poetry as a genre in which this contrast acquires a deep resonance. From the distribution of its formal pauses to the gaps in meaning between the explicit and the implicit levels of language, silence and the unsaid can be defined as fundamental components to perceive the literary text. In the case of the Irish poet Eavan Boland, her position in relation to this antagonism has been critically studied according to her desire of giving voice through her poetry to all those Irish women who have been historically silenced. In doing so, the contrast between these two extremes has been frequently connected to her distinctions between history and the past and the public and the domestic poem. This essay will analyse the conducting thread joining these oppositions through a close reading of two poems from her compilation Domestic Violence (2007). Additionally, it will explore Boland’s silences not only as an act of giving voice to the unvoiced but also as a formal expression of the layers of meaning hidden underneath the poem. 

Author Biography

Marcos Hernandez, Universidad de La Laguna

Marcos Hernandez is an assistant lecturer and PhD candidate at the University of La Laguna (Spain). After obtaining his Master’s degree in Advanced English Studies at the University of Santiago de Compostela in 2019, his research profile has focused on the symbolic representation of trauma, silence and “the unsaid” as well as the depiction of time and chronology in contemporary British and Irish poetry and drama. Following the premises posited by these fields, these thematic questions have been applied to the works of poets such as W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Kimberly Campanello, and Eavan Boland, playwrights such as Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and Brian Friel, and topics such as the events associated to the Irish Mother and Baby Homes. He has been awarded a collaboration scholarship in the Department of English and German Studies and the Award for Excellence in Academic Performance at the University of La Laguna. He is currently working on his PhD dissertation on the typologies of silence present in the works of the English poet Philip Larkin.  


Boland, Eavan. A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet. WW Norton, 2011.

Boland, Eavan. Domestic Violence. Carcanet Press, 2007.

Boland, Eavan. “On ‘The Journey’.” Dwelling in Possibility: Women Poets and Critics on Poetry, edited by Yopie Prins and Maeera Shreiber, Cornell University Press, 1997, pp. 187–189.

Boller, Alessandra. “Women, Violence, and Silence: Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked Into Doors.” Silence in Modern Irish Literature, edited by Michael McAteer, Brill Rodopi, 2017.

Clutterbuck, Catriona. “The Irish History Wars and Irish women’s poetry: Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Eavan Boland.” The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century British and Irish Women’s Poetry, edited by Jane Dowson, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 97–118.

Collins, Lucy. Contemporary Irish Women Poets. Memory and Estrangement. Liverpool University Press, 2015.

García-García, Ana Rosa. “Living the space: the personal and collective experience in Eavan Boland’s vision.” Literature, Gender, Space, edited by Sonia Villegas-López and Beatriz Domínguez-García, Universidad de Huelva Publicaciones, 2004, pp. 125–130.

Gould, Thomas. Silence in Modern Literature and Philosophy. Palgrave MacMillan, 2018.

Graves, Robert. Los mitos griegos. Barcelona, Ariel, 2004.

Kennedy, Rossane T. Rousseau in Drag: Deconstructing Gender. Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.

Kinzie Mary. A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Leech, Geoffrey. A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. Longman, 1988.

McAteer, Michael. Introduction. Silence in Modern Irish Literature, by McAteer, Brill Rodopi, pp. 1–22.

Miquel-Baldellou, Marta. “Women in the Twilight and Identity in the Making: The Concept of Transition in Eavan Boland’s Poetry” Estudios Irlandeses, no. 2, 2007, pp. 128–134.

Olsson, Ulf. Silence and Subject in Modern Literature: Spoken Violence. Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.

Ovid. Metamorphoses: The New, Annotated Edition, translated by Rolfe Humphries and annotated by Joseph D. Reed, Indiana University Press, 2018.

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. D’Alembert on the Theatre, translated by Allan Bloom, Cornell University Press, 1960.

Strand, Mark and Eavan Boland, editors. The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. W.W. Norton, 2000.

Theinová, Daniela. Limits and Languages in Contemporary Irish Women’s Poetry. Palgrave MacMillan, 2020.

Thoss, Jeff. “Cartographic Ekphrasis: Map Descriptions in the Poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Eavan Boland.” Word & Image, vol. 32, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 64–76.

Villar-Argáiz, Pilar. “Poetry as a ‘Humane Enterprise’: Interview with Eavan Boland on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of her Literary Career.” Estudios Irlandeses, no. 7, 2012, pp. 113–120.

Villar-Argáiz, Pilar. “The Text of It: A Conversation with Eavan Boland.” New Hibernia Review, vol. 10, no. 2, Summer 2006, pp. 52–67.




How to Cite

Hernandez, M. (2021). Staring Inward: Eavan Boland’s Archive of Silences in Domestic Violence. ABEI Journal: The Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies, 23(2), 89-104.