“In an odd and poignant way these two lives, of a poet and a woman, have proved to be formidable historical editors of each other. In previous centuries, when the poet’s life was an emblem for the grace and power of a society, a woman’s life was often the object of his expression: in pastoral, sonnet, elegy. As the mute object of his eloquence her life could be at once addressed and silenced. By an ironic reversal, now that a woman’s life is that emblem of grace and power, the democratized of our communities, of which her emergence is one aspect, makes a poet’s life look suspect, can make it appear, to a wider society, elite and irrelevant all at once. Therefore, for anyone who is drawn into either of these lives, the pressure is there to betray the other: to disown or simplify, to resolve an inherent tension by making a false design from the ethical capabilities of one life or the visionary possibilities of the other.”
-p. xiv, Object Lessons, Eavan Boland
There is so much in this quote. I’ve just started this book, and I can already see it’s going to be a slow read – not because it’s dull, but just because it’s heavy with enormous statements. I’ll have a lot to think about and chew on through this book.
It’s interesting how she highlights the changing power statuses of both the woman and the poet. I see where she is coming from, saying that it’s nearly as if the woman and the poet have switched roles in the last hundred years or so. And there is a tension between the woman’s role and the poet’s role, even in these changing times. At the most basic, a writer has to be selfish with her time, her ability, her art. A woman, especially one who is a wife and mother, is not allowed to be selfish. There is a tension. It’s hard to reconcile, and as Boland implies, women tend to betray one or the other. I’m not sure I’ve ever put a name to that tension but I do feel it on occasion, especially when I think about my plans for the future. It’ll be interesting to see how Boland discusses it throughout her book.
If it’s not obvious from my scattered thoughts, I’m tired tonight. Spending all day working at a commencement when you watched those you love move past you is physically and emotionally exhausting. It was sad and beautiful all at once. Thus I don’t feel like I have too much to offer, creatively. But it’s fine. I’ll see what I can pull out.