|About the Book|
I think Im going to set Boland aside and read something else for a while. While I thought her poem The Journey (not included in this collection) might qualify as an immortal masterwork, I generally prefer the compression and tightly-wound intensity of other feminist poets such as Plath.Outside History is divided into three sections. The first section, Object Lessons, is devoted to parsing out the emotional significance of quotidian objects: a book, a doll, a coffee mug, etc. Some of these poems succeed -- for example, The Black Lace Fan My Mother Gave Me is a nice romantic little lyric -- but, as I read them, I kept wishing these poems would delve deeper, that they would unearth some communicable insight that would make me exclaim, Huh. I never thought about silverware that way before! Instead, most of these poems seemed too-brief, not communicating much that was memorable to me.The second section, Outside History, is a laxly-tied-together poem-sequence exploring the poets reasons for consciously choosing Human History, rather than Mythology or Natural History, as the cornerstone for her poetry. While I appreciated the humanist sentiment and found it to be powerfully worded in some places, I thought the sequence was uneven: The Makings of an Irish Goddess stood out as one of the stronger pieces in the set.Distances, the third section, is a wistful evocation of the distances between infancy and adulthood, between Ireland and America (the latter is Eire-born Bolands adopted homeland), between lover and beloved, etc. This section was my favorite (although I felt it contained a few too many poems in which the poet was simply standing alone at her window and commenting rather lazily on the seasonal scenery). Of note, Contingencies is a sensual-cum-analytical fruit-filled poem reminiscent of Robert Hasss best work (in particuar, Hasss blackberry-laden Meditation at Lagunitas). Another favorite, What Love Intended, showcases Bolands talent for crafting unexpected and beautiful endings: this poem concludes with a seemingly offhand comment about the two whitebeams/outside the house and the next-door-neighbor/who used to say in April--/when one was slow to bloom--/they were a man and woman.