Tradition renews itself

As we continue to post contributions from the Institute’s network, we are pleased to highlight another of our colleagues from the University of Dallas, Dr. Gregory Roper, who points us to a great Irish poet worthy of our attention.

Through the #PoetryLockdown feed of a former student, Czach Zaia, I recently learned of Eavan Boland’s passing.  She was one of, if not the leading poet of Ireland when she died.  I found her through a poet friend, and it’s always fun to find a new writer of great quality not through a class or assignment or syllabus but simply on your own, or through the recommendation of a friend. 

Boland’s poem, “The Pomegranate,” from her collection, In A Time of Violence (1994), is one of my favorites–such great use of a classical myth, transferred to a present-day suburban mom’s life with great apparent ease and felicity. Until you realize the hard work, the craft, that went into that sprezzatura.  Those Irish poets of a certain generation really got a “classical education,” and it shows in the way they work with, allude to, and otherwise reference ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and other texts–not overly reverent, but not cynically undercutting and undermining.  

It’s a great testimony to T.S. Eliot’s understanding of “Tradition and the Individual Talent”: each new work in the tradition transforms the entire tradition, including works written long ago. After reading Boland’s poem, I will never encounter the myth of Persephone the same way, ever again.

Dr. Gregory Roper is Associate Professor of English at the University of Dallas and a Fellow of the Institute for Classical Education. Dr. Roper is an associated faculty of the master’s degree in classical education at UD.


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