"There were no maps in our house when I was growing up, none that I remember. At least not in the obvious places where I saw them in other houses--on the walls, framed, or as pages open on a table. If there were I have no image of them. But there were maps at school... Every day I sat there--six years old, then eight, then ten--always coming back to the same classroom for history, for science, for English, for religion. Always seeing a teacher in front of the map, speaking with certainty and precision. Often entering the strange illusion and that the teacher was mute and the map was speaking through her. Look what I own it said. See what you have lost... I was certainly aware, long before I wrote this poem, that the act of mapmaking is an act of power and that I--as a poet, as a woman and as a witness to the strange Irish silences which met that mixture of identities--was more and more inclined to contest those acts of power. The official version-and a map is rarely anything else--might not be suspect as it discovered territories and marked out destinations."In 'That the Science of Cartography is Limited', Boland writes about an incident where she came upon an Irish famine road in a wood. This road is not on the map. As she explains in the later essay, "the fact that these roads, so powerful in their meaning and so powerless at their origin, never showed up on any map of Ireland seemed to me then, as it does now, both emblematic and ironic."
Saturday, December 23, 2006
A famine road on the borders of Connacht
There is a recording of Eavan Boland reading her poem 'That the Science of Cartography is Limited' on the Norton site. There is also an essay by Boland in the Literary Review in which she taks about her boarding school in England: