An Essayby Maria Hummel
On a late April day in 2020, across the ocean in Ireland, Eavan Boland died. The news seemed impossible, untrue. As director of Stanford’s celebrated writing program for twenty-one years, Eavan was omnipresent and vital, a feature of campus as fixed as Rodin’s somber Burghers of Calais or the tall palms lining the drives. For decades Eavan imprinted on younger writers like me an image of the Great Poet as a slender, alert woman with red hair, a hawk-like gaze, and an alto Irish brogue that could tip as easily into a witty retort as an inspired, exacting, page-long speech. Within hours, she was gone. Together we friends and fans grieved over Zoom memorials, and tributes unrolled in feeds from around the world. And then we returned to our isolated lives, to our breath-damp masks and closed doors, not yet seeing what her absence among us would truly mean, because we could not gather in community.