That the Science of Cartography Is Limited

—and not simply by the fact that this shading of
forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,
the gloom of cypresses
is what I wish to prove.

When you and I were first in love we drove
to the borders of Connacht
and entered a wood there.

Look down you said: this was once a famine road.

I looked down at ivy and the scutch grass
rough-cast stone had
disappeared into as you told me
in the second winter of their ordeal, in

1847, when the crop had failed twice,
Relief Committees gave
the starving Irish such roads to build.

Where they died, there the road ended

and ends still and when I take down
the map of this island, it is never so
I can say here is
the masterful, the apt rendering of

the spherical as flat, nor
an ingenious design which persuades a curve
into a plane,
but to tell myself again that
the line which says woodland and cries hunger
and gives out among sweet pine and cypress,
and finds no horizon

will not be there.

–Eavan Boland

These insights are from an interview with the Irish poet Eavan Boland in Caffeine Destiny:

I’ve often said that I don’t think poetry is a particularly good form of expression. I know that goes against the grain, but I believe that. Photographs are more accurate. Theatre is more eloquent. But poetry is a superb, powerful and true form of experience. That’s the satisfaction for me. I don’t write a poem to express an experience. I write it to experience the experience. And the unforgettable poem I read, the one I remember, is the one that manages to convey the experience to me, which someone else once had -maybe hundreds years ago- and, by a poise of music and language, convey it almost intact.

Advertisements