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Anne Enright

In her essay ‘The Irish Woman Poet’, Eavan Boland (herself considered Ireland’s greatest female poet) noted that ‘The life of the Irish woman – the ordinary lived life – was both invisible and, when it became visible, was considered inappropriate as a theme for Irish poetry.’ The only place within poetry for an Irish woman, history seemed to insist, was as either muse or myth. Any hint of her as a flesh-and-blood creature was effectively erased.

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Actress by Anne Enright

March 2020, no. 419

Anne Enright has never been able to resist the tidal pull of mothers; her novels are animated by complex, ambivalent maternal presences, women rendered on the page with duelling measures of hatred and hunger, empathy and censure. There is the mercurial tyrant Rosaleen Madigan of The Green Road (2015), ‘a woman who did nothing and expected everything’. There is the hapless, hazy Maureen Hegarty of the Booker Prize-winning The Gathering (2007), erased by her endless pregnancies and too many children; ‘a piece of benign human meat, sitting in a room’.

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