“Anorexic” the Poem by Eavan Boland

Poem “Anorexic” written by Eavan Boland is full of pain and suffering. The poem’s genre is a dramatic monologue aimed at describing sufferings of a woman caused by a specific person. “Anorexic” talks about different aspects of human experiences and feelings. The emotional appeals conveyed through strong words portraying feelings, emotions, and actions are the vital elements to pay attention to while dissecting the meaning of the poem.

Even though the voice of the poem says “I”, the author is not identified as the poem’s speaker. For example, in some places “I” is replaced with “she” which gives a reader a hint that the poem is not about author’s experience. The tone of the voice is dramatic and emotional, while the poem’s perspective is physical. Author has skillfully drawn a clear connection between thoughts and actions: anorexia caused by the loss of the lover or end of relations. However, the author has failed to create a clear poem setting.

The author had no intention to develop a specific subject of a poem and, more interestingly, the poem seems to be written by two or more authors. For example, the first two stanzas are the “words” of suffering woman, the third stanza is the “reply” of another person to her sufferings, the fourth and the fifths stanzas seem to the reaction of the author to the whole situation, and the rest of the poem is devoted to “words” of the woman again. The structure is rather thematic than formal because the poem starts with overall description of emotion, continues with reactions, and ends with hopes and dreams a woman has.

Despite of the lack of clear structure and unobvious conflicts, the poem poses a clear problem and has climax. The problem is embedded in emotional setting (physical and emotional sufferings of a woman), and the poem climax appears when a woman starts dreaming about the opportunity to re-live several days with her lover and she says, “Caged so I will grow angular and holy past pain”. This idea, spread by the author into four lines, is the climax of the poem – the point when woman realizes her need for relief.

Author has been very careful with the usage of imagery and managed to combine images of physical setting and figures of speech. For example, the lines “I am starved and curveless. I am skin and bone” contain the element of physical imagery (the reader gets a clear picture of the very slim and hungry woman). While the line “how she meshed my head in the half-truths of her fevers” is an example of figurative speech. Notably, this one line has powerful impact on reader’s attitude towards a suffering woman – it makes the reader think that a woman overemphasizes her sufferings, it leads to the thoughts that she is not really suffering. The shortness of each line carries symbolic meaning as if the author wanted to show that each words is valuable.

The sound of “Anorexic” is like the echo to the sense. The vivid descriptions and harsh words perfectly fit together and contribute to poem’s meaning. Eavan Boland uses puns and double meanings to convey the theme: physical and emotional sufferings. The poem evokes pity and disgust, sympathy and aversion. It leads the reader to feel along with a woman in her physical pain, soul sufferings, dreams and hopes. Despite of structural complexity and absence of clear presentation, poem “Anorexic” is a sound poem reflecting human sufferings.

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