This Moment by Eavan Boland

In This Moment’ Boland captures the liminal existence of a neighbourhood as it waits for the stars to rise and the moths to fly. The poet’s images are clear, to the point, and referential to one single point in time that won’t exist in the same way ever again. Through the short, choppy lines Boland uses a reader can interpret themes of night, time, and temporality. 

This Moment by Eavan Boland

 

Summary of This Moment 

‘This Moment’ by Eavan Boland is a short poem that captures a snapshot of dusk in a neighbourhood positioned exactly between day and night. 

The poem begins with the speaker giving the reader a few simple comments about the setting. These provide the backbone to ‘This Moment’. She also references things that are about to come but aren’t happening yet. Soon, there will be stars in the sky and moths flying in the air. Now though, it is still dusk. There’s light on some of the trees and a mother and her child are still outdoors. 

‘This Moment’ concludes with the speaker alluding to the peaceful onset of night. All the things she said would happen are happening. 

You can read the full poem This Moment here.

 

Poetic Techniques in This Moment 

This Moment’ by Eavan Boland is a fifteen line poem that’s divided into uneven stanzas. They range in length from one to three lines each. The lines do not conform to a specific rhyme scheme, but there are several poetic techniques Boland utilizes in order to give this work a feeling of rhyme. They include alliteration, enjambement, anaphora, and repetition. 

The latter, repetition, is the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone, or phrase within a poem. In ‘This Moment’ Boland utilizes short, choppy lines throughout the text. The phrases are often incomplete sentences that are meant to relate back to the poem’s overall intention, to depict a specific moment. These are snapshots of a time and place the speaker is noticing at that moment. For example, line five: “Stars and moths.” Or, line eight: “One tree is black.”

Boland also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This can be seen in the fifth stanza, lines eight and nine. Both of these lines begin with the word “One”. 

Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For instance, lines five, six and seven with the words “sight,” “Stars” and “slanting”. It can also be seen in lines eight and nine with the words “black” and “butter”. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. This can be seen in the transition between lines three, four and five as a reader finds out what “Things are getting ready  / to happen / out of sight”. 

 

Analysis of This Moment

Lines 1-5

At dusk.
(…)
out of sight.

In the first lines of ‘This Moment,’ the speaker establishes the scene through two snapshots. These inform the reader that she’s going to be looking at “A neighbourhood” as the sun is setting. There are very few details in this poem, a technique that allows the reader to create their own mental image of the place Boland is vaguely describing. The next stanza, which consists of three lines, prepares the reader for “Things”. 

These things are coming, they’re on the way, but there’s no way to know yet what they’re going to be. This is a skillful use of foreshadowing that still conforms to the established structure of the poem. The short choppy lines encourage a reader to move quickly from one line to the next to find out what’s going to happen next. This impulse is expanded through the use of enjambment. 

 

Lines 5-7

Stars and moths.
(…)
But not yet.

The next three lines speak to what’s going to happen in the future. There will be “Stars and moths” decorating the landscape of this dusk-time neighbourhood, but “not yet”. The reader and speaker are existing within a liminal space, between day and night. The “dusk” period is lasting for a little bit longer. 

Boland also suggests that the “rinds” will be “slanting around the fruit,” but again, not yet. 

 

Lines 8-12

One tree is black.
(…)
this moment.

The eighth and ninth lines of ‘This Moment’ describe the light playing on the trees around the neighbourhood. Because it is not yet night, nor is it still completely day, some of the trees are dark and some are still catching a bit of sunlight. Boland utilizes a simile in the ninth line. This is a comparison between two unlike things that uses “like” or “as”. In this case, she said that the light tree was “yellow as butter”. 

The title of the poem, ‘This Moment,’ is utilized in the twelfth line of text. Here, the speaker is noticing the human side of the dusk-time neighbourhood. A child runs into a woman’s arms at “this moment”. It happens now, as the poet is writing, and then it’s over. The entire poem, but especially this section of the verse, allude to a larger theme of time and its fleeting nature. 

 

Lines 13-15 

Stars rise.
(…)
Apples sweeten in the dark.

The last three lines are as short and lyrical as the rest have been. It appears that the moment of dusk is over and now the stars are rising in the sky. They “rise” and “Moths flutter”. Movement and change are coming over the scene, but it’s not a bad change. It’s just the start of another moment, and all the moments to come. The last line connects back to the reference to fruit in line six. Here, the speaker describes how the apples are sweetening “in the dark”.

The night is not presented forebodingly or negatively as it might be in another poem. In ‘This Moment’  the night is a place of equal peace to the day and dusk. Plus, it is a time in which things “happen” that doesn’t happen when it’s light out. It provides the speaker with the opportunity to see the moths and stars and pick the ripe apples. 

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  • Avatar Peter says:

    The poem is perhaps more profound than one realises at first reading.
    Boland reveals the world revolving around the human ‘act’ of love. As soon as the child runs to a woman’s arms then the cosmos moves into action. Prior to this the universe waits for its stimulus, it is getting ready. ‘But not yet.’ At the centre of the poem is the natural act of love. It is, if you like, the fuel for the whole cosmos. Once it occurs, then ‘Stars rise’, ‘moths flutter’ and all things enact a positive, upward, opening trajectory.
    Boland places this apparently routine, liminal, domestic act in the centre of the natural universe.
    So, philosophically, the universe makes sense to us, humans, viewed through the lens of love. The poem opens up questions about how we forge an understanding of cosmic forces through emotional relevance; about how we enoble small, almost hidden human actions by accounting them equivalent to the laws of the universe – and, crucially, vice versa.
    That she achieves articulation of such a deep philosophical concept through pithy description and in so few words makes the work astonishing.

    • Lee-James Bovey Lee-James Bovey says:

      This is amazing. Thank you for enriching us with your knowledge!

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