Crossing borders of meaning, territory and flesh itself, Fióna Bolger’s new poems explore the limits and possibilities of language. Survival can depend on nuance, insider slang, an accurate translation, or knowing when to stay silent. Fired by a passion for justice and her awareness of how rarely justice is served, Bolger gives voice to the migrant and the exile, who retain their dignity and the markers of their culture. Shot through with colour, energy and a sensuous engagement with the natural world, these elemental poems linger long in the reader’s imagination: “the flame is hottest where it’s blue”.
What do we keep in us when we translate a word, the world, a person? What remains of that current “back and forth” between people? Love in the Original Language is a joyful collection posing these questions and many others, a crossing borders experience, in language, in life, in poetry. A Penelope on the contrary who, in order to continue sewing, inevitably has to puncture and unravel the fabric she is working on, to go back to the original language of love. Fióna’s poems articulate a canto, they breathe joy, lively voices respond one to the other, in a unified process of seeking the flow between humans, between languages. Every poem in this collection trusts in the perpetual creation of a new language of hope. We eat cherries to leave some uneaten, ‘to share the joy of juice and sweetness’ on a half empty bench in a park.
Words are also containers of memories. ‘Encoded in our breath’. Fióna’s words gift us a sense of humanity and operate as a translator of complex twenty-first century human relations between people fleeing wars, homelessness, environmental crisis, poverty. Thus every object becomes ‘a vast repository of time’, it witnesses humanity and the passing of time. Although language is inadequate to speak of tragedy, the space between silences becomes a possibility: words open up, transform, they blossom life. Reading this collection is a long yoga session, you breath, you change position again and again and in changing, breathing and keeping the flow you feel satisfied, as love makes us.
Radiant throughout Love in the Original Language, Fióna Bolger’s storylines become lifelines for the reader and for the world the book describes. Thus, these stanzas provide a safe space in dangerous times, breathing life into the boundaries between nations and inspiring human warmth into the gulfs that so persistently isolate us. Cold numbers are made to dance in some of the poems’ treatment of mathematical concepts. Yes. Numbers become songs, and calculus becomes a form of love born from the human heart’s fragments. Read Fióna Bolger’s poems. Cross seas. This book’s vision is for a humanity greater than the sum of satellites and algorithms that threaten to limit and of the drones that are poised to pulverize. These poems continually inspire a love for the dignity of what is original and human. Read Fióna Bolger in this, the Original.
—John Lavin, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia