Fiona Bolger – Old Love Poems Make Me Cry

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Old Love Poems Make me Cry

when I read old love poems

forty, fifty years of solid rock

and children, fossils embedded

in that love, I feel like sand

shifting beneath my daughter’s feet

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Describe your style (this could be limited to your writing style, or style, in whatever sense of the word you’d like to conceive it in, and how that relates to you as a writer).

Depending on what and where and how and when you ask, I’d describe my style as disorder, confusion, control and honesty. My world is full of fragments, clutter and chaos.  My poems are an attempt to order this for myself. I imagine my poems to be simple, bare and truthful. I try to write authentic poems, to paraphrase John Berger, contributing to the labour of poetry by reassembling what has been scattered.

What do you feel makes a poem ready for consumption by others?

If the process of making a poem involves a discovery I know the poem is alive. Adrienne Rich describes how she moved towards writing as an experience in itself and not a recording of experience, I no longer find that I can go to write a poem with a neat bunch of materials and express those materials according to a prior plan. I feel a poem is finished when a reader can enter the poem and through it make their own journey. Friends and writing groups give me a great sense of what is intelligible and what is idiolect.

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A good cup of coffee has the power to seduce.  What role does seduction play in your writing (i.e. – is it a theme in your work? Do you seduce yourself into the act of writing? Or does the seduction come when someone is drawn to your work – are you out to seduce poetry readers?  Does seduction have some other role entirely vis-à-vis your work, or, does it have no role at all?)

It is easy to fall into patterns of speech, ways of thinking, to follow well-trodden paths. Seduction, leading away from the familiar, is the essence of poetry. A good poem offers other ways of seeing and thinking. A poem is not a well-reasoned argument, it is an insight which can often affect more deeply.

At this moment in poems and writing, who’s writing the poems you like to read?

The poems in my head right now belong to Wisława Syzmborska, Imtiaz Dharker and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill. Szymborksa’s Thank-you Note is a beautiful anti-Love poem, almost, in praise of all things ordered and neat, nearly. Dharker’s She must be from another country  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfMZijLE-Tc) is my national anthem and wherever I dive in, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s Fifty Minute Mermaid collection gives me a feeling of great sadness and solace.

Where do you do your writing?  How important is ‘place’ and a sense of ‘space’ for a writer?

Sometimes I walk and sometimes I sit. My desk is at a window which catches all the morning sunlight. I love to feel the empty hours stretch before me with nothing to do but write. Some writers seem not to need this. Eavan Boland talks about minding her children when they were very small and sitting down to write between feeds and chores, I could never be that disciplined. I can want to write for hours while I do everything else, laundry, cleaning, washing up until finally I get around to sitting down and find myself with thirty minutes left and I have to rush everything. I am trying

to learn to pour the exact arc

of steel still soft and crazy

before it hits the page             (Michael Ondaatje)

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Stevie Smith once said that “poetry never has any kindness at all”.  How true do you think this is?

I think the person writing the poetry can never show kindness to herself. She cannot let herself off lightly with a superficial graze from the roughness of the subject matter, it needs to cut deeply and draw blood. I am not a kind woman (as you know Dimitra!) but sometimes kindness sneaks into poems, curls up on the page and won’t go away. I suppose that means it has to be left there.

When it comes to writing poems, and how events are captured on the page, do you think it is better for the poet to suffer from excruciatingly good memory, or excruciatingly bad? (i.e. what role does the truth have in writing a ‘good’ poem?)

I have a terrible memory. I constantly reframe the past to suit the present. In short trust nothing I write, unless it resonates with you and then you’ll know it’s true.

Telling Tales

choose the facts

the ones that fit the story

complete the puzzle

lose those moments

with softer edges – the jaggedness

slices them to shreds

the past is memories suspended

unfiltered air particles

not breathed but swallowed

(Quote from Esad Hecimovic, Dying of Pollution in Zenica, http://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Regions-and-countries/Bosnia-and-Herzegovina/Dying-of-pollution-in-Zenica-125737)

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Describe the last time you had a really stunning cup of coffee (or tea).

Last summer Vasantha Bavan, Adyar, Chennai. Steel tumbler, steel bowl. Gently lift the cup by its lip and tip the frothing coffee into the kattori. Lick your fingers, hot and sticky now. Proceed to pour the coffee from cup to bowl, kattori back to tumbler until it is cool enough to drink. Sip by sip enjoy the breeze of fans as Lakshmi watches from the walls in all her avatars and you taste drops of sweetness whipped from the ocean of milk.

Black, Strong, or Sweet?

Brown, steel strong, cane sweet.

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Fióna’s work has appeared in Southword, The Brown Critique,  Can Can, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus, The Chattahoochee Review, Bare Hands Poetry Anthology and others. Her poems first appeared in print tied to lamp posts, thanks to UpStart during the 2011 General Election Campaign. Coffee cups feel a lot more intimate. Her grimoire The Geometry of Love between the Elements, is due out soon from Poetry Bus Press. It will be available for tying to lamp posts or taking home with you, as you wish. She is a member of Dublin Writers’ Forum and Airfield Writers.

6 thoughts on “Fiona Bolger – Old Love Poems Make Me Cry

    • Thanks Peadar – looking forward to Fiona’s Grimoire – and am glad you’re enjoying the interviews. Had fun thinking up the questions – and the answers don’t disappoint!

  1. It”s been so much fun to do this Dimitra. Thanks. The questions really got me thinking.. something I don’t do too often.. more about time than desire. So thanks hugs. I am really loved Mark’s poem and I can’t wait to see the treats you have in store for us……

    • Thanks Fiona – a pleasure to have your poem be part of the series. And glad you enjoyed the Q&A. Very thoughtful answers to all those questions 🙂

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