Friday, October 11, 2013

if this is not magic, what is?

Today I'm talking to Fiona Bolger, author of  The Geometry of Love Between The Elements which is the first Grimoire from The Poetry Bus publishers - Peadar and Collette O' Donoghue. Bolger's poetry is both exacting and sensual, I particularly loved the thematic coherence -  how geometry, love and the elements fit and flow between the covers - which leads to my first question... 

Welcome to the blog Fiona. The first thing that struck me about The Geometry of Love Between The Elements was how coherent it feels as a collection. Were the poems written very much as a collection, with the themes in mind, from start to finish?

The poems were responses to various moments in my life and the lives of people around me. I won't say they were written as a collection but as repeated images and patterns began to emerge I began to imagine them as a group or small collection. I became obsessed for some reason with geometry. I loved learning theorems in school and those vague memories brought back to me the thrill of figuring out the problem and writing QED. For some reason, maybe I wanted to write a poem which would explain everything and put a neat QED under it, I kept at the geometry angle for a while. Even now the odd geometry poem emerges. The other theme is the elements again I just found the pattern emerging as I wrote more poems.  

The book contains art work and poems in Irish, polish and Tamil (which I confess to having to to google) can you tell me more about that? Was the art made in direct response to the poetry?

The artwork was done by my good friend Vani Vemparala. She had been creating these wonderful images for a while and I asked her if I could use one for the cover of my book if I ever got one sorted. She agreed and asked to see the poems. She then offered to create works for the book itself. In the end we went through all her work and chose a few which I then used to help me organise the book thematically.
The Irish poems are the work of Antain Mac Lochlainn. We met through Dublin Writers Forum (where many of these poems were workshopped). At the end of some sessions he would hand me a copy of my poem translated into Irish. I was thrilled to see my ideas in Irish as I love the language but lack fluency. When the book came about Peadar and Collette and I thought it would be great to include the Irish poems also. -Antain chose the poems he wanted to translate.

mo chorp ina leacht anois
crochta i lár an aeir
déan cuach ded’ lámha
glac chughat mé
go mbead iomlán arís

My friend Ola was staying with me and John Kearns suggested she translate the poems into Polish.I understand some Polish, a lot less than I did 20 years ago when I lived in Sandomierz and no-one there spoke English. But I love to hear the poems in Polish. Tamil is probably somewhere between my second and third language. I lived in Tamil Nadu for 10 years so I really wanted the poems in Tamil too. My friends K. Srilata and R. Vatsala both of whom are very accomplished writers in English and Tamil agreed to help me. Vatsala's Tamil poems have were a great hit in Chennai at the first Grimoire launch.
I love your opening piece, about reader and poet coming together through the poem. Does this awareness affect how you write, is it very much on your mind, the poem being alive between you and the reader?

Mostly I am clearly addressing someone and I hope the reader feels included in that loop.Sometimes I write poems for my self, telling myself something I need to know or take into account or be aware of. It sounds a bit mad I guess but there you go.  I was very taken with the Krik Krak idea when I came across it through Edwidge Danticat's book of that name, a collection of short stories. I believe there is real magic when two people understand each other through words... a poem is a little spell of sorts.
Krik I sit
Krak you sit there
I put this black pen
on the white page
you look down
at these words
here is my hand
reach out and hold it
we are not alone
if this is not magic
what is?

 I also loved the poem 'Cure for a Sharp Shock' can you tell me a little about it?

I had high hopes that something very lovely would work out for me and another person and it did not and I was very sad. I wrote this to help myself get over the sadness. It worked for me and a few people have mentioned that they like the poem so I hope it helps them too. The last stanza about the broken pottery... well it is something I read in a book for teachers in India. It was explaining how to make a whistle, I think, using old balloon and broken pottery, recycling at its best.  I don't know if it works but then something good did come out of the sadness, a poem that made me happy... so I guess it's true.

Cure for a Sharp Shock
it's that moment
when you trust
let go the balloon
your hope floats
up into the air
it's beautiful and red
it bursts
empty rubber pieces
a shade darker
float to earth
I read somewhere
if you take these shreds
put them between broken
pieces of pottery
and blow
they'll sound beautiful
I'm not sure
I read it

From brokeness to song, it surely is recycling at its best, what are you working on now? 
Ah.. well I have gone a bit mad on the cure poems. I got fed up writing cures for myself and asked on face book if anyone would like a cure poem. I got about 20 requests and I felt really honoured. It has been great writing them, a really powerful experience for me. I am not sure where this will go next but I am not the first to find poetry healing and I hope some of the cures I have posted out have made people feel even a little better.  
Cure Poems - that's an exciting and beautiful idea, (here's a link to Fiona's Poetry Face book Page) Finally Fiona, what poets have inspired you, do you have a favorite quote?

Can I be really cliched and say I adored Emily Dickinson from the first time I came across her aged 15? And Eliot too. Now I think, as in right now... I am madly in love with Sharon Olds' Stags Leap. I keep giving it to people. Before that the book I kept giving everyone and couldn't leave the house without was Carol Ann Duffy's Rapture. I love the idea of a book of poems working like a novel with a narrative flow. Another book I love is The Weight of Water, Sarah Crossan. It is a novel told through poems and suitable for anyone from 12 on I would say. And for the sake of gender balance I would say Dermot Healy's A Fool's Errand is beside my bed right now.
Favourite quote:
To learn to pour
the exact arc of steel
still soft and crazy
before it hits the page.

It's from Taking in Michael Ondaatje's  book The Cinnamon Peeler's Wife. It kind of sums up what poetry is all about for me. It also has arcs and curves and heat and cold and I love it.

Thanks Fiona, for your answers and poems - its been inspiring, and best of luck with your Grimoire, (which can be purchased Here)


Old Kitty said...

I always need to read poetry a few times to - I guess - get the music!

Now I wish I could read and understand Irish!

These are snippets of very beautiful songs! Thank you!

Take care

Titus said...

Thank you both, and I'm off on a grimoire hunt now.

The Poetry Bus said...

Questions, answers, magic, cures, quotes. What more could we want in an interview?! Well done Fiona and Niamh!

Rachel Fenton said...

This was such a lovely interview - it felt more like a chat over food with friends than an interview, actually. Sweet. I can't wait to read you, Fiona. The pared back nature of your poems really appeals to me and I love the form, from the way you and Niamh describe it, of the whole book - plus the illustrations, if the cover is the bench mark - wow! Thanks both of you!

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