Lost and Somewhere Else. Jenny Bornholdt (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2019). ISBN 97817765562862. RRP $25. 75pp.
Reviewed by Lily Holloway
In the titular poem, Bornholdt begins with the lines:
Where do I stand?
in the little square of sunlight
by the back door.
(“Lost and Somewhere Else”)
To me, Lost and Somewhere Else seems to be a collection of these little squares of sunlight. A collection of windows that allows glimpses into the poet’s memories and imagined worlds. Worlds that have the habit of bleeding into each other and taking on transformations of their own.
Even when remembered places and people fade in and out of focus, Bornholdt’s language remains finely tuned. This leads the reader to beautiful pockets of specific imagery:
The baby bowls
our gathered avocado
across the kitchen floor’s
The reader is placed thoughtfully within the imagery. Bornholdt directs the reader towards different areas of focus, such as when she describes, ‘From there I can see /our bridesmaid rhododendron’ (“Lost and Somewhere Else”). This creates a sensation I can only describe as being submerged within another person’s dream.
The specific focus on certain images evokes the sensation that Bornholdt is guiding us through the essential parts of a memory. For example, in “Typhoon”, the poem’s final resting place is on the ‘two-bar Typhoon / heating the room’. In “Cellular”, Bornholdt states that ‘the main thing I thought about / was a silk shirt patterned in deep reds and blues’. These moments of heightened focus are absolutely delicious.
There is also a sense of being privy to something, but not quite knowing the meaning. For example, in this section from “Science”:
My heart, which sometimes, drowning
in circumstance, has to
give a little. Like the apple tree
from Mark and Lucy,
by its crop, propped
by Chris’s bee frame.
The feeling of having a heart heavy with its own fruit is such a resonant one. But by referring to characters the reader is not familiar with, Bornholdt creates added distance, and makes it feel as though one is looking through a window to a secret world.
The piece “Cultural Studies” is an experiment with association and belonging. The piece itself was inspired by/created alongside a children’s sticker book, and this has inspired me to look in new and unexpected places for poetry content. As the poem progresses, the well defined categories of place and time are overcome, which makes for an exciting exploration of “what if…?” The result is a pleasantly unexpected mix-match.
Within this collection, there are many individual moments that bring the spark of recognition that every poetry reader longs for, and I wish that I could spend a moment addressing them all. This is the kind of collection that is very hard to pin down and I feel that with this review, I have only really highlighted it from one direction. I have read this collection several times now and each time, it is illuminating in a different way. Sometimes phrases and fragments stick out—‘Slug tracery’ (“Typhoon”), ‘An hour is quail / on the lawn’ (“Ice Likely”), ‘Family detonates / inside you’ (“Gone”), ‘chemical sisters’ (“Duck Three Ways”)—and other times, whole segments:
The tree’s last lemon
in the dank corner.
Toaster cord bound
in red tape
like a chilli
What strikes me as consistent throughout the collection is Bornholdt’s skillful demonstration of variety in content and form. Each ‘little square of sunlight’ is a different world and a pleasure to dive into.
Lily Holloway is a 21-year old English and Ancient History student. You can find her writing in Mayhem, The Spinoff, The Three Lamps, Mindfood and various other nooks and crannies.