How can a person come to understand wars and hatreds well enough to explain them truthfully to a child? The Bower engages this timeless and thorny question through a recounting of the poet-speaker’s year in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with her young daughter. The speaker immerses herself in the history of Irish politics—including the sectarian conflict known as The Troubles—and gathers stories of a painful, divisive past from museum exhibits, newspapers, neighbors, friends, local musicians, and cabbies. Quietly meditative, brooding, and heart-wrenching, these poems place intimate moments between mother and daughter alongside images of nationalistic violence and the angers that underlie our daily interactions. A deep dive into sectarianism and forgiveness, this timely and nuanced book examines the many ways we are all implicated in the impulse to “protect our own” and asks how we manage the histories that divide us.
"Meditations, ruminations, history, nature, fables, folklore, family, and travel — daily events; painterly scenes — all carefully crafted within the city of Belfast and delivered in 80 pages of phrased couplets. There’s a lot that can be contained within Voisine’s chosen structure, and it moves from fable to fact with liquidity. Hidden within the texts are stories of betrayal, greed, love, war, and a poet’s sensibilities that bring together disparate elements into choreographed meaning — more symphonic than operatic."
Washington Independent Review of Books
“Connie Voisine seems to encompass everything that matters into this beautiful and affecting book-length meditation: from politics to motherhood, Irish folktale to the Iliad, youthful daring to middle-aged resignation. All are played out against a vividly evocative portrait of contemporary Belfast, with its charm, its bleakness, its murals, its music, its tentative present and brutal history. I devoured The Bower in one sitting and immediately began again to savor its many, many instances of lyricism, humor, perceptiveness, and wisdom.”
Jacqueline Osherow, author of Ultimatum from Paradise
“In The Bower, Voisine gives us a gloriously astute travelogue poem in which the conflicts and reconciliations in Belfast serve as metaphor for our current, increasingly intense world. She braids Irish folklore, history, the fragility of the environment, and the politics of class, race, and gender with our unnerving American moment. The Bower is political, profound, wise, and deeply engaging.”
Denise Duhamel, author of Blowout
"Voisine holds the on-the-ground, community-engaged poetics of The Bower in tension with its title’s promise of protection, safety, and care. What emerges through Voisine’s long poem is that conversation and speaking with each other is integral to the possibility of community reconciliation—concordantly, it is not a poet in an ivory tower, or a mystic, or a hermit that one encounters in The Bower, and the figure of the bower itself is not simply one of retreat and preservation."