Makeover by Laurie Bolger is a sizzling, dissolving snapshot. It’s a sticky but persistent moment in time.

Laurie Bolger is a talented poet and narrator, with clear strengths in imagistic and narrative writing. Her work reminds me of Cecilia Knapp, Rachel Long, and Hollie McNish, who blend the surreal with the everyday. Bolger’s experimental, concrete poetry takes a life of its own on the page, steering the reader in different directions but focused on a single location, event, and family.

Bolger’s poetry tends to be more ‘zoomed out’ than hyperfocused, offering narrative-led poetry on the body, family, and grief in the poem ‘Peach’ (italics are Laurie’s):

I pulled her from her glittering packaging I wanted everything for her

a moth in a crush of stars –

Mum walks through the door in her new coat / red with matching hat

The soft, gentle and familial poetry is very pleasant, and truly unlike Bolger’s contemporaries. I found myself startled, surprised, and thrown in with the changing tides and directions of each poem in Makeover.

I was fully immersed in this meshing of images, the blurring and blending of familiarity with some gorgeous turns of phrase. But, just as I’m in it, I’m pulled out again:

Auntie Teasy all horoscopes and nails

cursing and coughing

like she was emptying great bags of gravel

straight onto the coffee table

Bolger focuses heavily on ‘Mum’ and ‘Nan’ and her lines introducing and re-introducing this host of characters did impact my engagement with a few of the poems. There were poems on body image, including diet culture and how that is encouraged between generations, that I found fitting and moving at times. Bolger’s ‘Mermaid’ is a standout poem for me, particularly this section:

my eyes fall out

two scallops in some shells

The poems in here feel like a dust-lidded album of family photographs, sentimental, nostalgic, with the lack of ironic distance that is a hallmark of contemporary poetry. That is one of Bolger’s strengths and a point to draw more work as she creates more poems and bodies of work.

Another standout poem was ‘Swim’. Several of Bolger’s poems in this pamphlet sprawl across pages, like sketches in sand. These images were particularly enjoyable:

and her heart

a big octopus of a thing

that was inked to see what was going on with it

and mine kept on floating

There are several moments in this pamphlet where I encountered words and phrases I hadn’t seen in this order before. Makeover is a fun, stirring, and comforting pamphlet, with a variety and uniqueness in tone that makes Laurie Bolger a poet to watch.


Makeover is available to buy from The Emma Press website.