Review: Home is Neither Here Nor There by Nandi Jola


Title: Home is Neither Here Nor There
Author: Nandi Jola
Publisher: Doire Press
Reviewer: Róisín Russell
Pages: 64
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781907682896
Price: €12
Publication date: 2022
Category: Poetry

Home is neither here nor there by Nandi Jola (Doire Press) is a collection of poems that shifts back and forth in time and place, between Belfast, the place she calls home now, and South Africa, the homeland she came from; creating a thread through time and considering how the past inevitably infiltrates, and shapes, the present. The collection is prefaced by a candid and humorous introduction to the poet, which has the effect of making us feel like she is opening her heart to us as she takes us on this journey with her. 

This same candid voice, with a newly serious tone, is carried into the poems as she tackles, with crystal clear eyes and words, a range of hard-hitting themes; from racism and violence (violence against women’s bodies in particular) to migration, struggles negotiating with local authorities, and understanding our own identity when we feel like we are falling between the cracks between two places and cultures. The poems also explore family, the joys and struggles of motherhood, and feeling of pride in culture and ritual, while illuminating and challenging stereotypes. ‘Did You Come Here by Boat’ is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that uses facts and precise, direct language to impact, whereas in ‘Let Us In’ the lyrically beautiful and evocative opening language mesmerises us before shocking us with select moments from a violent incident. Despite the difficult themes tackled, as the collection moves to a close there is a sense of hope, of looking forward. The wielding of language, as always, is of primary importance in this poetry collection but there is an added element here as Jola intersperses her English verse with phrases in Xhosa, reflecting the meditation on how, despite the adversities present in many communities, different languages and cultures can in fact sit comfortably alongside each other. 

These poems are all short, proving the old adage that it is quality not quantity that counts, and this is certainly a little book that packs a powerful punch. The collection closes with an extended insight into Jola’s upbringing and the beginnings of her dreams of being a storyteller, which serves to provide further context for the inspiration for these poems, and also has the circular effect of encouraging the reader to go back to the start, armed with further insight as to where these poems have come from. 

You can hear Nandi Jola discuss her poetry and more at our Belonging event at Dublin Book Festival. TICKETS HERE 

Want to delve into this wonderful collection ahead of the event? Support one of Ireland’s fantastic small, independent presses, and pick up your copy HERE