The Protection of Ghosts

The Protection of Ghosts shows how our past can equally haunt and protect us. Here are lyrical poems about intergenerational trauma, familial exile, loss, cultural legacy and hope. In ‘Operation Ranch Hand’, Natalie Linh Bolderston explores how the damage caused by chemical warfare materialises and continues to the present time when a woman ‘does not know about the scar / that is forming inside, that her daughter / will be born wordless on a stretcher.’ The themes of separation and pain are beautifully laced in ‘My mother’s nightmares’ where ‘my mother reaches, / …and I do not know whether I am rising or she is / falling – ’, while a sense of belonging is discovered from the stories passed down to us: ‘…we grew a lot of fruit and greens on the roof. / Always eat with chilli and salt. You try!’ (‘When Bà Ngoại tells stories’). Natalie Linh Bolderston is definitely a distinct and daring voice you would not want to miss.” Romalyn Ante

“In her first pamphlet, Natalie Linh Bolderston portrays the knowledge and care shared among generations of women in poems at once sensory and tender, vivid and emotive. The Protection of Ghosts is a most welcome debut.” V. Press Guest Editor Carrie Etter

The Protection of Ghosts is very haunting and very intricate.

A sample poem from The Protection of Ghosts can be found below.

36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9165052-3-0
R.R.P. £6.50


From Bà Cố to Bà Ngoại

Daughter, do not let your feet grow septic with running,
your tongue surrender in your throat.

The country will not know your name.
When your children forget my name, remind them:
I am not just someone who used to love you.

Because you share my bed in times of sickness
and pregnancy, reach for me
as the sun paints you awake.

Con yêu của mẹ, can you hear me?
Remember this when you cradle your daughter
in the early hours, and you want
to throw prayers at the walls
and set the bedposts alight.

Instead, send me a picture of a little girl with frost in her hair
and a face that used to be yours.

When you return from the cold,
show me the shape of the water you crossed,
the blue air in your lungs. 

Bà Cố – great grandmother
Bà Ngoại – maternal grandmother
Con yêu của mẹ – my darling daughter

A previous version of this poem was published in issue 2 of The Good Journal.


"[...]Bolderston's poetry transforms history into the personal, a seamless flux of voices and multilingual expressions. Tender yet unflinching, these poems tell of survivors of atrocities, armed with knowledge and love."
Jennifer Wong, The Poetry Review, full review of this "poetic testimony" in Vol 109, No 3, Autumn 2019.

"Family and inheritance are recurrent motifs in Natalie Linh Bolderston's wonderful debut pamphlet, The Protection of Ghosts, [...] This passage exemplifies Bolderston's empathic vision, which infuses all of the poems. It also demonstrates her poetic style, which abounds in gorgeous sensual detail, even when describing something as painful as forced migration. [...] Boldertston is admirably at ease with uncertainty – hers is a poetics steeped in the imagination, which deals in fragments and partial knowledge."
Sarala EstruchPoetry Londonissue 94.

"Natalie Linh Bolderston’s debut pamphlet, The Protection of Ghosts (V. Press, 2019), is an exquisite lyrical exploration of the question: what does it mean to live as plurality? It examines how our identities are impacted not only by the stories we inherit, but in how they are told and retold, how they bloom and how they rupture—what they capture and what, despite our very best efforts, will always elude us. [...]
"It is the richness of this interplay between instance and imagination that makes The Protection of Ghosts so compelling. Multiplicity is both metaphorically and imagistically examined. [...]
Alycia Pirmohamedamberflora, full review here.

"Natalie Linh Bolderston’s The Protection of Ghosts presents a phenomenal, haunting collection of poems considering family, culture, trauma, grief, and so much more. [...]
"In fewer than 40 pages and just 15 poems, The Protection of Ghosts provides more than a quick read—it’s truly a sensory experience that lingers long after you’ve left its pages."
Juliette SebockThe Poetry Question, full review here.

"The Protection of Ghosts is deceptively slender; the poems within carry more heft than the size of the pamphlet suggests. Every poem crafted to bear being read more than once and each reading yields a new discovery."
Emma Lee, Sabotage Reviews, full review here.

"Bolderston reflects on the traumatic aftermath of political events in Vietnam. I read the poems as haunting reflections on exile, homesickness and redemptive hope.

Mother and grandmother are brought to life in stories and nightmares, a thread of foreboding woven into the wordplay. The mother language peppers the pamphlet, heightening the sense of loss."
Maggie Mackay, OPOI (One Point of Interest) review, Sphinx, full review here.

"There is a sadness to the poems as they strive to reach into the minds and memories of others, but also a wiry strength.  An exceptional debut from a young poet."
Anna Lewis, Poetry Wales '44 Poetry Books of 2019 as nominated by poets'

"Many unforgettable and searing evocations of loss and the unceasing search for healing."
Jeffery SugarmanPoetry Wales '44 Poetry Books of 2019 as nominated by poets'

"[...]The way Bolderston moves through time so smoothly is a kind of magic. [...] Time doesn’t work linearly in these poems; the past has never left. It’s in the small details. [...] her project has much to say about the way people and places are affected by history. [...]"
Eric Nguyen,  diaCRITICS, full review here

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