In Jaswinder Bolina’s English as a Second Language and Other Poems, we are asked to imagine the tender and harsh realities of this world within a single breath—a Steiff monkey resting next to a child in a crib and the tired hands of “a thousand women in Sidi Bouzid” assembling the stuffed animal. Coated in an armor of wit and humor and steeped in the idiosyncrasies of language, English as a Second Language pits sentimentality against cynicism and the personal against the national. What remains is the kaleidoscopic image of the modern American condition.
“Pierces through its sketch-comedy conceit . . . with poignent anxieties.”—Christopher Spaide, Harriet Books, Poetry Foundation
“With his third collection, Jaswinder Bolina hits his stride, melding fierce and heartbroken politics with a flair for the surreal to portray America in the throes of the pandemic. . . . Bolina’s ironic humor feels like the inevitable vehicle for this insight, and these poems are often darkly laugh-out-loud funny.”—Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR
“Jaswinder Bolina turns the elegy on its head (or at least twists its arm) . . . and they are so often comic, making the reader chuckle as often as weep.”—Charles Rammelkamp, The Lake