Sunday, June 10, 2007

Independent Review of Agnes Walsh's New Poetry Collection

Excerpted from a Review of Going Around with Bachelors, the Newfoundland & Labrador Independent, Friday, May 25, 2007, by Mark Callanan

...Walsh’s poetry is simultaneously an act of recollection and an elegy; it is often funereal in tone. Throughout her poems, an older Newfoundland—one of old country mores bound to lives lived off the ocean—is in the process of disappearing. In Homecoming to the End, a father’s passing takes away “a world” of “words and stories, ships hove into rocks, / St. Pierre wine in wooden casks, the whaling factory in Rose au Rue”; an old bachelor in Love is symbolically stripped of his smell, “the wood-smoke, the oil, the musk, / the years, the years and years.”

Going Around with Bachelors
further emphasizes the connection between the written and the spoken word by its inclusion of an audio CD of Walsh reading selections from the book. The poems (as in Rattling Books’ audio production of Walsh’s first collection, In the Old Country of My Heart) are interspersed with old-world ballads sung by the poet’s daughter, Simone Savard-Walsh. It makes for a beautiful marriage of words and music.

"I see a definite connection between…the old world ballads and the way that I write,” Walsh says in a commentary track on the enclosed CD. “I’ve spent so much time researching and looking into the oral history of Placentia Bay that I guess the ballad style has crept into my poetry.” And it has. Hearing Walsh’s work performed is a mesmerizing experience, for the rhythms of the poems themselves, the power of their narratives, and for the experience of listening to Walsh’s rich reading voice. There is a definite musicality to her performance.


Walsh’s poetry is not one of profound metaphorical leaps or pyrotechnic explosion of language; you won’t find many lines here that emblazon themselves on your memory. What you will find is a reverence for the tradition from which these poems have sprung and a mournful magic that conjures a world long gone. The value of this new collection lies in its ability to channel the voices of the dead, and to connect them to the living, breathing present.


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Going Around with Bachelors was published by Brick Books in 2007.

The unabridged audio edition of Agnes Walsh's first poetry collection, In the Old Country of My Heart, narrated by Agnes Walsh with unaccompanied ballads by Simone Savard-Walsh and pump organ interludes by George Morgan, is available here from rattlingbooks.com