Sunday, June 03, 2007

StarPhoenix Review of Going Around with Bachelors by Agnes Walsh

Review of Going Around with Bachelors from the StarPhoenix, Saturday, June 02, 2007

Love Poems for the Land and Its People
Bill Robertson, special to The StarPhoenix

Going Around with Bachelors, from actor, playwright, storyteller, and
poet Agnes Walsh, is also a book of love poems -- or love stories, love monologues -- for her home province of Newfoundland, and more particularly Placentia Bay.

Walsh, with her ear for speech and her obvious respect for the oral history and culture of her home, lays out her words and lines in such a way that her characters speak for themselves. Here's the opening stanza of Love: "You might wonder why the place/ has so many bachelors,/ but the thing is he wasn't allowed out after/ ten o'clock until he was forty-seven years old,/ and only then because his mother had passed away." In Longevity and Guts each part of the family gets its piece in the history, beginning with the grandparents, and on through those who "wanted to get away," while in the marvelous Dad and the Fridge Box a man who "never wanted anything" watches a new fridge come into his home but is only interested in the box it came in. He carts it into the living room and puts his chair in it, to keep the drafts off. "No one thought it was odd. Because, you see, that was a time when the old people used everything." While Walsh's poems seem to get by just fine without obvious recourse to grand metaphor, she still slides in the perfect turn of phrase amidst the plainspokenness. In Fireweed she says they "stand tall in fields and proclaim themselves wild./ Of savage origin. Beauty's breathless rampage," while in Patrick's Cove we hear that "[t]his is the September light that falls/ piercing with its cooler edge, falls/ through the loose clapboard of root cellars." As Walsh explores her home and its past, or travels to Ireland or Portugal, she adheres to a phrase from Mary Oliver that she quotes at the beginning of one poem: "the usual is news enough." In these poems Walsh's usual becomes a thing of great and enduring beauty.

Included with this book is a CD recording of Walsh reading many of these poems, as well as bits of conversation and ballads sung by Simone Savard-Walsh. This could be the wave of the future.


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