Driftwood by Bernie Walsh

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Poetry

By Grace O’Reilly

Published in 2018, by Boland Press, this is Bernie’s first collection of poetry and short stories.  However, Walsh is no newbie to the writing world.  She is currently a member of the Irish Poetry Therapy Network, and is a very talented woman, who I am blessed to call one of my dearest friends.

Look out for her debut novel, (which I hope to read and review soon), called Barney Takes a Walk (2021)!

The blurb at the back of the book reads:

“Bernie Walsh was born in Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin.  She is a qualified genealogist and founder of the Gorey Writers Group.  Her work has appeared in Wexford press and various anthologies’.  Driftwood is her first collection of poetry and short stories.”

The photo on the front cover is by her very talented sister Jacintha McGovern, (whom again I am happy to call my friend).  An expert photographer, who took the book’s cover image from a piece of driftwood, and called ‘Adhmad’.  Their sister Jacintha is an angelic singer, so creativity and art runs through the McGovern blood.

Dedicated to their Mam and Dad, Driftwood’s forward was written by the well-known poet Paula Meehan, who writes beautifully of how Bernie’s life has shaped her writings, with nature and family and looking after others can be seen.  “Landscape and family…nature…Here she gives us words of wisdom & compassion informed by her own wry take on the world.”

Having, been in The Gorey Writers Group for 8 years with Bernie, and being on many marvellous writing days out, I had the privilege of actually being with Bernie when life was first breathed into some of these very stories and poems within her splendid book.  Driftwood allows readers to hold parts of Bernie Walsh’s kind and sometimes fragile heart.  I think that is why having Yeats’ line “tread softly because you tread on my dreams” is so special, and excuse my cheesiness, aptly poetic.  Well, it is a poetry book!

The very fist poem says it all, her inspiration Patrick Kavanagh.  In Troubled Beauty we can see the hardship that so many well to do and usually the celebrity likes have to deal with.  Again, A rock with no name, stems from Patrick Kavanagh.  Passing time, is a hard one to read but probably resonates with so many people who have to care for somebody who will only deteriorate more so than they already are.

“She just sits there

in her easy chair

recline, incline, and resign…”

In White Boat, Bernie’s use of imagery is so vivid and wonderful, with life thriving.

I have to say that I love Walsh’s poem, Hold the Line.  Everyone has been in that predicament where they are holding on the phone line for what feels like a millennium. You have that classical music playing away calmly in the background, which you would appreciate if you weren’t paying through the roof for by the minute, with the added

“Your call is important to us,

stay on the line”

In Walking on Egg-shells you can feel the fear and the cold.

There are short stories within, and you can see the stories playing out in your mind as you read.  Bernie has acrostic poetry and haikus and a piece entitled Barney takes a walk, from her debut novel.

Memories of school days and the horror of September 11th 2001 in New York City.  Tales of the moon, and being snowed in, of people emigrating are written well within.

DriftwoodThe concluding piece within this book is the title name of the book, Driftwood.

A nice collection of written works, and not her last.  One of my To Keep stash of books, which holds a place of pride on my dusty but treasured IKEA bookcase.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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