Riptide by Amanda Bell | Book Reviews | Poetry

By Grace O'Reilly

Riptide is a book of short stories, poems and memoir, written by Amanda Bell.  Published by Doire Press with the aid of Arts Council of Ireland, 2021.  The beautiful cover design is by Tríona Walsh, and cover art is ‘Playa II’, by Donald Teskey.  There is a poem about Donald within entitled ‘Donald Teskey, Balinglen’, included as part of ‘The Complete Fractured Shoreline Series’, printed by Stony Road Press and gifted to the ‘Ballinglen Museum’, in Mayo.

The opening piece is the title name, ‘Riptide’.  Amanda writes about history, diseases, terrorism and war.  The cruelty in life, how some things survive while others die.  ‘The Value of Cut Flowers’, opening line, “In mourning of the life I loved”, resonated with me, as I live with fibromyalgia, and other health issues.  Gardening is hard work and for me, some days are really hard work.

‘Fossil Record’ discusses how overtime nature has changed, hinting at environmental changes/climate change.  “Outside the willow house has died…., The rambling rose has vanished…Beneath this sheath of topsoil gravel bed describe time’s slide, …. These fields once lay beneath warm tides”.

Many pieces are inspired by loved ones, nature, travelling, religion and art.  Quite a few were written about a trip to Oslo with references to Edward Munch’s paintings, including ‘Scream’, ‘The Scream’ and ‘The Artist Rehearses for Death’.  This book takes us travelling to different places.

Amanda writes in memory of various loved ones, now gone. One poem was about Bell’s grandfather, ‘Grandfather’s Medals’.  It showed the hardship that men endured at war in the trenches.  For sacrificing his life, he had a box with “three medals and a dog tag”.  It showed how he was mentally wounded, when bloodshed sheep drove him to tears.  The memoir piece ‘Christmas’ is laid out beautifully in the shape of a Christmas tree, yet the tale behind the words is a memory of sadness, replaying annually.  The pieces ‘My Daughter, in the Wash House, Taroudant, and ‘Aubade’ are for her children Grace & Elizabeth.

‘The Line’ and ‘Outlaws’ shows the evolution of gender equality for the better.  It’s laughable now to think how gin was a man’s drink and women’s, vodka.  Religion is another area written about as well as biology, one piece refers to a tragic abortion.

Nature’s creatures are seen in pieces such as ‘Colour Chart’, ‘An Etymology of Clusters’ and ‘A Compost Bin in Rathmines’.  The latter is told from the perspective of the pink worms, afraid to leave their dark sanctuary.  We can relate now as they are not so unlike us, leaving our homes, after COVID 19 lockdown restrictions, which also leads to ‘Co Existence’ in the home last summer.

You can find out more about Amanda’s other publications and what she does on

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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