Bicycles, Swings and Love
In Moyvane …when autumn leaves start to fall, nestled in nostalgia, I settle down to write. Barbara Derbyshire’s collection of poems contains diverse themes, moving between love, loss, imagination, advice, reality, hurt and healing. She delves into places, spaces and experiences that shaped her destiny. The pavements of her past’ led her from London to Kerry. In her latest book, the poet conquers setbacks, unlocks a door to the heart and discovers that she is cradled by the gold light.
Máire Holmes –Editor-in-Chief The Galway
Barbara Derbyshire’s Bicycles Swings and Love comes across to the reader endearingly and
lyrically in cleverly crafted poems, never pulling punches on serious issues she tackles, full of
unforgettable lines of rich imagery. She writes with intensity of emotion at the two ends of
the scale of love and loathing: ‘I want to embroider every word you just said on a cushion’
and ‘By God you will cry out your guilt’. It’s laced with narratives which display a great eye
for detail and contrast and an intense compassion for man and beast alike. For the latter she
shows true tenderness in a number of striking animal poems. We page through all the ages
with her from the little girl hopscotching on the pavement down the street where she lived in
London, later being ‘the life and soul of every dance’, to the mature and passionate poet now
living contentedly in rural Ireland. Matt Mooney – Poet, Friend
Bicycles, Swings and Love is the third collection by this prodigious poet and in my humble
opinion, her most ambitious so far. There are requiems to lost love, and to a childhood loved
and lost. There is sadness and hope, exhilarating passion and destructive self-doubt. When I
was Lovely is shot through with self-effacing honesty. The bitter refrain of I felt wrong
repeats itself like an echo of the poet’s experience and forlornly concludes, I could have
been desired and cherished / if I’d only loved me. Nevertheless, Barbara’s love shines out
from every page; love unrequited or otherwise, love of people living and dead, love of
creatures great and small – cows, dogs, cats, pigs, bulls, birds, goats and even midges! Love
in all its forms, Eros, Agape, Storge and all the rest (The Greeks had a word for them all!).
Storge, in case you’re wondering, is love of family, nowhere more beautifully captured by the
poet than in Sundays at Home, when she describes the delightful whole-family Sunday night
ritual of washing her hair: Her mother’s fingers massage her head / and bring her hair to
a frothy peak…/She moves her head to the left / hoping that he might catch the tickle…
There is anger too, on the poet’s own behalf and on behalf of others. The Wound Lets the
Light Shine In explores the desperation and helplessness of being the childhood victim of an
abusive adult: She discovered shame / because he told her so. The word ‘queer’ is Not My
Word, Barbara asserts elsewhere, relating the fate of her friend: …the last words he would
hear / as the hate-filled hand killed him, Die, fucking queer! The poet’s choice of visceral
language in Retribution, the poem that follows, is both deliberate and heartfelt, one feels!
Prepare to chuckle as well, at lines like She always dyed her hair / Until she died herself.
You can also choose to chuckle or be shocked by the quirky twist in the tail/tale in gems like
Little Did She Know and Dead Musician. Bicycles, Swings and Love invites everyone to
read and reread these thoughtful musings of a skilled poet who just gets better and better.
John McGrath – Editor, Poet, Friend
This collection of poems takes us journeying into the innermost heart edges…a landscape of
fun, fears and dreams. Her poetry is a sensory experience often using cultural references of
the past: ‘I see the hopscotch pattern on the paving stones, the piece of slate from a roof tile,
marks my way to OXO. Bicycles Swings and Love has a richness of detail, describing the
warmth of a father’s love, a child’s fascination of the workings of a London bus, to the
sensuality of her love poems. In her words these poems offer: ‘scenes from the play of my
life’ and ‘a language of love and longing’. Susan Hitching – Poet, Artist, Friend
Bernadette Ní Ríada
Here are poems which snatch from time the moments in life that bring joy or sadness;
sometimes anger or irritation: all those experiences that lodge themselves under your skin, agitating for expression. Irish, English and Hiberno-English are used in poems which span generations to explore the complex, enduring bond of familial relationships. Ní Ríada’s confident voice is grounded in rural landscape and traditions; her poems honour both without being blind to their cruelties. Eileen Sheehan
Many of Bernadette Ní Ríada’s poems are a testament to an Irish rural past that is faithfully preserved in the rhythms, diction, and sensibility of those times, but in such an easeful way as to make them apparent to today’s readers. In an Ireland that is shifting quickly and further into new cultural perspectives, this record is a necessary one. John W. Sexton
I am so damn proud that I’ve had a little hand in the production of this absolute gem of a
collection! Here in Beneath My Skin, Bernadette Ní Ríada takes us to the ‘nooks and
crannies’ of herself, to borrow a phrase from Brendan Kennelly. Her rural upbringing in North
Kerry has left her with a powerful sense of place, apparent in her deep love for and
connection with her family, her affinity with nature and the land, Deep beneath my skin/I am
earthed/here in this place, and her burning pride in being Irish: Lámh ar an bhrat/Cos san
uaidh/Is as sin a rugadh thú.
Images of a Kerry childhood abound, as when she and her friends, with legs like those of
new-born foals, seek to please THE DANCING FIDDLER. No surprise then to find her, a few
pages later, DANCING WITH LEAVES: I raise my arms/cast off and mingle in/ twirling until
I’m locked in/in the centre of the spin.
Nor does she hold back from the visceral in her portrayal of rustic Kerry life. KILLING THE
PIG speaks for itself, and the opening line of THE DUNGHEAP, It took a ballsy person to kill
a hen, will probably stay with me forever!
Bernadette is equally comfortable writing in her native tongue and is passionate for its
survival. Time to embrace the beauty of this gem, she implores us in TEANGA. Its richness
serves both commoner and king.
This is an authentic voice, clamouring to be heard. Listen and enjoy. John McGrath –