There’s a Poem for That: Agnes Walsh + The Wind Has Robbed the Legs Off a Madwoman

Today’s poem — “At Night the Sea” — from Agnes Walsh’s new collection The Wind Has Robbed the Legs Off a Madwoman (Breakwater Books) is for reflective nights (or days!), and for appreciating forces of nature.

Read the poem and our interview with Agnes, below.

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There's a poem for that... NPM on All Lit Up.

An interview with poet Agnes Walsh

All Lit Up: Can you tell us a bit about The Wind Has Robbed the Legs Off a Madwoman and how it came to be?

The cover of The Wind Has Robbed the Legs Off a Madwoman

Agnes Walsh: The poems are about place, speech, the natural world, illness, and love. It came to be by…hmm…observation and writing about what I saw and how I felt.

ALU: What sparked your initial love of poetry?

AW: Finding out that there was a way to speak the world for myself. 

ALU: What has been your most unlikely source of writing inspiration?

AW: Driving my car.

ALU: What are you most in the mood to read these days? Any poets you’re especially enjoying? 

AW: Martin Dyar, Niall Campbell, Dermot Healy, Victoria Kennefick, Holly Pester (only found one poem by her but I love it!)

ALU: What did you learn while writing your collection?

AW: Lots from my editor.

ALU: If you were to set your collection to a soundtrack, what song is at the top of the listing?

AW: “Harvest Time” by Pharoah Sanders. Playing all the way through.

ALU: Can you discuss the significance of language and word choice in your collection. How did you land on which words to use?

AW: I wanted to use the words that have always been in me, in old Newfoundland. The Hiberno-English sentence structure that is natural. Really I just wanted to write the way I think and speak.

There’s a poem for reflective nights…
“At Night the Sea” from

The Wind Has Robbed the Legs Off a Madwoman

It came to me then that the sea is not a pattern, it is a struggle.                                        

                                                        —Colm Tóibín

At night the sea frightens me,
the moon its only mistress,
and the moon only smiles,
sly and slanting,
carefree and faraway.

The ocean is as mad as the wind.
Even from the comfort of the sand
I sense its raw energy.

It is all push and pull,
all force, all solitude and sprawl.
But utterly contained.
Nothing to do with us,
yet its pull owns us.

To be alone with the sea at night
is a kind of surrender, or
a communion with eternity.

Something so deep
must hold such darkness.

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Poet and playwright Agnes Walsh was born in Placentia, Newfoundland. She has published three previous collections of poetry: In the Old Country of My Heart (Killick Press, 1996), Going Around with Bachelors (Brick Books, 2007), and Oderin (Pedlar Press, 2018). Her work as founder, artistic director, and writer for the Tramore Theatre Troupe (1999–2012) won her the Newfoundland and Labrador Hospitality Award. In 2011, her collection of plays Answer Me Home was published by Breakwater Books. She was the inaugural poet laureate for the City of St. John’s from 2006 to 2009 and was awarded the 2020 Hall of Honour Award from ArtsNL.

* * *

Thanks to Agnes for answering our questions, and to Breakwater Books for the text of “Her, Cooking” from The Wind Has Robbed the Legs Off a Madwoman, which is available to order now (and get 15% off with the code THERESAPROMO4THAT until April 30!).

For more poetry month, catch up on our “there’s a poem for that” series here, and visit our poetry shop here.