Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Finding the Light by Bobbie Coelho

Please see below for giveaway details!

Well this made a change.  The first volume of poetry to come to The Review Group.  And a fairly polished production it is.

I was told that each of the poems in Bobbie Coelho's Finding the Light has a story attached.  Reading the poems, that quickly becomes apparent.  Most of them are quite short and each one captures a fleeting thought or impression, a memory, a moment.  The result is a sort of poetic scrapbook - scenes from a life, reflected upon and rendered in a neat verse.

Perhaps the best way to describe the collection is to acknowledge - as Bobbie does in the poems - that the poet has Parkinson's Disease.  Some of the poems reveal themselves as thoughtful, and sometimes anguished, responses to the condition.  A recurring theme is the need - realised as a result of being diagnosed with and living with infirmity - to seize the moment and to make the most of life. 

But too many poems on that theme would seem trite.  Bobbie never harps on the illness, never wallows in self-pity.  The awareness of her own frailty appears to have caused her to see things in a new light - both the things that are around her (flowers in a summer garden, a Remembrance Day parade) and those which rise up out of the memory.  And so what emerges is a sort of collage: one image, one idea after another, in no particular order, shards of a lifetime's experience.

Some of those experiences are painful.  "Lost" and "My Premature Baby" deal with a difficult subject, and yet they do so lightly - nothing too mawkish, the emotion welling up through the clear and simple words.  Other poems speak of the anxiety occasioned by having a loved one away on military service, the gnawing worry brilliantly conveyed by "The Knock", the simple pride in our Armed Services, and the traditions relating to our military history, which finds a counterpoint in "A Soldier of the Queen", with its realisation that when a soldier signs up, he or she signs up their whole family.

Friends and friendships are honoured, holidays recalled, snapshots in the family album.  The themes of the volume emerge gradually and impressionistically.  There is the occasional note of what's wrong with the world today? which will strike a chord with many a reader, and sometimes an explicitly Christian message, but otherwise the poems speak for themselves, and they do so with an immediacy that has to be admired.  There is fun to be had in reading through the volume: parents everywhere will agree with the pithy "Teenager" (pleasantly paired with "For Kitty on Her Birthday", which re-establishes the balance), and "Signing Off" is a brilliantly encapsulated statement on married life.  The arrangement of the poems in this neat and carefully copy edited volume means that every page contains a different mood, another emotion recollected in tranquillity.

These are personal poems with broad appeal.  My guess would be that what started as a need - occasioned by the onset of illness - to store memories and record thoughts soon became a therapeutic exercise, finally yielding a collection of impressions and reflections to be passed on.  Bobbie Coelho discovered that she had a facility for capturing that fleeting thing, a moment from a life.  Each poem, then, is like a butterfly caught on the wing and delicately preserved in a glass case.  The simplicity of the language is deceptive.  There's a radiance to each of these short poems.  Each one can be read, savoured, dwelt upon.

It is a rare and precious thing that Bobbie has shared with us here.

Bobbie Coelho was born near Norwich and now lives in Hampshire with her husband and two stepsons.  She has always enjoyed poetry, but after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2002, she was particularly compelled to write as a way of putting things into perspective.  "My wish is that when people read this book," writes Bobbie, "it will make them think a little more and reflect on their journey."  

Bobbie has very kindly offered a signed paperback copy of Finding the Light for a lucky winner.  To enter the giveaway draw, please comment on this blog or on our Facebook  page.  Finding the Light can also be ordered in paperback or Kindle edition from Amazon.co.uk.

Simon Andrew Stirling is an award-winning scriptwriter and historian currently lecturing in Film Studies at the University of Worcester.  He is the author of The King Arthur Conspiracy: How a Scottish Prince Became a Mythical Hero (2012) and Who Killed William Shakespeare? The Murderer, The Motive, The Means (2013), both published by The History Press.  Simon has just completed his latest historical investigation, The Grail: Relic of an Ancient Religion, for Moon Books and is about to start work on Shakespeare's Son: A Life of Sir William Davenant.  

If you would like Simon to review your book please click on the submissions link at the top of the page.


  1. Oh my word! At last some poetry for The Review. Simon this is such a heartfelt review conveying all the nuances of Bobbie ' s book. So much so, that it would be impossible not to have it on my TBR table.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book to have, can identify with many of the topics above,

  3. Bobbie is a lovely lady with a wonderful talent. I have sampled some of Bobbie's poetry and it is a delight.

  4. I to have had the pleasure of hearing and reading Bobbie's poetry and in forging a delightful and supportive friendship - even if we don't meet up as much as we would like. I attended the launch of Finding the Light and was struck by beautiful book jacket - singing to be opened like the petals of the flower itself. The inside did not disappoint - thoughtful and engaging poetry - eager to be read - understood and to contemplate on. I have shared some of the poems with other Parkinson sufferers and seen them lifted - thankful to 'have a voice' through this amazing and courageous woman Bobbie Coelho! Her seeing of nature is also a joy and her empathy for our Veterans and Forces personnel extols via her poetic interpretation.

  5. This book sounds inspirational and thought-provoking - a perfect mixture.