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Reah pours soul into debut poetry volume

Caher woman supporting Clare Haven Services with proceeds from book of poems

POEMS can pop into Reah Higgins’ head at any time of the day. The Caher woman has been finding her creative voice over the course of the last year-and-a-half, when lockdowns kept many people at home with a little extra time on their hands.
“I don’t sit down to write,” she said. “The poems just keep coming. It could be something that comes into my head while I’m reading or watching TV, or a poem could be sparked by something someone says.
“It’s been a childhood dream to write and lockdown started something by giving me more time for creativity.”
Last year, the Wexford native launched her first CD collection of poetry to give something back to the Irish Kidney Association (AKA).
In 2017, the organisation was a lifeline when Reah donated a kidney to her husband Aaron.
Now, the professional social care leader has turned her literary talents to supporting those experiencing domestic abuse.
Her first book, ‘Love Letters for your Soul by Reenie’ is hot off the press with €2 from the sale of each one going to Clare Haven.
“It’s an amazing organisation and I was very conscious of the fact that domestic violence was something that increased dramatically during the lockdowns,” she said.
“Clare Haven is holding an exhibition from November 25 to December 10 on the hidden truths behind closed doors and I was delighted when Siobhán, the manager, asked me to bring some copies of the book in.”
The busy mum of two, Fionn (13) and Stephen (11), has been living in Caher since 2010.
While originally from Ballygarrett, her roots are German, through her father’s side, and East Clare is definitely home. “I love it, it’s like paradise here,” she said. “I love the healing hills.”
Reah is clearly passionate about poetry and said the support of an online group has been invaluable, as has the input of her editor Christina O’Shaughnessy from Gort, who now lives in France.
“Over a year ago, I joined a Zoom gathering called Poetry in Motion,” she explained.
“I really felt like a complete newbie the first time, but everyone was so welcoming and inclusive. People share all kinds of work. Some if it is funny, some of it is deep. Sometimes we have a theme and we all write about it.”
After finding her poetic voice, friends and contacts soon began asking Reah when the first book was coming out.
“I suppose I would describe the poems as ‘mindful messages’,” she said. “There’s no one particular theme, they touch on lots of things and reflect on life.
“There is one particular poem which touches on the issue of domestic abuse and it came to me as an image of a woman looking in a mirror and finding herself again.
“Whenever I shared the poems, people always responded positively. One person said, ‘That was good for my soul’.
“I decided to describe them as Love Letters for your Soul. That’s where the name came from. Aaron calls me Reenie, so that gave me the book title.”
The cover of the book, designed and hand painted by Millie Phillipa, captures the essence of the poetry. “There’s a bird carrying an envelope with the hills of Clare in the background,” Reah said.
“Millie is mad about donkeys so she put some in. Then she took them out, but the picture just didn’t look right, so they’re back in. It’s really lovely to have the hand-painted cover because it’s showcasing someone else’s creativity too.”
The finished volume runs to 50 pages and contains 131 poems. Reah received the first batch last week. It will be available at the Clare Haven exhibition in Ennis next week.
The volume is also available from Bane’s of Scariff; The East Clare Trading Post in Tuamgraney; and from Reah directly on Facebook or by contacting her on 087-4138626.
Clare Haven operates a 24-hour helpline on 065-6822435. Its multimedia installation entitled ‘Hidden Truths Behind Closed Doors’ will be launched by broadcaster Rachel English and will run at Clare Haven Services on the Limerick Road from 10am to 4pm until December 10.
Booking is by appointment only, due to Covid restrictions. Bookings can be made by calling Anne or Elaine on 065-6842646 or 087-2143769, or emailing clientcare@clarehaven.ie.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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