This month’s featured artist was a Speech and English major in college but feels she is a poet by nature. Laura Treacy Bentley had her first published work in a college literary magazine when she was an undergraduate at Marshall University. When she saw her work in print, it was a transformative moment. Something she had written was valued and other people would be reading it. To this day, a copy of that magazine containing the poem titled “The Leafman” can be found in the writer’s bookcase.
Always open to new experiences and adventures, Bentley is ready when an opportunity presents itself. She may store an idea away for years. Sometimes though, a poem or a novel practically writes itself for this talented author. “I am keenly aware of my surroundings and have kept a journal since I was 16.” She received an MA in gifted education with an emphasis in the creative arts. She kept writing while raising three children, working as a full time teacher, and moonlighting as an adjunct professor.
Bentley was born in Hagerstown, Maryland and lived there the first seven years of her life. She then moved to Huntington, West Virginia to live with her grandparents after her parents separated and eventually divorced. Throughout the years, she returned to Hagerstown for visits. She was especially thrilled when, years later, her poems appeared in the Hagerstown based Antietam Review.
Her father grew up in Oakland. His father and his grandparents were born in Galway County, Ireland. The writer’s paternal great-grandmother’s parents were also born in Ireland. She has always been aware and proud of her Irish heritage. “I even wrote a romantic essay in junior high school about Ireland and how I wanted to go there one day. I guess it was an omen!” says Bentley.
She has attended and taught many workshops over the years and had the opportunity to study with Irish poets in Dublin, Ireland, and former poet laureate Billy Collins in Galway, Ireland. She was writer-in-residence for a month on the west coast of Ireland near the Cliffs of Moher. Treacy is an Irish name and “no one in Ireland ever mispronounced my name, so I felt very much at home.”
Looking for Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage is both chapbook and a work of art. It carries a seamless alchemy of elegant poems and stunning photographs that were created in Garrett County, West Virginia, and Ireland from 2000-2016. This book is for sale at GCAC’s Gallery Shop in downtown Oakland. “I enjoyed many solitary hours walking, reflecting, writing, and saving a moment on this path, this journey, this magical pilgrimage. My photograph in the book of a busker on Grafton Street in Dublin, Ireland, later became the opening chapter of my novel The Silver Tattoo (a psychological thriller).” In addition to these two, the writer has a poetry collection Lake Effect and a short story prequel Night Terrors. She is published in the United States and Ireland. She read her poetry with Ray Bradbury in 2003 and signed her books with Nora Roberts in 2017. Those interested in learning more may visit lauratreacybentley.com
When asked to describe her work, the author deferred to reviews from others:
“If you haven’t read Laura Bentley’s work, you should: she’s a wonderfully gifted writer.”
Ray Bradbury, on The Silver Tattoo
“You are holding in your hand a thing of beauty. Here, indeed, Laura Treacy
Bentley makes ‘words flicker like flame.’ The imagery of the poems is married to stunning photographs forming a perfect balance. You will be taken seamlessly on a
visual and poetic journey from Appalachia to Ireland, ‘to the fuchsia that bleeds on
Inish Mor’ and ‘Blackbirds see the summer clouds’ and back again. This is a work of art
that achieves what the poet/photographer strives for, ‘to capture wild beauty before it
takes flight.’” Tom O’Dwyer, co-editor of Crannog Magazine (Galway,
Ireland) on Looking of Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage
Bentley has a cabin in Garrett County and divides her time between West Virginia and Maryland. When in the county, she participates in a local writers group. Her poems have been published in the Garrett County Arts Council’s literary journal Ginseng and she has read at the Page-to-Stage event, an evening highlighting local authors and their creative writing.
In her youth, the writer spent one cherished summer with her Dad in Oakland. He lived with her grandmother in a second story apartment on Second Street. They visited a great uncle who lived in the Rasche family home on Water Street. Her great-grandfather, Henry A. Rasche, owned a grist mill and his second wife Katherine Rowan Rasche was a music teacher, poet, and an accomplished musician. Her portrait and some of her published music are on display in the Garrett County Historical Society Museum. The plaque on the building at the corner of Second and Alder is dedicated to the writer’s great-grandfather.
In speaking of Looking For Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage Bentley states “I never imagined that one day I would write a book that would be for sale right across the street from where I stayed one summer with my father and grandmother. One day soon, I hope, I will finish my novel about my grandmother and the Rasche family growing up on Water Street. They lived a fascinating and tragic life. I hope I can do it justice. Almost every place I go, in and around Oakland, I’m transported back in time”.
To find Looking For Ireland: An Irish-Appalachian Pilgrimage locally, visit The Gallery Shop at 108 S. Second St, in downtown Oakland, Monday-Saturday from 10:00am-5:30 pm. The shop features several area writers as well as the artwork of other regional artists. The Garrett County Arts Council is funded by the Maryland State Arts Council, Garrett County Government, and through membership support. For more information or to become a member, contact GCAC at 301-334-6580, visit garrettarts.org, and like Garrett County Arts Council and The Gallery Shop on Facebook.