Skip to main content

Remember. Imagine ~ Reflection on Frances Angela's 'Philip Street'

Remember. Imagine.

I know the smoke and steam of industry. Tall chimneys, the cordons of terraced houses. Shift changes: men in caps and thick jackets leaving or returning home in the dark.

The cover of Frances Angela’s new chapbook, Philip Street, evokes these memories of my hometown in South Wales. I recall the streets named for landowners, builders and benefactors. Remember the kids we were warned against playing with … 

they didn’t like me playing with patsy o’malley they said her family were thieves and rogues[i]

And there was the library too:

the library just for the smell[ii]

I know that smell: dust, polish, paper.  But then my childhood path diverges from the one that unfolds in the subsequent pages: a children’s home, a catechism class, whiskey. This is not my story. Yet somehow, it is my story, the one I imagine, the one I experience through my senses…

pub night the dark heap of mother’s clothes[iii]

… and through empathy and compassion for hope forbidden and lost.

a girl

i wanted to be a librarian a saint or an actress at school they told me i could apply for the mill or if lucky a shop my father bought me a brown nylon overall from the co-op you could wash and dry it overnight

dark mornings
the smell of paraffin
on my way to work[iv]

Philip Street is a compressed and visceral journey from childhood to adulthood that is perfumed with joy, desire, grief and a concluding idea of acceptance or understanding:

demolished mill it all grows back[v]

‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ The immortal first line of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between wistfully illustrates our relationship with memory: what we remember, what we think we remember, what is known, what can’t be known. But as writers we keep on visiting our foreign countries and its inhabitants. We keep on telling our stories, sometimes to make sense of things, other times to simply bear witness. And we tell the stories of people who, for so many reasons, may not have had a voice.

small linoed kitchen
my dead grandma’s nightdress
on the pulley line[vi]

Angela, Frances, Philip Street
First published in Great Britain in 2018 by
Snapshot Press, Orchard House, High Lane, Ormskirk L40 7SL
Free to download: eBooks from Snapshot Press

[i] pp.8
[ii] pp.10
[iii] pp.19
[iv] pp.22
[v] pp.30
[vi] pp.16

First published by Wales Haiku Journal September 2018


Popular posts from this blog

haiku commentary

deeper shadows where the walls meet... autumn rain – Mark E. Brager, The Heron's Nest, Volume XXI, Number 3 (2019) I imagine a corner, two walls meeting at right angles. I can see the depth of shadow there. If I reach out, I am sure the surface – rough brick or smooth masonry – will be cooler; perhaps because the autumn rain I now notice has started to fall. The places where people meet are more emotionally complex, stepping, as we may have to, from the comfort of the familiar to the challenge of the unfamiliar. Those “deeper shadows” may be rich with empathy and gratitude. Eshadows in corners Photograph by Steven Castledinequally, they may be fraught with conflict and umbrage. Brager’s haiku shifts me from inanimate objects to human experience. I sense loss through the image of “autumn rain,” or at least an understanding, or acceptance, of inevitable change that results in something being left behind. Perhaps change, even for the better, always leaves a

haibun ~ I am running through the wondrous silence of history ...

... past standing stones, invisible tombs, the path Chaucer's pilgrims took across the North Downs, the stone cold dead in churchyards, listening to the sound my feet make on lanes, on mud and stone, sharing my breath, the thump of my heartbeats, with sheep, the sky, fields. Sometimes I wonder how I got here, what propelled me forward to this moment when the snags of fleece along a wire fence shine with glory, when another rise in the track ahead is an inspiration not a defeat.  And I think of the words, 'yes', and, 'you can', and the centuries of people before me who said them out loud, or quietly to themselves, believing that something could change. And here I am changing almost nothing in the world and still feeling better for it. trail run seeing the wood  and the trees Blithe Spirit 29.1 - 2019

photo haiku

even amongst all this grey light