Angela France's poetry is in tune, not just in musical terms but with its physical setting. Her verse is anchored in specifics throughout Hide (Nine Arches Press, 2013), her third collection.
Gloucestershire is brought to life via the personification of elements (for example, the "wind sobs") and contextualised strands of memories that are rooted in their surroundings, previous generations often still present, as in Homecoming and this extract from Family Visits:
"Quiet now.It's their turn to visit;
the old aunts and uncles,the great
and grand parents. They visit as we did...
...They don't speak,
don't change position, only nod
or gesture at a picture, a fireplace,
or a vase of flowers, seeding."
Families have an origin and a sense of belonging - there's no mushy generalisation in this collection, nor any meek acceptance of globalisation - and that feeling is reinforced in The Visit...
..."They lean together to whisper
lineage, connections; which daughter, whose son, what cousin
is parent to the child who holds her grandmother's hand..."
Via the act of writing, France is commemorating her Gloucestershire upbringing, transforming it into poetry. Her Döppelganger, for instance, "hoards memory", while Hoard finds her collecting apples, berries and mushrooms in the autumn so as to withstand the winter. Metaphors are implicit, bonds between humans and nature are explicit.
The ghosts of previous generations, meanwhile, are mirrored by the ghosts of memories as expressed through objects in Forgotten Trails:
"They trail behind me, ghostly
outlines in a fading contrail,
skittering on sharp turns,
stretching thin when I travel fast..."
Reading back through this review, I've noticed how it picks up on several different strands that run through Hide, all of which interweave in gorgeous patternings. The poems start conversations among themselves, enriching each other. Apparent simplicity and clarity are rendered half-hidden by such comparisons, reflecting the complex nature of the relationship between memory and place.
As a consequence, Angela France's collection not only brings immediate rewards - its depth satisfies more and more on rereading. I enjoyed it immensely.
The Harrow Levered from our native soil, cleaned of rust, stain of oil, we retired the ancient harrow to a tall, museum window, its time is done. Captive e...