31 Aug The Hill by Angela France (Nine Arches Press, July 2017) Reviewed by María Castro Domínguez
Angela France´s poetry book The hill is a memorable journey uphill to a metaphysical place, up and beyond a specific hill, Leckhampton Hill near Cheltenham. The hill becomes a hill which could embody any hill we encounter. Its transcendent nature makes each poem timeless, they can be felt individually no matter where you come from. We can connect or reconnect again with the land of our ancestors recovering our identity, hence our sense of self.
The climb is an emotional experience. We tread on historical texture, on roots, rocks, on tree-roots that clasp. We hear witnesses with proper names grumble and tell their stories in direct, like a sort of poetic journalism. This gives Frances´s poems vivacity and actuality, reviving our empathy towards the many speakers that populate the hill and beyond. Paradoxically we can also perceive: an emptiness, nothing attached to the name.
Does land belong to us? Can it be possessed by a few? Where are our rights? Are questions that echo on each page, binding the sequence together. Its recurrence manifests a degree of cyclicity. Patterns that repeat themselves throughout history.
Angela France´s concrete poems call out to the diversity and meaning implicated in shape, just as the sound of words and their connotations do. They move our senses skilfully without sacrificing their message of eternity.
Ted Hughes poem “Wind” also contains a hill but with a solitary house on top, the house is immersed in solitude, alone fighting against all vicissitudes. In France´s poems I feel the comfort and accompaniment of a multitude of voices, people, nature and the elements speak out and are never forgotten. I perceive the continuation of life under my feet, above in the trees, in the named and the nameless. In Angela France´s poems we never die.
Biography Angela France
Angela France has had poems published in many of the leading journals and has been anthologised a number of times. Her publications include Occupation (Ragged Raven Press, 2009), Lessons in Mallemaroking (Nine Arches Press, 2011) and Hide (Nine Arches Press 2013). She has an M.A. in Creative and Critical Writing and a PhD from the University of Gloucestershire. Angela teaches creative writing at the University of Gloucestershire and in various community settings as well as working for a local charity. She runs a reading series in Cheltenham, ‘Buzzwords’.