GOALKEEPER: Memoir of Poet Peter Street
I met Peter Street at a poetry reading when he was reading from his new book of poetry “Earth Talk”.
(Remember when we used to do that? Go out of an evening to a venue, maybe in town, where people gathered, even sat down next to each other and talked face to face?)
I was drawn immediately to Peter’s voice in his poems which personified plants and tackled political, social and environmental issues in bold and often amusing ways. This, from a review at the time:
Everything natural is beautiful and itself and a metaphor at the same time; everything is dangerous and true “remembering those poor beetles / who tested the waters and teased the millions of elms into suicide / even then we were still ignored”. This is a book we all need to read. Caron Freeborn
When Peter told me about his memoir, coming out later this year and asked me to review it, I was happy to do so. But I’d like you to check out Peter’s poetry too.
Saying No To The Icebergs Sand Sedge Carex arenaria
like all families we have fought
put it behind us
an army is washing
waves of them
from land of ice and water
we have to be ready
or be washed away
come and stand with us
here next to my triangular stems
shields against their salt-burn
we have to slow those waves down
take the battle to them here
on these dunes
Sand Sedges are natural warriors
we take root colonise
safe in numbers
know what we have to do
are you with us
Peter Street’s Goalkeeper – Games, secrets, epilepsy, love pulled me through its fast-paced story. With its weaving together of all that its sub-title promises the story grabbed my attention and was a quick read. It begins dramatically enough in war-torn Croatia in 1993 when Street has gone as a volunteer during the Croat-Bosnian war. Soon, his memories return to the streets of Wigan and Bolton, his home with “Mum”, Kitty, and “Dad”, Thomas, who is responsible for quite a few of the secrets. There are friends and more than one potential girlfriend who provide, at different stages of Street’s life, empathy, companionship, early stirrings of love and desire and tragic losses. But these are not Streets true friends. He describes the comfort and ease he felt when it was just “me, ball and wall” as he practised his football skills and played marbles in the old outside toilet where he felt safe and happy.
“On rainy days, I would spend most of my time inside that outdoor toilet. It seemed to come alive with purpose whenever I turned up”.
The heart of this story is in Street’s documentation of learning difficulties at school and in a string of soul-destroying jobs, epilepsy surfacing at the age of fifteen, ultimately ending his passionate wish to be a professional goalie. Not that he doesn’t have some success at football and there are gripping play by play accounts. Street also very effectively conveys his experience of being a child who was clearly showing signs of autism spectrum disorder from his very early years. He shows us what this was like in so many of his recollections by depicting objects as having agency, appearing to be more human than the real humans in his life. At first I thought that this way of describing things acting on him was a stylistic choice and perhaps rather over-used until I began to see that this was exactly how Street saw his world. The stairs and the doors are active players in his games of football, cobbles and steps walk him along, pictures in books admired him as much as he admired them. And the young lad, Peter, was more at ease by himself than with most other people. Being around people set off uncomfortable sensations and at times caused him real distress.
“To me, lonely was a kind of freedom for my ears and my whole body, giving the real me a rest”.
Goalkeeper includes charming pictures illustrating life in the North in the 50s and 60s that really bring Street’s account alive. It is a satisfying read that is often heart-warming and at times heart-wrenching as Street battled (even when not fully aware of the nature of his foes) all that life threw in his path. The human spirit is strong. Peter Street has become, if not a famous goalie, a talented writer and poet.
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