A Passage of Time,
A creative collaboration by Sarah Webb and Lily Phillips,
An Artistic Legacy Book.
Painter and photographer Sarah Webb has spent decades depicting contemporary women in various moods and lights.
Ever on the hunt for subject-matter, while walking in the park in her native Nashville, in June 2022, she met Lily Phillips, who was seventeen going on eighteen. Phillips had a summer job selling popsicles and was reading a book at her stand, waiting for customers.
She was also a promising writer, as Webb soon discovered. The result is a volume of poems illustrated by Webb’s photographs of the young poet as she grapples with the emotions of early womanhood/late girlhood.
From within, it’s a painful, embarrassing, tense, transitional time of unrequited love and ennui.
With hindsight, it’s when everything is possible and whatever beauty we have is at its height.
The cover shot sums up the double lens of youth and experience as Phillips is photographed framing her face with her fingers.
“Posing” explores the perspective from being in front of the camera.
“My girlhood is captured,
my body is power,
under these eyes of expertise”.
The epilogue explains the artistic relationship more prosaically: Phillips’ mind is “on a platter” and her body is “displayed at every angle”.
Her prose is almost a shock after pages of poetry and photography have left us so much more scope to interpret, but she’s right to remind us of the vulnerability of artists who give of themselves and accept they will be judged.
I loved her fresh, original voice that bears multiple re-reading, as all poetry, almost by definition, must. More than a snapshot, her poems, complemented by Webbs’ body-conscious, flattering photography immerse us in narcissistic youth.
We begin with “Petrichor”.
“Under the reign of the city’s rain
he kissed me in my head
and it was foxy and wonderful”.
The reality outside her head is that she is “Still Unrequited”, as the next poem tells us.
But even when you’re on the painful cusp of adulthood, there are moments of simple enjoyment, not necessarily related to love.
In “Higher Ground”, “to be atop a roof is a wonderful thing”.
“I am a giant,” she declares. “tanned and alive”.
She’s also upbeat and playful in “Working Title” in which
“(Her) bookmark taps its feet at the halfway point
pacing about the exposition,
yearning to be useless
in that moment between books.”
The flipside of the “kinetic energy” – which, judging by their recurrence, are among Phillips’ favourite words – is “Sulk”. Here she lives to
With sulking, comes hating and wishing she were crippled so she could legitimately hate her legs.
Phillips’ vexation is accompanied by photographs of her at her most glamorous in a revealing evening dress, as if to underline her contrariness.
She’s almost a different person from the one looking us in the eye in the cover shot, as her identity, another youthful, or possibly life-long quest, shifts from page to page.
“Sonnet of Myself” asks how she can define herself when she doesn’t “know who I am.
All shut up like a clam.”
It has the slam force of a rare rhyme in free verse that shows the potential for many more volumes of Phillips’ self-definition.
Barbara Lewis © 2023.