Yearly Archives: 2020

Profile in The Irish Examiner of ‘A City Burning’

A very positive verdict in The Irish Examiner from  Sue Leonard

Short, sharp and sometimes shocking, these wonderful stories truly pack a punch.

Sue’s long-running weekly profile Beginner’s Pluck offers a snapshot of a new writer and their debut work.

There’s a strong theme of witness in these 26 stories, which are set in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Italy. The characters face different challenges, from a failed marriage to eulogising a hated terrorist, but each of them is at a moment of change, needing to reassess their beliefs, or image of themselves. 

In an enjoyable interview with Sue she asked what I would be ‘in another life’. To my own surprise I said I would like to be an expert ballroom dancer. That will surprise those who know me but it’s true! I don’t watch Strictly but, yes, sweeping rhythmically around a floor is the life I haven’t had… yet.

Review of ‘A City Burning’ by Prof Diana Wallace

Prof Diana Wallace researches women’s writing, with special interests in historical fiction; Welsh writing in English and Modernism and the Gothic.  She is co-director of the Centre for Gender Studies in Wales and Leader of the English Research Unit at the University of South Wales. Her review appears on the website of the Centre for the Study of Media and Culutre in Small Nations at the University of South Wales.

Centre for the Study of Media and Culture in Small Naitons

How can writers respond to sudden, even exponential, change? It can take a decade, as it did after the first world war or 9/11, for novels and memoirs to catch up as writers process traumatic events. And readers, time-pressed and battered by 24-hour news, may turn to genre fiction for the comfort of familiar plot lines and predictable endings.  The short story, on the other hand, can turn on a sixpence to give us a snapshot of our crises in real time. Compressed, intense, often challenging, some of the most powerful examples of the form have come from writers on the so-called margins: women, immigrants, people from ‘small nations’ such as Wales and Ireland.

Angela Graham’s assured and compelling debut collection, A City Burning, ranges across Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy. It offers 26 brief stories, most no more than a few pages (one a mere page and a quarter), which turn their forensic flashlight on a moment of change when a character has to make a choice. Continue reading Review of ‘A City Burning’ by Prof Diana Wallace

Introducing Angeline King at ‘Dusty Bluebells’ Launch

I was so pleased to be introducing Angeline King at the launch at Ulster University on 6th November of her novel, ‘Dusty Bluebells’. This is an important book in the history of writing in Ulster Scots – about which we heard more from the experts.

I met Angeline early in 2018 when I was looking for writers working in Ulster Scots while  I was researching for a novel I’ve since written about issues to do with language in Northern Ireland.

I was quickly impressed by Angeline’s particular type of intelligence. In our conversation she mentioned coming up against an obstacle of one kind or another in her creative life, as everyone does, but I noticed that, each time, she had analysed the situation and gone away to learn more about the elements involved and then returned, better equipped to tackle the issue. I noted that she regarded learning a foreign language in order to dissolve a barrier as something that was perfectly feasible. It just required application. She has a BA in French and History and an MA in Business and Applied Languages – French and Spanish –and she has also learned Dutch. Continue reading Introducing Angeline King at ‘Dusty Bluebells’ Launch

On ‘Your Place And Mine’, BBC Radio Ulster

It was lovely to have this [click here to listen Interview with Anne Marie McAleese ] on Your Place And Mine BBC Radio Ulster 7th November. This long-running and much-lauded series focuses on place. We talked about the role of place in my short story collection A City Burning.

I read an extract from the story Coasteering in which a middle-aged woman and her Ulster Scots-speaking coasteering instructor venture far out along the coast at twilight:

‘Dinnae ower-think it!’ Alec urged, and then repeated himself….

I loosened the cuffs of the waterproof jacket that added a layer to the battered old wetsuit he’d provided. Seawater gushed out past my wrists. I poised myself, leapt − an un-timeable gap − and was smothered in crashing bubbles and noise and resistance, then broke upwards into air and the push and pull of the sea. This was what I’d wanted, to be out beyond the little beaches and rock-strewn shores; to be out of my depth but safe; to be gripped by the sea’s power but not at its mercy. I respect the sea. I fear it…. Continue reading On ‘Your Place And Mine’, BBC Radio Ulster

Interview with Seren Books on ‘A City Burning’

As her debut short story collection A City Burning, is published, we interview Angela Graham to find out more about the book and what inspires her.

In the twenty-six stories in A City Burning, set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, children and adults face, in the flames of personal tragedy, moments of potential transformation. On the threshold of their futures each must make a choice: how to live in this new ‘now’. With a virtuoso control of tone, by turns elegiac, comic, lyrical, philosophical, A City Burning examines power of all types. The result is a deeply human book full of hauntingly memorable characters and narratives.

What is the meaning behind the title A City Burning?

In the opening story, ‘The Road’a young girl witnesses her city blazing. She understands that this is a sign of the collapse of the status quo, of all the usual certainties. She is confronted with the need to react to this new situation. What values should guide her in this choice? I realised that this story encapsulates the theme of many stories in the collection – witnessing major change and having to work out a response. It seemed a fitting title for the book.

Belfast on a November evening

Continue reading Interview with Seren Books on ‘A City Burning’

A City Burning: Angela Graham talks about that title

video shot and edited by John Geraint

A City Burning from Seren Books

26 short stories set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, from the end of the econd World War to the Covid pandemic.

With a virtuoso control of tone, by turns elegiac, comic, lyrical, philosophical, A City Burning examines power of all types, exploring conflicts between political allegiances; between autonomy and intimacy; emotional display and concealment; resistance versus acceptance. The result is a deeply human book full of hauntingly memorable characters and narratives.

These stories are not comfortable… but they are honest, searing, insightful and very, very good.” – Inez Lynn Continue reading A City Burning: Angela Graham talks about that title

2 Poems in Deep Time Volume 2

Matthew M.C. Smith is an adventurous, and apparently indefatigable, poet and poetry impresario. It may be his gift for collaboration which enables him to be so productive.

It’s so lovely to see my poem ‘Thaw’ here:  Deep Time Volume 2

This beautiful-to-handle, easy-on-the-eye, large-format book from Black Bough Poetry has been produced by a team and assembling a coherent team is a skill in itself. The members are:

” Welsh writer, Laura Wainwright, Louisiana’s former Laureate, Jack Bedell, and Aotearoa’s, Ankh Spice. The amazing illustrations are by Rebecca Wainwright, a Newport-born artist from Newport in Wales, now living in London. Music for this project is composed and curated by Brisbane-based Stuart Rawlinson.”

Artwork by Rebecca Wainwright

Deep Time volume 2, is Black Bough poetry’s second print anthology. It is dedicated to the writer Robert Macfarlane, who wrote award-winning non-fiction work, Underland (2019).

Continue reading 2 Poems in Deep Time Volume 2

Poem published: THERE AND HERE

THERE AND HERE

in a dream, the mirror of the Trinity

 

Our mirror holds your image in its square

and we have made the frame, a hand-breadth wide.

From the mid-point of the base springs a pair

of vibrant, scrolling fronds, one either side;

carved in relief, acanthus-leafed, baroque,

flexing like seaweed in a rising tide

they cross the top as though to interlock

but stop just short – potential growth implied.

The wood is light, clean-edged, northern and spare,

fit for an airy room with snow outside;

a place for thinking clearly in; somewhere

to find a balance, ponder, or decide.

 

Look. See your true self here, the self we share;

your I, You, Us.  Be its reflection there.

 

New City magazine, November 2020

 

A City Burning – reactions

A city burns in a crisis − because the status quo has collapsed and change must come. Every value, relationship and belief is shaken and the future is uncertain.

A CITY BURNING  Order here

“Angela Graham is a brilliant new voice. This is literature that deserves to last.” – Kate Hamer

“In this powerful collection, Angela Graham shows herself master of the angle of vision: her tales capture the mercurial moment when a person’s world is changed forever, in a road or room, against a landscape, seascape or starscape, at the graveside or (as in the towering story, ‘Life-Task’) at a forsaken railway station in the aftermath of war.” – Stevie Davies

“These stories show us what the genre does best: the ‘snapshot’ of a moment which reveals a life or a culture in a moment of transition or realisation, what James Joyce called an ‘epiphany’. … This vivid, humane and beautifully-controlled collection suggests Angela Graham is another name to watch.”  – Prof Diana Wallace

“Good writing is compelling. Each of these twenty-six stories takes you out of your own skin and into the lived experience of another… The writing is sparse. Every word is telling… But there’s also lyricism, a feel for the rhythm of speech and an ability to capture natural beauty… These stories are not comfortable… but they are honest, searing, insightful and very, very good.” – Inez Lynn 

“The Road is, appropriately, the opening story in this collection and by following that road we enter the world of Angela Graham… The characters are well drawn and their stories entice and intrigue. as a collection it is to be highly recommended.” – Graham Reid

A City Burning is an impressive kaleidoscope of landscape and language. Angela Graham’s short stories move rhythmically between Wales, Ireland and Italy, provoking conversation through their poetic score. ‘Acting Abby’, a play within a play, is a particular triumph and one sentence in this story serves as a metaphor for the book: ‘an invisible finger glides across the curtain like a harpist’s, releasing a ripple of movement.’ The movement is a little thought, a shift in perception as each story draws to an end.” – Angeline King

Continue reading A City Burning – reactions