Category Archives: Portfolio

Llandeilo Lit Fest: Writing Wales – incomer & native

Have you ever read a book about a place you know well and thought No, that’s not it at all!

What are the challenges to an incomer writing well about a place they weren’t born and raised in? Is  the perspective of a native inherently more valid? Do the relative merits complement each other or clash?

Tickets

Sun 25th April 4pm English
Debut Authors: Writing Wales | Sponsored by Mari Thomas Jewellery

Join debut authors, Welsh woman, Angela Johnson and Belfast-born Angela Graham, as they discuss their experiences of putting Wales on the page in their new books, Arianwen, a warm and witty novel set in West Wales, and A City Burning, a confident collection of stories set in Wales, Ireland and Italy.

Arianwen has been described as ‘brilliantly evocative’ with ‘lilting Welsh rhythms and poetic imagery’; A City Burning was named ‘ a book of the year’ by Nation Cymru in 2020, and described as ‘wonderful’ by the Irish Examiner.

I’d like to think ahead to my session alongside Angela Johnson, author of Arianwen.

I was born and raised in Belfast. I’ve had to ‘learn’ Wales. I’ve written stories about Welsh people and places (some partly in Welsh) in my collection, A City Burning. Does my perception differ from that of a native? Yes, I believe it does. Do I get Wales and the Welsh ‘right’? Right by whose criteria? Continue reading Llandeilo Lit Fest: Writing Wales – incomer & native

SANCTUARY gets underway. Angela Graham – poems and poets

A Garw Valley cairn © Phil Cope

I am writing a collection of poetry on the theme of sanctuary.

This collection will not be written by me alone. Four other poets will each contribute a poem, written in collaboration with me, though originating with them. This approach is prompted by the notion of opening up a space, hosting, welcoming and also from my desire to open myself up, to learn.

Our collaboration will take whatever form seems mutually beneficial. I may edit a poem or have mine critiqued; I may write a poem in response; there could be a response through another medium − anything that prompts further engagement and growth.

Two of these poets are from Wales and two from Northern Ireland. Because I live in both places. All have experience of migration or a particular interest in sanctuaries.

Given the sanctuary theme, I have sought two of these four poets, one living in Northern Ireland and one in Wales, with experience of having been a refugee.

I will also benefit from having my own poems mentored by Glen Wilson.

At this point (mid-March 2021) I have received a first draft from three of the poets so it is a good time to let people know about this enterprise.

I am still looking for a poet in Northern Ireland who knows what it is like to seek sanctuary. For gender balance, I am looking for a woman, with some experience of writing poetry and a serious interest in craft.  There is a welcome for work in a language other than English. Finding this woman poet is part of this journey. Continue reading SANCTUARY gets underway. Angela Graham – poems and poets

The Art of Boredom – Wales Arts Review

The Art of Boredom – Writers Lament

Boredom. Tedium. Monotony. Quiet. It’s been over a year since the pandemic exiled us to a repertoire of sofas, armchairs and kitchen-tables-turned-desks. Though the phenomenon of lockdown has been common across the board, few of us have experienced it in the same way. Here, Wales Arts Review compiles reflections from some of the finest writers of Wales on the elusive art of being, rejecting and wishing for boredom.

 

My piece:

Angela Graham

Whenever I’m bored it’s not because I lack options but because none of them appeals to me and their very unattractiveness saps my capacity to manufacture alternatives.

At Christmas, the prize for a cracker-pulling victory is sometimes a tiny spinning-top, like a tubby ballerina revolving en pointe. As a child, I’d set this little toy going in front of a small mirror. Its whirling action instantly doubled in the busy space before the mirror’s bright face. But on the other side of the mirror nothing was happening. Continue reading The Art of Boredom – Wales Arts Review

PRAISE FOR ‘A CITY BURNING’

26 stories set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy, from the end of World War 2 to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘The stories entice and intrigue… highly recommended Graham Reid

‘What fires the attention is Graham’s mastery of language and her ear for local speech of both the poetic and prosaic kind. Her experimentation with Ulster Scots in particular points to a new talent in Irish writing…’ Dr Frank Ferguson Northern Slant

‘This is an exemplary collection illustrating the creative possibilities of the short fiction form.’ Jane Fraser The Lonely Crowd

‘Short, sharp and sometimes shocking, these wonderful stories truly pack a punch.’         Sue Leonard The Irish Examiner

‘Angela Graham’s collection of short stories A City Burning … has a voice that feels completely new and fresh. With stories set in Wales, Northern Ireland and Italy it’s a broad ranging collection but what I particularly loved about it… was its nuanced and beautifully observed view of the human condition. Graham’s language has a searing quality yet also a humour about it that is genuinely hard to forget long after reading. Very highly recommended – I can’t wait to see what she does next.’ Kate Hamer, The Lonely Crowd

‘Angela Graham’s debut collection A City Burning announced a confident, stylish new voice in short fiction.’ Jon Gower Nation Cymru

‘a fine writer… Some of these stories are short, jewel-like and almost Mansfield-esque in the way their protagonists achieve their epiphanies, reflecting Graham’s poetic training but also perhaps, in their reliance on visual imagery her career as a film-maker.’ Aidan Byrne Planet

‘the most striking element of Graham’s collection is the clarity of voice. Though each of the twenty-six stories employs a decidedly different perspective … Graham’s authorial command remains honest, insightful and impressive. The quasi-cinematic focus given to each story … gives the collection intriguing multiplicity and serves as a testament to Graham’s talent for interpersonal perception. The focus on linguistic exchange in A City Burning is also notable; English, Welsh, Ulster Scots, and Italian all converge to create a narrative that is both highly contextual and elegantly told. ‘ Gemma Pearson, Wales Arts Review

‘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’.’ Prof Diana Wallace University of South Wales

‘honest, searing, insightful and very, very good’ Inez Lynn New City

A Book of the Year 2020 for Nation Cymru and for The Lonely Crowd 

A Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales supported the development of this book.

Available here @SerenBooks £9.99 paperback £7.99 e-book

Review of A City Burning – Nation Cymru

Jane Fraser

The acclaimed Irish short story writer, Claire Keegan, has stated that, ‘the short story begins after what happens, happens.’ After the drama has passed is the territory the writer has to work within: a time, a place, and a context of emotional consequences where, after the water has been stirred up and settled, what was before, is not now.

The making of a short story into a beautiful art form is therefore a delicate and challenging craft.  And Belfast-born Angela Graham has risen to that challenge, exhibiting in her debut collection, A City Burning, twenty-six stories which allow the reader to feel the emotional intensity of a range of characters as they stand at pivotal moments in their lives in the aftermath of personal tragedy. Continue reading Review of A City Burning – Nation Cymru

Time To Write Around The Coast of Ireland

Maria Isakova Bennett celebrates Poetry Day Ireland 2020 by the creation of a collaborative poem made up of lines she has selected from poems specially written on that day with the sea as a theme. I chose to write about Broughanlea Townland where I live near Ballycastle.

Her beautiful stitching work enhances the presentation of the lines as they create, together, a harmony of sea sounds.

Collaborative Litany – Time To Write Around The Coast of Ireland 2020

The opening section

My poem, FULL CIRCLE, BROUGHANLEA TOWNLAND, COUNTY ANTRIM is part of the work I am doing on Place and Displacement for which I recieved a SIAP Award from the arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2019.

Maria hopes to arrange a reading involving all 34 contributing poets around the coast of Ireland when circumstances allow.

This lovely project brings together poetry and embroidery, two things I’m very keen on. I have plans for a stitched seascape!

Reactions to ‘A City Burning’

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

A Book of the Year 2020 on Nation Cymru and The Lonely Crowd.

Books of the Year 2020: Part One

“This is an exemplary collection illustrating the creative possibilities of the short fiction form… All the stories allowed me to feel the emotional intensity of a range of characters as they stand at pivotal moments in their lives in the aftermath of personal tragedy. This is due, I believe, to the innate understanding that Graham has for the ‘stuff’ of the short story: suggestion rather than statement; rising tension rather than high drama; the power of the unsaid; and the realisation that endings are not neat and tidy and tied up!” Jane Fraser (The Lonely Crowd)

“a kind of clarity of languag… that rings off the page…  a voice that feels completely new and fresh… Graham’s language has a searing quality yet also a humour about it that is genuinely hard to forget long after reading. Very highly recommended – I can’t wait to see what she does next.” Kate Hamer (The Lonely Crowd)

“Angela Graham’s debut collection A City Burning announced a confident, stylish new voice in short fiction.” Jon Gower (Nation Cymru) Continue reading Reactions to ‘A City Burning’

Silver Branch Poet for January 2021

I’m delighted to have some of my work featured as Black Bough Poetry’s Poet of the Month in the Silver Branch Series.

The series is curated by Matthew M.C. Smith, poet, and editor of Black Bough Poetry, a project which promotes imagist micro-poetry.

Silver Branch showcases the work of a poet whose poems have appeared in a Black Bough Poetry publication. In my case:

Moon, Landing – Black Bough – Issue 2 (Apollo 11 edition)

Thaw & Quite All Right, Thank YouDeep Time (volume2)

Freedom  in the imminent Freedom / Rapture issue

Alongside these are 5 other poems. Plus a pair of poems – Triptych and Three Stones – inspired by images: respectively, a painting by Matthias Grünewald and three photographs by the writer and photographer, Phil Cope.

The photograph that heads this post is Winter Branch © Phil Cope. The magical Silver Branch of Celtic story ensures entry to the Otherworld. It’s something both natural and wrought, like a poem.