Review of Sanctuary.. in Poetry Wales

Elizabeth Kemball reviews ‘Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere’ (Seren Books) in ‘Poetry Wales’ Summer 2023

Extract – ‘Angela Graham’s timely collection … unflinchingly addresses challenging issues of the current climate, from the pandemic to war in the Ukraine with a tender voice that is respectful of the subject matter… Through Graham’s collaboration with the five other poets who feature in this collection, the additional voices add to the exploration of what sanctuary is to each of us and how much this adapts and transforms in the face of upheaval and global turmoil… this collaborative approach only strengthens the message and quality of the work… In the poem ‘Since The Evacuations from Kabul’ we are asked the question that is essential to these poems

Is there a scathing truth we have to face,

that outside every sanctuary there’s a hell

where howling crowds who crave the sacred space

clamour to join the saved?

This stanza deftly cuts to the root of sanctuary: if it is a place then it is also a privilege, do which of us are allowed in?’

Writing of the inclusion in the book of a poem by each of Mahyar, Csilla Toldy, Viviana Fiorentino, Phil Cope and Glen Wilson:

‘This collaborative approach only strengthens the message and quality of the work within, as Graham explains in the foreword ‘TO eb permitted to engage at increasingly deepr levels challenges poth parties… something new emerges… and we go ahead in the pursuit of the true, the real, the poetically beautiful’ – this too is true of the idea of sanctuary, which becomes more rounded with the inclusion of multiple voices…

‘Angela Graham ends … with a poem about home. ‘Home’ is a hopeful piece that emphasises that at the heart of sanctuary is humanity: ‘We are a home for one another. And this holds true for everyone’. These final lines are perhaps the most poignant in the whole collection and remind us… that in turbulence of mundanity, whether human or animal, we each must carve a space to fit ourselves, around each other.’