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A City Burning

Set in Ulster, south Wales and Italy, many of the stories in 'A City Burning' concern a point of choice and decision. Characters reach a turning point at which their lives can become fuller and more meaningful, but at a cost to themselves. In others they bear witness to an event must decide whether to become involved or pass by. They could be ordinary people in Belfast during the Troubles or their aftermath, or during the Covid-19 pandemic, or priests facing a new religious reality in their ministries, or family members in a domestic situation in south Wales. Characters are forced to look into themselves; each must make a choice of how to live their future lives. These stories are vividly written and authentically realised, with Graham's eye for a telling detail and instinct for a loaded silence drawing in the reader. She has created memorable characters and situations which linger in the mind long after the story has ended.

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Karaoke King

The poems in Dai George's Karaoke King stand poised at the brink: they move through turbulent times and chronicle both uncertainty and joy. The poetâEUR(TM)s tone is one of tender irony and pointed reflection. He conveys the uneasiness of a generation trying to evolve progressive values, to embrace a rapidly changing society, to recognise their privilege. As well as the pressure of developing careers and private lives, there is also a pressing need to address the emergency of climate change. It is there in the uneasiness of âEUR¿AislesâEUR(TM) where a supermarket offers plenitude but a close look at the supply chains unearths exploitation of both farmed animals and farm workers at far ends of the earth. But amidst this plethora of challenges, there is solace and hope, often in the simple joys of a park, or a cafÃ(c), and the poet is sustained by a deep love of music. Likewise, close personal relationships are essential and redemptive. Also in this collection are other heroes and anti-heroes, versions of damaged masculinity, tarnished by fame and/or drugs, David BowieâEUR(TM)s Thin White Duke, Dustin Hoffman lurking at Cannes. In the title poem, George brings together the collectionâEUR(TM)s themes of performance, anxiety and belatedness via the figure of the Karaoke King, a tragic hero combining both bravado and heartbreak, drunkenness and bruised glory, as he sings to a gallery of fallen idols in a ghostly lock-in. Growing up in South Wales brings the author examples to both parody and emulate. The collection explores and interrogates Welsh Identity via the Karaoke KingâEUR(TM)s âEUR¿toxicâEUR(TM) male voice choir, and seeks to be a work that deepens and complicates the engagement with Welsh working class histories and family myths. Thoughtful readers will enjoy this artful new collection by Dai George.

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Octopus Mind

'Octopus Mind' plays with an array of rich and original metaphors to explore the intricacies of neurodiversity, perception and the human mind. These poems articulate the desire to understand and be understood by oneself and others in a complex world. They observe the nuances of creativity, art, relationships, and self-expression through the lens of neurodiversity, reflecting on the poet's experience of being diagnosed with dyspraxia as an adult. They delve into the challenges of neurodiversity, but also reveal its gifts. Poems respond to visual artists like Gwen John, whose paintings break new ground for women representing their own visions of themselves. Other poems suggest that this can be a struggle however, as Pablo Picasso paints not a woman but his own despair in 'Blue Nude', while Elizabeth Siddal reflects on her own image, fetishized by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, and Henri Rousseau's painting becomes an outlet for self-deception and frustration. Some of the most stunning poems in this collection perform a kind of magic or sleight of hand, as dyspraxia is explored through unique and remarkable metaphors, including a series of artefacts in a museum, a walk along the seashore, and a swaying tree. The 'Octopus Mind' evokes the possibilities of what it means to be human, through obsession, self-deception, realisation, and acceptance. The speaker in 'Octopus Mind' is endearingly humble and we journey with them beyond self-criticism to reclaiming the self. In 'Growing', the narrator declares 'I will grow // into myself, climbing, steady, / grip by grip, leaf by leaf'. In 'Understood' the narrator describes the complex process of re-imagining one's place in the world, armed with new knowledge: 'Slowly, we adjust / our own soft ignorance / unroll our prejudice / in gentle waves.'

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Sanctuary

Sanctuary is âEUR" urgent. The pandemic has made people crave it; political crises are denying it to millions; the earth is no longer our haven. This theme has enormous traction at a time of existential fear â¿' especially among the young â¿' that nowhere is safe. Even our minds and our bodies are not refuges we can rely on. Truth itself is on shaky ground. This pamphlet of 31 poems addresses these critical situations from the inside. How we can save the earth, ourselves and others? How valid is the concept of a âEUR¿holyâEUR(TM) place these days? Are any values still sacrosanct? We all deserve peace and security but can these be achieved without exploitation? Belfast-born Angela Graham divides her time between Wales and Northern Ireland. Alongside her own work, she has designed this collection to embody the hosting, welcoming aspect of Sanctuary by inviting four other poets to work with her in writing a poem each, two from Wales and two from Northern Ireland. In Wales, Phil Cope from the Garw Valley is an expert on the holy wells and shrines of the British Isles and âEUR¿MoonâEUR(TM) is the pseudonym for an Iranian poet who has made a new home in Wales. In Northern Ireland, poet and novelist, Viviana Fiorentino is an economic migrant from Italy, working with migrants and prisoners of conscience, while film maker and poet, Csilla Toldy fled communist Hungary for a âEUR¿freeâEUR(TM) life in the West. The fifth poet, Glen Wilson (winner of the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing), acted as mentor for AngelaâEUR(TM)s work and contributes a poem on

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Scar Tissue

The stories in Scar Tissue appear under the enigmatic headings of Space, Home, Away, Nowhere, Somewhere. Through a wide variety of characters and situations, Clare MorganâEUR(TM)s subjects include sex, death, relationships, the individual, the impossibility of relationships, parents and children, the passing on (or not) of things between generations. Many are informed by a sense of loss. The stories also explore contemporary themes of displacement, belonging, and identity, while Nietzsche and his philosophies also appear. The stories, and the structure of the collection, relates âEUR¿placeâEUR(TM) (or estrangement) to a kind of existential discomfort. This resonates in the locations of the stories. The Space, Home and Somewhere sections are all set in Wales/the Marches; the Away and Nowhere sections are set in India, Paris, New England, Scandinavia, Spain and a transatlantic flight.âEUR¯Additionally, many of the stories are set in the uncertain, fluctuating realm where individual consciousness meets the hard materials of the world.âEUR¯The collection ends with a piece of autobiographical writing about the haunting of MorganâEUR(TM)s Welsh home, an ancient mill, which in turn provokes the reader to re-address the eleven stories which precede it. Scar Tissue is a fascinating collection of well-crafted and engaging short stories by a writer who knows exactly what she is about. Readers will be reminded of the fiction of authors like Sally Rooney and Maggie OâEUR(TM)Farrell.

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