Tuesday 26 January 2021

Review by Nakisha Towers of "Astral Travel" by Elizabeth Baines

Astral Travel by Elizabeth Baines is a metafictional novel that follows Jo, a writer, who, years after his death, is hit by an unexpected urge to write about her father and the effects of his abuse during her childhood - remnants of which still continue in the lives of his adult daughters.

Framing the narrative is a familiar process of writing and storytelling. Through this process, Jo attempts to understand her father and the many mysteries surrounding his tumultuous and often troubled life. As a result, the book is a weaving together of a life through memories, vague stories and imagination – a tool Jo uses to fill in the gaps of missing or reluctantly provided information. 

Placing her father, posthumously, into the moments of her childhood that she remembers – or thinks she does - Jo tries to re-imagine or even recreate her father’s reaction; forcing him - in death - to confront the torment she experiences as a child. Instead, she is often faced with a deepening sense of the mystery she is attempting to resolve. She's unhelped by her submissive mother, who, in denial, has a stoic unwillingness to face reality.

Baines’s ability to evoke internal outrage and frustration through prose, that is sometimes brutal but always beautiful, is a skill that works so naturally on the page. With her narrator, we re-live painful and disturbing memories of childhood. We feel rage at the injustice she suffered at the hands of both parents. Readers who have had a difficult relationship with a parent may well find themselves re-living their own experiences too. Such is the power of her prose.

The story, that reads more like a fictional autobiography than a novel, is comfortable leaving loose ends; a reminder that, although Jo’s mother does eventually reveal a deep family secret which goes a little way to providing an explanation for her father’s all-consuming rage, real life cannot be tied up in a comfortable, bow-like conclusion.

About the reviewer
Nakisha Towers studied a Creative Writing Masters at the University of Leicester. In between navigating parenting and home-schooling, she likes to write poetry. She is currently re-working a collection of poetry she wrote for her MA dissertation about maternal mental health.

Monday 25 January 2021

Interview with Damian Barr


Damian Barr is an award-winning writer, columnist and broadcaster. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher's Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and Sunday Times Memoir of the Year, winning the Paddy Power Political Books 'Satire' Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel –a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, it was shortlisted for awards by the Saltire Society, Authors’ Club and Historical Writers Association. Damian has been a columnist for the Times, Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He presents the television series Shelf Isolation and the Big Scottish Book Club on BBC Scotland. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon, which premieres work from established and emerging writers and sees him and his team host events online and around the world. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Damian holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Damian lives in Brighton. He is on Twitter @Damian_Barr and his website is here.

Interview with Jonathan Taylor

JT: What first gave you the idea of writing Maggie & Me? How did it develop from that initial idea? 

DB: I was working as a journo at The Times and was tiring of only ever having 800-1500 words on any given subject. To begin with I wasn’t sure I could write anything longer than that. What I began with was a novel but it soon became clear that the central character ‘Darren’ had an awful lot in common with someone very close to me …. But, schooled in journalism where I was not the story and suffused with West Coast self-effacement, I couldn’t contemplate memoir. Then I went home to visit my sister and got lost driving from the train station to my childhood home—a journey I’d done many times. The road had changed because the steelworks had not just gone but been levelled—the ground itself had shifted and memory did too. So I started writing about the Ravenscraig steelworks, which lit up the sky so we had two sunsets, and that was that.

JT: What were your aims - political or personal - in writing the memoir? What did you want it to do, whether for yourself, the reader or the world?

DB: This is  generous question—thank you. Well, the personal is, of course, the political. I was working at the Times and folk there loved her (not everyone but more than I’d ever met growing up near a steel plant). Thatcher, the Maggie of the title, dominated my early life, for better and for worse (mainly worse). I remember reading the obituary in the system and thinking  about the one the Guardian had prepared---there had to be room between damnation and beatification. I wanted to find the grey area that was making me feel uncomfortable and explore that. I wanted, simply, to take the reader to there and then—a small village near a small town where once coal was mined and then steel was forged and then nothing.  To a family that was breaking down and a boy that was waking up.

JT: Do you have an intended reader in mind when you write? Or intended readers?

DB: No. I hoped my family wouldn’t read it and most of them haven’t.

JT: Maggie & Me is one of the most single-mindedly (and powerfully) immersive and 'novelistic' memoirs I have read. Unlike many memoirs, for example, there is very little retrospective musing in it - rather, it tells the story in a linear and immersive way. Was this a conscious decision on your part? Why do you think it took on this form?

DB: I started writing it in the past tense and it was dead—it was full of fully-arrived-at thoughts and neat summations—none of which I had at the time. It was also very angry and one note. This book took seven years. A good part of that was giving myself the permission to speak (and maybe be heard) and another was finding a way to connect with my voice. First person present tense made it come to life but it also made it harder emotionally. The form gained momentum and in the end I spent nearly two years editing a lot—taking stuff back, just for me.

JT: Given that it's a very novelistic memoir, how true is it? I know that's a very difficult question to answer - but how much licence did you feel you had to fictionalise what happened? 

DB: Everything that happened in the book happened to me. But, of course, other people experienced those events differently—they may disagree. That’s subjectivity. I can only seek to tell my own story. I never made someone do or say something they would not have but I did move some events in time—there are many boring months and not all events were of interest to the story. It is a story and not a diary.

JT: What ethical questions arose in writing and publishing the memoir? Did you have (for instance) any issues in terms of dramatising real people, events and places?

DB: I was terrified of what my family would think of me—many of the events in the book concern moments I’d lied about for years, particularly abuse I experienced from my mother’s partner. I was ashamed still of so much—of somehow not having stood up to my abuser, of the poverty we were plunged into after the divorce and then the steelworks closing, and there was (is always) internalised homophobia too. So I was concerned with exposing myself, yes, but more worried about others. Eventually the pain of not writing overtook the fear of publishing. I was guided by the hope that if I had read this book as a child my early life would have been very different—I’d have felt less shame and felt more seen, in a good way. I was thinking of a young scared kid reading this in a school library, if I thought of anyone. As for the ethics of legal matters, that is what legal editors are for.

JT: Did you enjoy writing Maggie & Me? What did you learn from it, or gain from it, personally? 

DB: No and also yes. The toughest scenes to read were the hardest to write—when my mother's partner almost drowns me in the bath, for example. It feel surreal even writing it now. That was not fun to revisit. But it was necessary. I learned more about what happened that night simply from writing it all down—that was therapeutics, cathartic we are supposed to say. Writing it also made me more sympathetic to the plight of my parents and especially my mum—how hard she had to work to recover form the brain haemorrhage that nearly killed her, how she had to fight so many men who wanted to control her and her kids, how she had to stretch impossibly mean benefits to feed and clothe her family.

JT: What sort of response did you have in publishing the memoir? 

DB: Well, it came out the week Thatcher died—that was uncanny. There was a year of hoopla. What I find most moving and enduring is the responses from readers—I still hear from readers at least every week. They are very different people with very different stories but they share their lives with me and that is a great honour, if sometimes also a pressure. Everybody has a story to tell and I would like everybody to feel the freedom and power that comes from being able to tell and own your own story, with all its flaws, even if you never ever publish it. Most of the benefit I got from M&M I got by the time I finished that last edit. The rest was publishing and I have been very lucky and remain very grateful.

JT: How does your memoir-writing relate to other aspects of your writing life?

DB: Writing M&M set me on the path of writing my novel—much of what I chose not to put in the memoir was spun into the feelings that fuelled You Wil Be Safe Here, another story of mothers and sons, oppression and survival. I arrived at the novel a writer with some awareness of their weaknesses and tics (a terrible overreliance on EM dashes and a tendency to warm the pot rather than crack on). I will write another memoir, I can’t not. And right now M&M is being adapted for TV by the brilliant Andrea Gibb and I am also writing on it. That will be another degree of separation between my life and me and in that gap we will what darkness and brightness can be found.

About the interviewer
Jonathan Taylor's books include the memoir Take Me Home (Granta, 2007), the novel Melissa (Salt, 2015), and the poetry collection Cassandra Complex (Shoestring, 2018). He is director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His website is here

Friday 22 January 2021

Review by Jon Wilkins of "Entertaining Strangers" by Jonathan Taylor

It’s a match made in heaven. As the blurb at the back says if you are interested in impossible relationships with a landlady, a neurotic mother, a psychotic brother, a domineering ex-wife, a dead grandfather and an ant-farm, then this book is perfect for me. Added to that another protagonist who has dreams of a great fire, a massacre and one girl's drowning in Smyrna, seventy-five years earlier, what isn’t there to like? And that’s just the back cover!

It ticks all the boxes:

About the reviewer
Jon Wilkins is sixty-five. He has a gorgeous wife Annie and two beautiful sons, and loves to write. He is a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstones’ bookseller and former Basketball Coach. He taught PE and English for twenty years and coached women’s basketball for over thirty years.  He has always loved books and reading. You can read a review of Jon's recent novel, Poppy Flowers at the Front, here. His website is here

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Review by Rob Jones of "Take A Hint, Dani Brown" by Talia Hibbert

One of the reasons I enjoyed Take a Hint, Dani Brown so much was undoubtedly nostalgia for my student days. I attended seminars led by people as sharp and uncompromising as Danika, in campus buildings as forbidding and draughty as Echo, guarded by security staff as gruff yet good-humoured as Zafir.

Of course, this only goes to show that one of the real strengths of Talia Hibbert’s writing is her characters, who manage to be vivid, distinct and yet familiar. Their backgrounds are handled sensitively and genuinely, and their personalities and mannerisms are cemented in a few short pages, the third-person personal narration providing an insight into their thoughts and the way they see things.

This narration is conversational, self-aware and liberally sprinkled with humour, but the funniest parts of the book are in the dialogue between characters. Dani and Zaf are clearly well acquainted with, and fond of each other from the start, and although nothing has previously happened between them their witty exchanges are up there with those between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (other Shakespearean romantic protagonists are available).

Hibbert shows admirable creativity in how Dani and Zaf are brought together and how things develop between them. Each is hugely driven, Danika by the search for professional fulfilment in a competitive field and Zafir by his heart for the rugby-based non-profit he has set up. The pair’s sudden social-media stardom, driven by an apparent romantic relationship between them (which doesn’t actually exist for most of the book!) leads to a huge increase in publicity, donations and interest for the latter, with which Danika is happy to assist despite the stress she faces in the run-up to a key symposium.

Zafir’s fondness for romance novels provides a pleasing metatextuality as well as further opportunities for comedy, and this book shines as a romance as much as any other genre in which one might class it. It is tender, gripping, sometimes steamy and always the right side of believable. It is worth reading however familiar you are with literary academia, rugby, witchcraft, mental health, social media or romantic relationships.

About the reviewer
Rob Jones studied English with Creative Writing options at the University of Leicester and completed an MA in Victorian Studies there. He lives in Sileby with his wife, sings with Leicester University Chamber Choir and dreams of working in heritage.

You can also read an article about Talia Hibbert's Take A Hint, Dani Brown, on the Creative Writing at Leicester blog here

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Review by Neil Fulwood of "Venus in the Blind Spot" by Junji Ito

This beautifully produced volume collects ten short stories in manga form, two based on works by Edogawa Ranpo, one from a story by Robert Hichens, the remaining seven original to Ito. Already recognised as one of manga’s leading artists thanks to Tomie and Uzumaki, it goes without saying that the artwork Ito has produced here is as beautiful and imaginative as it is dark and visceral.

Venus in the Blind Spot delivers an impressive spectrum of storytelling. 'Billions Alone' is a genuinely unsettling study of loneliness and social inability set against a broader enigma of mass disappearances, sharing a similar sense of disquiet at the emptiness of modern life as Will Carver’s recent novel Nothing Important Happened Today. Elsewhere, ‘An Unearthly Love’ and ‘Keepsake’ explore the dark side of human relationships, ‘The Enigma of Amigara Fault’ trades in folk horror and the unexplained (Ito’s haunted landscapes subtly evoke Picnic at Hanging Rock), while the title story veers into sci-fi and is bound to appeal to fans of Black Mirror

Surprisingly, in amongst the chills, gruesome set-pieces and twist-of-the-knife endings, Ito includes a heartfelt and energetically drawn paean to manga pioneer Kazuo Umezz. Part memoir of what Umezz’s work meant to the young Ito, part ardent fan letter, it’s a sharp contrast with the grotesquerie of the other tales.

For anyone new to manga and general or Ito in particular, Venus in the Blind Spot is an ideal starting point. I’ll certainly be exploring more of his work. 

About the reviewer
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, where he still lives and works. He is the author of two poetry collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with a third forthcoming in June 2021. 

Sunday 17 January 2021

Review by Asha Krishna of "How We Met" by Huma Qureshi

As the title suggests, this memoir is about Qureshi met her husband. But it is also about so much more.

As she states earlier on, it is not a tale of drama and oppression but more of a coming-of-age story.  She reflects on an upbringing where the houses were always full of guests, tables full of food and the mindset that girls who do not have a vocational career must marry young.

One may cringe at the way she puts herself through the matchmaking process. But we have all been in situations which in retrospect we would have handled differently. It takes courage to relive them again with transparency and that is where Qureshi wins hearts. 

Although marriage plays a pivotal part, the memoir also reflects on the personal trauma of losing a loved one – her father - around the time she was starting a new job at a newspaper office. Her experiences resonate as she battles grief and workplace bias at the same time, such that the reader feels triumphant when Qureshi finally begins to feel at peace with herself.  

The latter half of the memoir reflects on how she meets her now-husband and their efforts to convince the family. However, there is reference but no in-depth analysis about the cultural conflict. Perhaps that is where the appeal is. It is an upfront account of a woman relating her experiences and, in doing so, highlights societal stereotypes and pre-conceived notions. 

It is a feel-good story after all, and we know how it ends. The facts are neatly lined up like a well-planned fictional story, but the authenticity and the voice remind one that it is a memoir, and an engaging one at that.

About the reviewer
Asha Krishna hated homeschooling in the first lockdown and now does so even more. Her articles and stories have been published in print and online. Her twitter handle is @ashkkrish. 

Friday 15 January 2021

Review by Mark Mayes of "Turquoise Traveller" by David John Griffin

Another very intense novel from David John Griffin. I enjoy stories about dreams and dream worlds, and also the concept of the quest, both are aspects of this novel. The imagery was rich and well-described, and almost hallucinogenic, like some extended hallucinogenic trip.

The further you go on into the story, the more apparent it becomes that this is a spiritual quest which Stave must fulfil, both for himself and for others. The book looks at dream states as their own kind of reality, with rules and a purpose. Tremelon Zandar, who is a keeper of nightmares, is a formidable foe for any dreamer, and his concern is to corrupt any dreamer's dreamscape, and turn all beauty into ugliness and pain and, quite frankly, nightmare.

Towards the very end we have some deeper sense what Tremelon might represent.

As said, the descriptions are powerful and vivid, and in some ways Stave's nightmarish journey reminded me of a computer game, with he as the hero passing through various 'levels' of skill and understanding, in order to fully manifest his spirit.

At times, the imagery is so rich and comes so thick and fast, you need to pause in order to take it in and visualise it in your mind. Aspects of the story reminded me of Jung's concept of the shadow self and needing to face that in order to fully integrate oneself in life.

I found the ending satisfying and was glad that Stave and Cassaldra had made it through - I won't mention who Cassaldra is here, as this may spoil your reading of this book.

So, in some senses this is fantasy, and in another it is more a psychological adventure into the dreaming mind, and the nature of being, and the quest for a full manifestation of the pure self. In that sense, it has a spiritual component, as well as being an intriguing and at times startling ride into the unconscious.

About the reviewer
Mark Mayes has written three novels (The Blue Box; The Grass Below; Crimes of Others), a children's book (Is it Tomorrow Yet?), a collection of short stories (Take Away the Sky, and Other Stories), and a collection of poems (Winter Moon). He is widely published in magazines and anthologies. Mark also writes songs.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Review by Rosalind Taylor, aged 12, of "Uzumaki" by Junji Ito

Uzumaki is by Junji Ito and is a book about a town infected by spirals. People in Kurôzu-cho are becoming abnormal, having obsessions with spirals  or having weird reactions to them. 

The main character, Kirie Goshima, is a high school student who is living in Kurôzu-cho with her family. Shuichi Saito is Kirie’s friend and his father has started having a weird obsession with spirals. He doesn’t go to work but just stares into them, following them around with his eyes. Shuichi’s family all become affected by the obsession, when the father dies. After this happens, Kirie is beset with many challenges caused by spirals. 

I thought this book was very creepy. The storyline was good, and very original.  

About the reviewer
Rosalind Taylor is twelve years old. She enjoys Manga and Anime and Roblox. 


Wednesday 13 January 2021

Review by Katherine Hetzel of "Marmalade Skies" by Gus Gresham

It took me a while to get into this story, as to begin with it didn’t really feel like a story as such – more a stitching together of scenes of childhood from a time I well remember living through myself. I used to play ‘over the fields’ too (rather than in the woods) with a gang of friends, witnessed school-lunchtime fights and the chanting that went with them, played my LPs on the record player, watched my dad carry home a Party Seven …

I’d describe it as a young ‘coming-of-age’ novel, as it follows Vonnie and Matt through most of their first year in senior school. They face a variety of challenges – some mere inconveniences, others more serious – at home and in school during this time. Such as, how many new pennies are in half a crown? What’s the best way of dealing with communal showers after PE? How to keep out of Skinner’s way when he’s had too much to drink? Will mum ever be brave enough to leave him? And can you really parachute off the extension roof using a tablecloth? (You can’t).

Gresham describes the day-to-day living and schooling in detail, capturing the mood of the era well. At times – for me at least – there was a little too much of this description and not enough story; the descriptive scenes didn’t always help to move things on. They felt more like an indulgent meander down memory lane rather than an integral part of the novel in some places. The voice of the novel feels much older than that of the 11 year old characters, and could therefore impact on the age range of the target audience, but if a child today read this as a study of their grandparents’ childhood … I think they’d be left gobsmacked at what we used to get up to. 

About the reviewer
Katherine Hetzel writes fantasy adventures for middle grade readers and is a founding member of NIBS, a small creative writing group in Loughborough. She blogs about life and writing at Squidge's Scribbles and enjoys working with writers of all ages to enable them to tell their own stories. You can see her books here

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Review by Neil Fulwood of "Lake 32" by JLM Morton

Graced with stunning cover art by Naomi Walker, Lake 32 collects nineteen poems written during Morton’s year-long residency at a former gravel pit since converted to a man-made lake in the Cotswold Water Park - “a world of wayward crayfish and self-help magpies,” as she describes it in the field note that serves as the volume’s introduction.

Morton’s engagement with nature, landscape and ecosystem is tactile and immersive, the poems thrumming with life and activity even as they hymn the underrated pleasures of sanctuary and solitude. 

Modernity (“the drenching squalls of camper vans and gravel trucks”) is a nagging presence, however, at the periphery of this world, the resulting tension elevating these poems above the merely pastoral. “Suppose there was a tree” Morton speculates in "Courage," the second poem in the pamphlet, “that did not burn, / but instead contained a fire / that lit the taper of our hopes.”

Morton’s poetics are confident, whether she’s distilling the contrast between white violet and nettle into the sharp minimalism of a haiku in "Lakegram" or crafting an onomatopoeic account of the ecosystem in "Hibernal Solstice, Soundscape." Experimentalism never gets in the way of immediacy, though, and Morton’s gift for shimmering yet unpretentious language gifts the reader with stanzas like this (from "Night Swimming"):

           Let’s break the stars on the surface
           with the lightness of bodies in water,
           remembering this celestial night
           when we met with the best of us.

Lake 32 is a lyrical, intelligent and life-affirming pamphlet that deserves a wide readership. Lake 32 is off the A419 and deserves a visit.

About the reviewer
Neil Fulwood was born in Nottingham, where he still lives and works. He is the author of two poetry collections with Shoestring Press, No Avoiding It and Can’t Take Me Anywhere, with a third forthcoming in June 2021. 

Monday 11 January 2021

Review by Asha Krishna of "Ten Things About Writing" by Joanne Harris

When Joanne Harris’ name appears on a book about the craft, it is bound to attract attention. So, how is it better or any different than the ones already out there? 

Ten Things About Writing is clearly designed for the tech-savvy contemporary learner attracted to the luxury of a well-laid-out website. The book is moulded in a similar fashion, offering writing advice in a very palatable format with its crisp short sentences. 

It is divided into ten sections, each section containing ten short chapters. Each chapter is further laid out in ten bullet points. It is so easy to dip in and out that you whizz easily through the pages and marvel at how much has been packed into those short chapters. 

Right from getting into the zone to constructing a nuanced narrative, the book covers a wide range of topics. It offers tips on basic skills of “show not tell” and foreshadowing with equal ease, making it a comprehensive writing toolkit for the novice as well as the advanced practitioner. 

Harris’s experience as a contemporary author shines through when she discusses commercial issues like readings and requests. There is a section that addresses all sort of random queries from publishing trends to handling frustration. The questions are random and yet relevant for the writer navigating their way round the writing world.

The book ends with section, “Welcome to the dark side” and this is the best part where the stern, but warm voice inspires the reader and urges them to take pride in leading the life of a writer.

For someone keen to understand the concepts, this is a great book; for someone looking to sustain the joy of writing, this is invaluable. 

About the reviewer
Writer, mum, craft-crazy, Asha Krishna was one of the mentees on the Middleway Mentoring Scheme in Leicester. Her fiction and articles have been published in print and online. She tweets as @ashkkrish

Friday 8 January 2021

Review by Ayana Sen-Handley, age 11, of "The Cats of Charnwood Forest" by Constantine

The Cats of Charnwood Forest is a charming, mythical story that entranced me from the first. I adore cats so it sounded perfect for me!

I thought the intricate detail with which the author described the surroundings added extra splashes of colour to the story and I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Shadow, the kittens’ garden and the shrouded dream space that enabled the cats to move so swiftly.

Despite this, I felt the plot could have had more depth and clarity for I wanted to read more of certain things such as the mysterious riddle that concerned the fate of innumerable realms. Was there more to that than meets the eye?

The environmental message was very cleverly put, and how it portrays the human (and other) worlds being slowly poisoned by that of the wicked fairies is engrossing, but it could have been even more powerful.

The concluding cliff-hanger where Tenacious doesn’t recognise her kittens puzzled me because I think moms have better memories than elephants when it comes to their children!

Overall, this gripping book is beautifully written and packed full of interesting, charismatic characters – especially Ghaz’on. I would highly recommend this to anyone I know.

About the reviewer
Ayana Sen-Handley is eleven years old. A writer, artist, and performer, she has danced for the Welsh National Opera, and with Martine McCutcheon in the Broadway musical Elf, sung with G4 at Southwell Minster, performed on the West End, and as Dick Whittington in a Leicestershire pantomime this Christmas. She has also led an arts and crafts workshop for Nottingham City Council's Story Parks, and been published in several anthologies, including Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature's Speak Up

Thursday 7 January 2021

Review by Cate West of "The Plague" by Albert Camus

Published in 1947 and sold out all over town in spring 2020, it was worth re-reading The Plague simply to appreciate, not only how well written, but how psychologically accurate is Camus’s depict of lockdown mentality. As an allegory of the Occupation, The Plague represents an imaginative feat that ticks off marker after marker of the stages of an infected community in siege - disbelief, denial, paranoia, fear, accommodation, ennui. 

The daily routine of life, punctuated only by funerals and weather, continues, with its fatal need for human contact and its dreams of escape - intoxicating but ultimately abortive. The description of an illicit night swim in the ocean ‘for friendship’s sake’ took me wild swimming when restrictions permitted, and it was every bit as relieving an interlude as Camus described. ‘For a few minutes they swam on with equal stroke and equal strength, alone, far from the world, finally free of the town and the plague.’

About the reviewer
Cate West trained in Fine Art and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2019. She was shortlisted for York Festival of Writing’s Friday Night Live Competition and long listed for Mslexia’s Novel Competition in 2019. Cate teaches Creative Writing and is passionate about outsider narratives. She lives and works in the Midlands. Publications: ‘The Blue Pool’ in The Invisible Collection, ed. Nicholas Royle (Nightjar Press, 2020); ‘Imbolc,’ Lunate, January 2021.

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Review by Asha Krishna of "Fragile Monsters" by Catherine Menon

Fragile Monsters is the debut of Catherine Menon, known for her excellently crafted short stories. 

The story opens with Durga, a mathematics lecturer visiting her grandmother, Mary, in rural Malaysia after ten years. It was meant to be short visit on Diwali night, but she ends up staying longer. As the women share the same roof after many years, the story sheds light on their frictional relationship and the reasons behind it.

Durga does not remember her mother Francesca, only from what Mary told her. As she begins to question her grandmother’s version, Franscesca’s story – the connection that binds the two women – comes to fore.

The story has a strong atmospheric feel as it brings alive the tropical heat days, rain splashed roofs and the swinging palm trees as well as the clinical, academic corridors of Canada where Durga had been living for the last ten years.

Swinging between the past and present, the narrative reveals the story of the family and the country as the women navigate the murky waters of the past.

It is the narrative technique that elevates the story to another level. Catherine’s strength is her ability to paint a complex world with a few strokes. As a mathematician herself, she skilfully employs the format of a theorem to the story. It is an interesting device that pairs beautifully with lines like the one Mary says to Durga: “You want it to be right and not true.” It highlights the complexity of truth depending upon who is saying it. 

Read this novel for its atmospheric feel, complex characters and a layered narrative. They work well here to create an immersive experience for the reader.

About the reviewer
Writer, Mum, Craft-crazy. Asha Krishna was one of the mentees on the Middleway Mentoring Scheme in Leicester. Her fiction and articles have been published in print and online.  She tweets as @ashkkrish.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Review by Rachel J. Fenton of "It's Not Personal" by Nigel Pantling

I’m one of those readers – you know you’re out there – who approach a book by an author you’ve not read much by before as if the opening scene in a mystery. Every word’s a clue to some deeper meaning or part of an elaborate plot reveal. Nigel Pantling dedicates his poetry collection It’s Not Personal to ‘my sisters,’ so it was with the curiosity of Miss Marple that I read ‘Something My Girlfriend Said to Me’ and found my head tilting to one side in the manner of Joan Hickson circa 1985 – Agatha Christie’s Letters of Death to be precise – as a small alarm bell went off in my head. Thought I, why then is this the first poem? It is, as Hannah Gadsby would say, 'A choice.' 

By the end of the second poem, ‘First Times,’ I was debating with the last lines then reasoned with the poem’s speaker. Age, inexperience, lack of insight, this could progress to greater understanding; there’s scope for a great character development arc. But the fact was, this book had to convince me to read on. And it did. 

‘Differences,’ like track five on a music album, came a few pages in and made me wish it had come first. ‘Icebergs’ marks a break in tone akin to Marple overhearing smut then discussing it in the vicarage: ‘there she is at the bar with someone / sparkling in conversation. He realises / how little they’d talked, how much stayed hidden.’ The following poems feel like they’re out of one of Christie’s books; the reader must work to make the links but they’re there no doubt, and these poems are building towards something. At page 31, it hits you, in the short simple lines of ‘Death in the Family.’ I cried. Sufficed to say, there are no sisters. 

At times the poems' speakers are like Christie’s suspects; many give the reader motive for dislike. But in a collection of 73 pages, there are more mysteries and more to intrigue than give flight and page after page, it’s the craft of the poet that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. 

About the reviewer
Rachel J. Fenton is a writer from South Yorkshire now living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her poems have been published in English, The Rialto, Magma, and various anthologies, and her pamphlet Beerstorming with Charlotte Brontë in New York is forthcoming from Ethel Press in April 2021. 

Monday 4 January 2021

Favourite Reads of 2020

At the end of 2020, we asked readers to nominate a favourite read of the year, and write a micro-review of their chosen book. The book could be from any time or genre - the only qualification was that it had to be a book the reader found particularly memorable, striking or enjoyable during the last twelve months. 2020 was a year in which, for many, reading was of life-changing, maybe even near-life-saving importance. Here below are the responses we received from readers. Everybody's Reviewing wishes all its readers a happy and hopeful new year of reading in 2021!

Andrew Dix

David Peace, Nineteen Seventy-Four: "An odd choice of book for such a difficult year, given that it centres on violence and corruption, but this compelling crime novel was like a time machine in carrying me away from lockdown and back to the police stations and saloon bars of West Yorkshire in the 1970s (a stink of cigarette smoke, cheap aftershave and bad chips hanging in the air)."

Colin Gardiner

Patricia Lockwood, Priestdaddy: "A funny and affecting memoir. As a struggling 30-year-old poet in crisis, Lockwood has no choice but to return home to live with her father, a gun loving, guitarist worshipping father (who has been ordained as a Catholic Priest) and mother, who sees danger everywhere (especially the internet). Lockwood describes her formative years in an eccentric family with wit, empathy and vivid detail. Highly recommended." 

Katherine Hetzel

Paul Biegel, The King of the Copper Mountains: "In this year particularly, the story of a community of animals who tell fabulous tales to keep the old king alive, until such time as the Good Doctor can bring back the miracle cure, seems to be a reflection of current times. A firm favourite of mine when I was 7 or 8, I've seen new meaning and much hope in this book during 2020."

Rhiannon Jenkins

Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands: "A fantastic read that took me by surprise because I had low hopes for a Victorian autobiography. However, Mrs Seacole is a dynamic narrator who led a captivating life, and is deserving of much more attention."

Ellie Fleur Johnson

Stephenie Meyer, Midnight Sun: "A controversial pick but let me explain ... The year is 2008: block colours are in fashion, with pearly necklaces and Manic Panic hair dyes are flying off of the shelves. You are an awkward fourteen year-old girl, and you are in love. With a vampire named Edward. You find solace and a release in the Twilight world, it is YOUR world. And you never want to leave. Then BOOM, 2020 hits. You’re now 26, furloughed from both of your jobs, struggling to find any inspiration or imitative to do anything ... Alas, it’s not all doom and gloom, Stephenie Meyer finally had enough free time to complete Midnight Sun. It is a retelling of Twilight from Edward’s perspective. It reads like a personal love letter, you get to know all of his thoughts and feelings ... You are fourteen again, with your first love. Life is good."

Robert Richardson

Don DeLillo, Underworld: "This novel’s many digressions dynamically engage with aspects of American culture in the second half of the twentieth century. Ambition is important in art, and DeLillo’s voluminous tour de force proves the point."

Karen Rust

Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140: "Genius cli-fi thriller set in a submerged New York. Sharp, smart and unputdownable, it follows the narratives of multiple city dwellers to weave an exciting tale that makes you think."

Janette Jenkins, Little Bones: "Historical fiction is not my bag, but this tale of a deformed young women abandoned in the harsh streets of Victorian London is engaging and vivid."

Octavia E. Butler, Kindred: "Written in 1979, this book has aged well. A black American woman finds herself dragged back in time to help her white ancestor, a plantation owner's son. A great read, it raises many questions about race and is, sadly, as relevant today as ever."

Benardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other: "Once I got used to the lack of punctuation, I adored this novel of inter-linked stories about the lives of twelve black women living in Britain and their search for identity. The characters fizz off the pages."

Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends: "A challenging but interesting look at the complexities of relationships when friendship and lust overlap. Steered just the right side of navel gazing."

Sophie Mackintosh, The Water Cure: "A feminist dystopia that is drip fed the reader, so much of the time you are in the dark. Leaves many questions unanswered, so won't be everyone's cup of tea, but hauntingly good."

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give: "Essential reading. Gives a terrifying insight into the life of a black teenage girl in America. Starr lives between two worlds, the black neighbourhood where she lives and the 99% white private school she attends. Wonderful writing but expect to get angry!"

Lisa Heathfield, Seed: "The dark tale of life in a cult through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old girl. The children rarely leave the grounds of Seed, but when an outside family join them, a new perspective makes Pearl question the unquestionables of her life."

Jenny Valentin, Finding Violet Park: "A beautiful coming of age story that won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. Sixteen-year-old Lucas Swain jumps off the page in all his unconventionality. You'll laugh and cry as you follow his journey to discover who Violet Park is after he's drawn to steal her ashes from a mini-cab office."

Sally Green, Half Bad: "Brilliant world building by Sally Green as we follow the trials of Nathan Byrn, who had the misfortune to be born half white witch and half black. The only witch of his kind in society. A pacy, dark fantasy. Can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy."

Deborah Scott-Paul

Richard Powers, The Overstory: "An incredible read which I loved so much. The characters were so beautiful and real, and the underlying story throughout about the trees was wonderful. I get a warm glow when I think about it. It's now one of my favourite books of all time."

Jonathan Taylor

Barry Hines, A Kestrel for a Knave: "Compacting poetry, comedy, tragedy, beauty, politics into one diamond-sharp story, A Kestrel for a Knave cut through my consciousness this year, making it feel as if I'd always known it, always read it - and, above all, always loved it."

Maria Taylor

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World Is Forest: "This was the first novel I read after the pandemic had taken hold. Le Guinn's sci-fi novel seemed an echo of our own world and dealt with the difficult issue of colonialism and power set against nature and alternative forms of inner knowledge. It was stunning!"

Miranda Taylor (aged 12)

Reiji Miyajima, Kanojo, Okarishimasu: "I liked the story and art and characters. The style of the art fitted well with the story."

Rosalind Taylor (aged 12)

Nanashi, Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro: "I thought the story was really good and funny, and the characters had very strong personalities. The characters' expressions were drawn well."

Paul Taylor-McCartney

Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet: "An intensely lyrical study of infant mortality as witnessed by the Shakespeare household and a remarkable feat of storytelling."

Charlotte Watts

Robert Macfarlane, Underland: "The language Macfarlane uses to describe the natural world is astonishing, allowing you to be there with him as he delves down, not just through the earth but through time. I smelt the cold stone and felt the harsh sun as if I were him. Joyous!"

Catherine West

John Haskell, American Purgatorio: "You know the feeling that something’s not quite right? The book I read and can’t forget in 2020 is American Purgatorio. It starts on an ordinary day at an gas station, and turns into a mind-clouded, troubled quest where the reader is carried along in empathetic perplexity with the first person narrator, who navigates his journey in search of his missing wife in as much perplexity as we routinely live our lives. ‘I … was in the middle of living happily after when something happened.’ A pacier, grittier The Unconsoled, this novel, ahead of its time, hit entirely the right note for a year that was to hold uncharted routes for all of us."

Harry Whitehead

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life: "for its profound characterisation and masterly structuring, the protagonist’s life constantly starting over as she struggles to chart a path through the perils of World War 2."

Lee Wright

Richard Ford, Sorry for Your Trouble: "Ford's latest book consists of nine short stories about things salvaged from the wreckage of relationships and the dissection of love in America. It looks long and hard at great moments in small town lives."   

Saturday 2 January 2021

Interview with Reuben Woolley


Reuben Woolley was an acclaimed poet, editor, and activist. His books included the king is dead (Oneiros Books, 2014), dying notes (Erbacce, 2015), skins (Hesterglock Press, 2016), broken stories (20/20 Vision Publishing, 2017), sometime we are heroes (Corrupt Press, 2018), This Hall of Several Tortures (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press, 2019). 

Reuben was editor of the hugely successful and popular online magazine, I am not a silent poet. He was also editor of the online magazine for innovative poetry, The Curly Mind. 

He was runner-up in the Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition, 2015 and also runner-up for the Erbacce Prize, 2015. His poems were published in Tears in the FenceDomestic Cherry , The Lighthouse Journal, The Interpreter's House, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Stare's Nest, Amaryllis, The Poetry Shed, The Goose, And Other Poems, Proletarian Poetry, International Times, Stride, Nutshells and Nuggets, Yellow Chair Review, Clear PoetryBone Orchard Poetry and the Screech Owl, among others. 

Reuben died in December 2019. You can read a tribute to him hereYou can read a review of his collection broken stories on Everybody's Reviewing here

Below, you can read an interview with Reuben, conducted by Lucia Daramus, shortly before his death in 2019. The interview is published here in memory of Reuben.  

Dialogue from 2019 with Lucia Daramus

LD: Sometimes, when I write poems or stories I used to assume all of my characters' identities. Your poetry is so descriptive. When you write a poem are you a male or a female in your mind?

RW: ‘I’ is an important character, especially in my earlier poetry, but there is absolutely no reason to identify that ‘I’ with me. Would a novelist writing in the first person be considered to be writing biography? My ‘I’ is whoever it needs to be in the poem and could certainly be a woman. In my collection some time we are heroes, there are two central characters, a man and a woman, and either or neither may be speaking at any one time. In another collection, the story or stories are told through the eyes of a woman who lives on a parallel world in this multiverse. She talks of herself as ‘I’ and my references to her are in the third person. Person is just one more element for us to play with as poets. Who is ‘I’ for you?

LD: For me 'I ' is everything. When I write a novel, for example, my latest novel – The Cortege of The Lambs – I identified with all of my characters in my book. It is a novel about Holocaust in Romania. The action takes place in Romania and in Auschwitz. The novel begins with a fairy tale. It is the brutal reality transformed into a dream story by Hannya , a little Jewish girl. She is only nine years old. She is brutally taken out of her house by the Nazis. She is a strong and fragile little girl, but she has a gift: to create in her mind a perfect dream world in which she will live. The reality is much, much stronger. Hannya will be in the Nazi experimental camp where Mengele is a God. But Hannya fights with her imagination, with her sensibility. The novel is structured on two planes: one of the brutal reality, and one of the imaginary world, Hannya's world. It is about the betrayal of the adults, about life and death, forgiveness and hatred, about the fragile line of the life. For this book I took the girl's identity, to understand every tragic situation of the moments in Auschwitz. Therefore, all my characters in my books are me, myself. 'I' represents all my characters and these represent myself in thousands of imaginary situations. 

broken stories, your pamphlet, is so exotic, mysterious and contains real grandeur. For example: 

Place of residence

let’s keep this simple like 
 quadrilaterals don’t complicate the view
  we’re falling into mud         flats 
crank open the shutters a    little  light on old routines
the view from empty bridges
  the grey dust &       spiders

Tell me about the colours of Spain, about the smell of it. These lines represent Spain? 

RW: I see Spain in browns and yellows. The big cities smell much the same as big cities anywhere and the villages used to smell of fresh bread and whatever the local speciality might be. There is also the scent of rosemary and thyme on mountainsides. I think globalisation, modernisation and gentrification have taken those typical smells away to a great extent. Do you find a similar development in Romania and what smells did you first notice when you went to England? I always associate Britain with factory smells and the smell of the sea and heather on northern hill and mountainsides. I would be interested to know if you as Romanian, notice(d) anything special. 

These lines don’t represent Spain in particular. The mud flats came from England, the shutters are perhaps from a Spanish village and spiders can hide anywhere. I seem to construct my geography much like my history, like a patchwork quilt.

LD: Oh, I remember a very specific smell, Romanian smell, of dust, in summer time, when it is raining. In Romania it is very hot in the summer. And sometimes it is raining, a very warm rain. And everything in nature is alive. And because of the heat in the atmosphere and because of the rain, and the dust on the ground there is a specific smell of summer. With smell of raw grass, raw leaves, and cow  dung on the hill, and dust, summer dust. I really like this kind of smell. Romanian smell. And because of the heat you can see the heat waves vibrating.

RW: Yes, I think that striking smell of rain on dust and dry grass must be common to most hot European countries. I think I would add the smell which may be more of a premonition of coming rain or a possible storm.

LD: When I came to England I discovered a peasant smell in countryside and an industrial smell in the cities. But I believe that every country has its specific smell. I really like in England the smell, a very old smell, of ruins. I am crazy about ruins, about history, about archaeological sites. And in England there is a smell, a kind of smell, of them. And I like it. Do you know Spanish culture? Did anyone in particular introduce you to Spanish poets? 

RW: I read some of Lorca’s poetry before I ever thought of coming to Spain and was particularly affected by the Spanish Poet in New York and the essay on Duende. I read him as part of the Penguin Modern European series. I’ve read a lot more Lorca since then and consider him to be the greatest Spanish poet of all time. Through Lorca I read some Rafael Alberti and Miguel Hernández. I had also read some South American literature before coming, especially José Luis Borges and Neruda and have read more since I arrived here. Which Romanian writers have stayed with you? Did you know of much English literature before moving to the country? 

LD: Yes, I have Romanian writers with me. I keep near my soul Eugène Ionesco, who was a Romanian writer, emigrated to France, one of the foremost figures of the French Avant-garde theatre. I keep near my heart Paul Celan. He was a very important poet, born in a Jewish Romanian family. He experienced the Holocaust and he said: Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, 'enriched' by it all. Celan is perhaps best known for his poem 'Death Fugue.' 

Another writer I keep in my heart  with me in England is Mihail Sebastian. He was a Romanian Jewish playwright, essayist, novelist. For Two Thousand Years is his best book. It is the remarkable story of a Jew student in 1920s Europe. Now this book was translated in English. 

And yes, I knew a lot about English literature, because I studied Universal Literature in my university time. My degree is in Classics, but some courses in Romanian universities are common courses for everybody in the Faculty of Letters. We study languages, linguistics, history and culture of our chosen branch, but also universal literature and comparative literature. Yes, I knew a lot about Virginia Woolf, about Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, John Milton, Charlotte Brontë , George Orwell, William Wordsworth, Eliot, Oscar Wilde, Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath, etc. Who has most influenced your work?

RW: It’s not just poets who have influenced me but let me try to make a list starting with poets: Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Eliot, Lorca, Dylan Thomas, Celan, Vasko Popa,  Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes of the Crow period, Adrian Henri, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Jerome Rothenberg, Fran Lock.

Novelists: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, China de Miéville, Tolkien, James Joyce, Mervyn Peak. Ursula K. Le Guin, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut.

Dramatists: Socrates, Beckett, Ionescu.

Musicians: Bob Dylan (of the Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde period), Captain Beefheart, Roy Harper, Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, Terry Riley.

Of course, I must turn this question round, expecting a very different answer but open to surprise. Who have your main influences been? Do your Romanian influences still affect you when you are writing in English?

LD: I learnt a lot, a lot from many authors. I prefer Homer and Greek Tragedies (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides) because all of these writers treat great subjects and because they are among the first in terms of literature. 

But I learnt a lot from modern writers too. I am reminded here of Virginia Woolf who treats a contemporary subject. And I talk about her book – Orlando. The topic is the gender identity issue, the problem of transgender. And I remember Sappho, a great ancient writer. And Margaret Atwood talks to me via all of her books. I liked Gertrude Stein's memoirs about the Parisian avant-garde. I cannot forget Maya Angelou who is an extremely strong voice in poetry, a great voice of African American literature. 

But sometimes I identify with Virginia Woolf as a personality, and open mind in particular because, like me, she had many voices, she was a psychotic writer. Is there a person in literature whom you identify with?

RW: There are people in literature I like very much, most of whom I have listed above in those who have influenced me, but I don’t think I have ever ‘identified’ with anyone.

LD: What do you understand by 'The Art of Poetry?'

RW: The very hard work of making heart and head work together and producing something which hits you in the guts. I’d be interested in your definition of this. For me, a poem is a screen shot of a process. It is a compromise between the poet and the process.

LD: Oh ... 'The Art of Poetry' ... it is so hard to define poetry. I'm addicted to poetry. For me the art of poetry is everything to move my heart, something which sensitises my view, something which talks to my mind. The Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first thinker who wrote about poetry in The Poetics. He defines poetry as an art that imitates: 'imitation ... is one instinct of our nature' and 'the objects of imitation are men in action.' Who are the best authors in your opinion?

RW: I would refer once again to the list of poets, novelists and dramatists I gave above as those who have most influenced me. I like writers who play with language and also dystopian fantasy writers. It’s what I try to do with my poetry: dystopian poetry / poetry about dystopian worlds.  

LD: Yes, dystopian worlds like in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale about a totalitarian state resembling a theonomy. Or dystopian worlds like in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go,  which poses the problem of clones - if a clone has soul or not. And the author creates a world of clones who had fall in love, and suffer, and they are able to feel. When I write I have a continuous curiosity for experience, for imagination, for thinking, for subjects, for everything. What do you think is the most important aspect for a poet: the form, the thinking, or the message?

RW: I can’t see a separation between the three in the best poetry. Where one stands out from the others, there is imbalance; it is not good poetry. When form stands out, you get verse and worse; when thinking stands out, you get philosophy and probably shoddy philosophy; when the message stands out, you get ranting and demagoguery. 

LD: The oldest surviving poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written as a very beautiful story about friendship and the secret of eternal life. What is eternal life in your imagination?

RW:  I have my imagination. No more, no less. Life lasts till it ends.

LD: Let's talk about power of poetry in the world. I wrote a poem against Trump. You can read my poem on I am not a silent poet hereMy question is: do you believe in the power of writing? What about your online magazine I am not a silent poet? Is it a modality of the revolt against this world? 

RW: I am not a silent poet is an online magazine for poetry and artwork of protest about abuse in all shapes and forms. I started it at the end of November 2014. I had been seeing such increasing evidence of abuse that I felt it was time to do something. I am not a silent poet looks for poems about abuse in any of its forms, colour, gender, disability, the dismantlement of the care services, the privatisation of the NHS, rape culture, Trump, and, of course, war and its victims are just the examples that come to mind at the moment.

Since then it has published 3,267 poems by well-known, less well-known and almost unknown poets. It has received 170,467 hits, which is not bad for a poetry magazine. Whether or not it achieves anything, I don’t know, but it does provide space for different voices, and tries to speak for those who have no voice. I have been called an activist poet, which I think is a misnomer. Yes, I do write some poems of protest but most of my work is non-political, as far as one can be non-political in this society, in this world. The poem you quoted from earlier, 'Place of residence,' for example, is not political at all, at least in the modern sense of ‘political.’ If we go back to the Greek ‘polis’, however, practically everything we do is political. Most of my protest poems are very slanted and the ‘politicalness’ of them may not be immediately seen, Take 'all fall down,' for instance, first published in Proletarian Poetry here:

all fall down

& all the story 
children sang in cinders
we saw them 
       clothed in tired skin 
& dying 

not meat enough 
nor grain 
there’ll be no 
a game  
a ring of posies 
& blackened flesh

      bring them to us now 
we’ll have their eyes 
& string 
a dull 
to show a rusty path. i’ll grind 
a bone 
an arrow head

One thing I am particularly curious about: as a Romanian immigrant in England, how have you been affected by Brexit and has it had any influence on your work?

LD: Yep ... I am in the same position with you. You are an immigrant in Spain, English citizen in Spain. And I am a Romanian citizen in England. I had a hard exam, English language test, and I passed the exam. And I had a hard exam about British literature, history, culture, science, music, sport, philosophy ... everything about the UK, and I passed. Now I applied for British citizenship and I'm waiting ... 

About the interviewer

Lucia  Daramus is a British-Jewish-Gypsy-Romanian writer who is living  in Stroud, and an artist. She has Asperger's Syndrome. Her work has been published in various magazines in Romania, France, Germany, England, Canada, USA, etc. Recently she completed her course in Creative Writing at Oxford University. Her MA is in Linguistics, and BA in Ancient Greek and Latin. She has published poetry, essay, short story, play, novels. Her recent novel is The Cortege of The Lambs, a book about Holocaust. 

She won prizes for poetry, including Romanian prizes and international prizes like the Canadian Prize for Poetry (Gasparik). She has also won an International Prize for Poetry, 2018, at The International Book Festival Dublin. She has published ten books in the Romanian language and three books of poetry in the English language.