Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere

Angela Graham
Publication Date: 
Monday, May 30, 2022
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With Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar, Csilla Toldy and Glen Wilson


“A necessary and urgent response to the world’s increasing crises…” – Robert Minhinnick

“Graham’s project is hugely experimental — few poets give space in their debut collections to others... as praxis, the project seems politically perfect, an unselfish poetic gesture underlining the ‘unevenness’ of sanctuary that is genuinely thought-provoking.” – London Grip


Sanctuary is – 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 − especially among the young − that nowhere is safe. Even our minds and our bodies are not refuges we can rely on. Truth itself is on shaky ground.

Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere addresses these critical situations from the inside. How we can save the earth, ourselves and others? How valid is the concept of a ‘holy’ 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 five other poets from Wales and Northern Ireland to contribute a poem each. In Wales, Phil Cope from the Garw Valley is an expert on the holy wells and shrines of the British Isles and Mahyar is an Iranian writer 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 ‘free’ life in the West. The fifth poet, Glen Wilson (winner of the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing), acted as mentor for Angela’s work and contributes a poem on migration.

Angela Graham reads her poem ‘Home’:


Praise for Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere

“In this wonderful collaborative collection there is work that variously provokes, soothes, challenges and affirms. Together, the poems provide a meditation on the meaning of ‘sanctuary’ at a time when the word’s relevance to our lives feels increasingly urgent. A vital and illuminating publication.” – Moyra Donaldson

“These poems are challenging, immediate, generous, uncompromising, urgent interventions in present-day affairs. The poems are tough but humane, sensitive but fearless, alarming but reassuring: this collection reminds us that at a time of trauma poetry is not optional - it is essential.” – Dr Kevin De Ornellas, Lecturer in English, Ulster University

“The themes of evacuation, exile and alienation, dominate this impactful, emotionally-resonant, multicultural collection, with poems that convey longing for home, refuge, connection and personal fulfilment - "Rehearse your exit strategy/ - hopeless,/ yes, unless/ Some god would give you wings - / and never tell a soul about your study of terrain, / of martyrdom, of dying well". Sanctuary conveys the "visions and visitations" of a group of writers in this finely curated, relevant collection.’ – Dr Matthew M. C. Smith, writer and editor of Black Bough Poetry.  

“Am  gyhoeddiad hollbwysig yn ein dyddiau ni. Mae e hefyd yn anffodus o amserol. Anffodus am mai anffodusion sy’n ceisio ffoi o’u mangre a cheisio  lloches, seintwar, noddfa, neu encil. A hynny am i’w mangre  droi’n fan sy’n llawn angau.  Mae  pob un yn haeddu lle,  ymhell o’i hunlle.

An urgent publication in times like these. Unfortunately, it is also urgent because sanctuary becomes a necessity for those who have to flee from their dwelling place. Seeking refuge, asylum and shelter from the fragility of  their homeland is indeed  their last hope  of survival.  Never was there more of a need --- a need for the grace and goodness of strangers…” – Professor Emerita Menna Elfyn   

George Szirtes:

“This is one of those intense sanctuary moments in history. We have had Syria, we have had Afghanistan and now we have Ukraine. We are, in any case, in an epoch of migration and may well be in for more as climate change intensifies.

My own family were refugees from Hungary in 1956. They set out for Australia by way of Austria (on foot) and England (by plane), but Australia said no so we remained in England. England proved to be the necessary sanctuary. My parents felt safe and free here.

Sanctuary is primarily physical but it is more than that. It offers a spiritual place of safety too. It is a token of generosity from the giver and a source of inner comfort for the receiver. Beyond that, the experience depends on much else in the long run but that first act is invaluable and restorative.

In this book, the poet Angela Graham has generously invited Italian-born poet and novelist, Viviana Fiorentino; the Welsh writer, Phil Cope; the Hungarian- born poet and translator Csilla Toldy; Irish poet Glen Wilson; and Mahyar an Iranian poet living in Wales to offer a poem each on the theme of Sanctuary.

The collection is full of moving, serious poems and individual voices. This too is sanctuary.”


Watch the recording for the online launch featuring poems, photos, film and music inspired by sanctuary:



Review by Caroline Bracken, Nation Cymru

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Angela Graham’s poetry collection Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere is an interesting concept. As well as her own poems, it includes poems she wrote collaboratively with Phil Cope, Viviana Fiorentino, Mahyar and Csilla Toldy.

Her mentor Glen Wilson also contributed a poem, ‘Border Crossing, Reynosa to Hidalgo’, a gorgeous poem with more questions than answers:

‘There is buzzing behind the bevel of the two-way mirror,
I imagine the voices of the hidden judges there’

The collaborative poems all allow the contributing poets’ voices to shine and feel very different to Graham’s own. For example Mahyar’s ‘You’ is end-rhymed:

‘When I was drinking shot after shot

When I was reading Rubaiyat

When I was reading Khayyam’s couplets

When the book got wet with my tears’ droplets’

Csilla Toldy’s ‘Sanctum Trilogy’ is written in three sections, ‘Resistance’ ‘Refuge’ and ‘Resilience’ and is more experimental in form:

‘Forget the borders, tie up your tongue
here you are safe – between the walls of this place.
Stay put for now, We will decide –
    w a i t
         w  a  i  t
            w   a  i   t’

Phil Cope gives us a panoramic, bird’s-eye sequence of the Welsh landscape:

‘A brace of peregrines, monogamous
though solitary throughout the year,
rendezvous up here each April,
drawn by this cliff’s magnetism,
egged on by legacy,
reliable in the knowledge of
a ledge, secure on Darren Fawr
to raise two chicks, then leave.’

Angela Graham’s wonderful poem ‘A Heerd tha Sodjer on tha Radio’ which won the Linen Hall Ulster Scots Writing Competition is included. Her other poems work best when they steer away from prose and allow the image to be seen, as in ‘Annunciation, Visitation’

‘After the angel left her what was the girl to do?
I see her stand, go to the window,
look out at the utterly familiar street.
A neighbour, jovial, passes and she smiles
─ too soon for speech. She looks down
at her utterly familiar hand
resting on the white stone sill.’

And ‘Persian New Year’

‘Let me give you gorse,
the ungraspable, the unlikely
solder-drops splattered on my hedges
by the sun torching its way out of winter.’
The last word goes to Viviana Fiorentino, from ‘In This Sanctuary’
‘You blue tit, jackdaw or young doe
you, overflow, the breaker of borders
of species, you know it will not matter
that you were males or females, your voice

Review by Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Moving beyond ‘home’ to the concept of ‘sanctuary’ is this collection, Sanctuary: There Must Be Somewhere, in which author Graham also includes/invites poems from five other contributors. The theme of the book is that, in these turbulent times, sanctuary can be quite hard to find. Where does it lie? Well, here are poems which explore that query and attempt to find out, evoking ideas and evincing emotions along the way as we traverse bombed cities and chapels, evacuation sites and shrines, lakes, holy wells, and even the body itself which, in the poem 'Chronic' is no longer a refuge but a place in which “pain expels me from myself”. Eventually, the book leads to a hopeful conclusion, in which the poet affirms, “We are a home for one another”. This is the bottom line and, fittingly, the final line of the collection.

I found the poems in this book finely written and thoughtful. Despite the intelligence and philosophical loftiness, which I sometimes feel prohibits poets from delivering into the dirt via language and image, Graham is a poet who doesn’t shy away from this, delivering, as well as literal bombs, the ‘f-bomb’ in one poem; neither is she one who is unable to explore or touch on concepts of divinity and use of the word ‘God’, which I find more f-bomb prone, gritty poets perhaps feel their own fear of and are less likely to address. Therefore, this comes across as an open-minded collection, and the poems, as mentioned, are very finely wrought, whether by Graham or by her guests. This is a generous inclusion, of course, but Graham is a poet who is skilled and sublime enough, I imagine, not to feel any threat from it or, indeed, from anyone or anything at all.

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