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Poems by Graham Mort, illustrations by Claire, Jefferson, 4word press
'Samara is a very beautiful suite of poems and illustrations, which takes as its central theme a vision of a steroidally-enhanced landscape, as though casting the reader into a familiar yet fundamentally separate world of titanic exposure and elemental mystery.'

See link below for
Yorkshire Times Review by Steve Whitaker

The name 'Samara' evokes different intriguing meanings. It refers to a winged seed and is a girl’s name in Arabic and Hebrew that translates as ‘under the protection of God’. It is also the name of ancient Iraqi and Russian cities and is linked to prayers and poetry too, that is, it has a spiritual quality. In the title poem the connection with the natural world, the sycamore tree where the children play, whose ‘seeds whirled to/chance existence’, the ‘insect wing’ and ‘brooched ladybirds’ creates the context. Humans are part of nature in a relationship that is enduring but also in danger. We are taken into this ‘vortex of air’ that is indefinable but also points ‘above us […] with its long climb to heaven.’ The allusion to a possibly more harmonious dimension in which humans and nature merge in an empathic relationship with animals seems to be crucial in this short collection....more
               Carla Scanaro, Tears in the Fence


In the poem ‘Limousins’, the September morning is ‘skim-milk blue’ and the sow thistle is yellow but it’s the three letters of ‘red’ that carry weight:
There are the red cattle, woken
from a cave painting, daubed
with red clay into an old religion
waking with rooks to stand
in the pearl-soaked grass.

                       […] The cows
groan under the great red bull --
daughters and dams of red clay --
On the page facing this poem, a red tag (shaped not unlike a ragged heart) hangs in the ear of a Limousin cow, drawn beautifully by Claire Jefferson. This beast is not ‘woken / from a cave painting’ but starkly modern, ‘genes mapped on a spreadsheet in / the farmhouse with meat and milk / yields.’
The Limousins wake with rooks. In ‘A Swallow Maybe’, however, whatever this bird might or might not be, it enters the poem as ‘a blue knot of lightning’ but a few lines later
    […] is flown into
    the copse like war
its red throat silently
    booming and aflame
In drawing the reader’s eye to the red throats of three maybe-swallows, Claire Jefferson’s illustration reinforces the questions of identity and identification raised in the poem.
However, of all the redness in this collection, the most beguiling belongs to the creature in ‘Fox’. The eponymous fox is caught in headlights ‘on the road through / the larch wood, just stepping / out to the chicken coop.’ It ‘executes a sorry jump / from pointed toes — a ginger / novice in the dancing class.’ Seeing itself observed, it then uses the tip of its tail to paint ‘itself / out into the dark:
A few strokes and it’s gone
into the chiaroscuro dusk.
The fox’s amber eyes stare boldly from the accompanying illustration. They seem to be asking questions. Have you never been caught doing something you shouldn’t be doing? Have you never blushed and wished — if not specifically for a tail — for some way of painting yourself out of where you shouldn’t have been?
Are you blushing already? Are you brave enough to answer?
                Sue Butler, 'Sphinx'

Like Fado and Other Stories
Like Fado is easily up there with the best collections I've read this year (actually, in a long time, it's fab).
                Joe Bedford, Twitter

​Playing Without Thinking: Like Fado And Other Stories By Graham Mort
​The silence following conversation, the lit but empty room, the scream of an unseen child - these are the unknowables of Graham Mort’s strange and wonderful new collection of short stories. The idea of a life proceeding elsewhere, the lineaments of which must have unfolded in some other time or place, are plangent suggestions here, and concealed possibility follows naturally in the wake of each tale...(clink link below for full review)
              Steve Whittaker Yorkshire Times

Like Fado and other stories, by Graham Mort, is a collection of thirteen short stories, the final one of which would pass as a novella in structure and length. Each tale rides on an undercurrent of melancholy. The lives explored are tinged not so much with regret as with an understanding of their transience. Histories are revealed through day to day activity, decisions made coloured by reaction and memory more than ambition. What is conveyed is told as much through the silences as conversation.
“So little time between now and then. Between one moment and the next. Between this moment and the future.”
The collection opens with Emporium, a understated yet powerful evocation of grief and its inevitability due to aging. An elderly widower walks through the small town he and his wife retired to, uncomfortable in an expensive coat that is a tad too small for his girth. The place is as much a character as those he encounters. The life he is living resonates with poignancy....(click link below for full review)
               Jackie Law  Neverimitate

5.0 out of 5 stars   Sublime
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 4 April 2021
​Beautifully written stories that really get under the skin. I still think about the characters as though they're real, wondering about their lives.
               (Amazon Customer)

Like Fado and Other Stories

The wonderful thing about books (the printed word) is that it is never too late to review and recommend a publication. I sit draped in green envy when I read the work of a great writer. Their skill fuelled by an imagination that I do not posses leaves me in awe. As I work my way through the pages, I find myself asking whether I am reading a life experience and if not, how on earth did the writer’s mind bring such imagery and paint them with words on the page. If I attempted even a short story, I would need it to be repeatedly proofed as my hands type in a time zone distant to my mind so much of what I write ends up not making much sense.
A good book is one that you can return to and even though you know you have been there before you read as though this is a new journey you are about to embark on.There are three unread pages awaiting me in and a huge reluctance in me not wanting to finish even though I know I must because I want to know how it ends for Pablo.  Lockdown may well be releasing its hold on our lives but please do not give up on reading and buy yourself a copy. 
Like Fado: And Other Stories by Dr Graham Mort. ISBN-10 : 1784632279 / ISBN-13 : 978-1784632274

                  Salt Publishing, SuAndi, Black Arts Alliance Newsletter

Everybody's Reviewing Blog
Graham Mort’s latest short story collection, Like Fado, is a wonderfully engaging read. The thirteen stories are standalones, but they share thematic and textual traits that bind them into a single whole. 
'Fado' is a dance that can be traced back to Portugal of the nineteenth century, but also derives from the Latin term ‘fatum’ – fate, death or a final utterance. Both definitions apply to the stories here. At times, the prose moves with the musicality and rhythms of a dance but there is also a mournful, almost elegiac mood to each piece as the protagonists do their best to overcome various sorts of existential crises.
The photographer in the title story, 'Like Fado,' wanders the Lisbon streets, keen to put his wife’s extra-marital affair out of his mind. He is drawn to the tiny details of everyday life – that is, until he is asked by a local girl to take a picture of her mother’s final hours. 'The old woman,' Mort writes, 'was beautiful in the way that only the very old and the very young can be, her skin exquisitely creased, her irises and pupils dark, merging to the point of invisibility.' In many ways, Mort behaves like his photographer, dipping in and out of the lives of the characters he’s created. His astute eye falls on singular moments in time, then magnifies each one, with denouements masterfully executed. There are no weak entries in this incredible collection, but for this reviewer standouts include the aforementioned 'Like Fado,' 'Shoo,' 'Olivia' and 'Whitehorn' - novella-like in its scope, and a profoundly moving portrait of guilt arising from a childhood mishap. 
I was new to Mort’s work before reading this collection, and this has certainly left me wanting to read more.                                     Paul Taylor-McCartney

Black Shiver Moss
'There is a fecundity to the poems which almost overwhelms the senses; enough physical, floral and animal drama to call the tableau intransigent, were the rhythms of Mort's style not so seductively comforting.'

             Steve Whittaker, Yorkshire Times.

Fado (poem from Black Shiver Moss)
Like much of Graham Mort’s previous work, the new poems in Black Shiver Moss travel: across the world, through history, through landscapes. A number are prominently rooted in South Africa while others roam through the north of England and Europe. It’s a book of great energy, not least due to the use of form. Poems are rarely shorter than a page and use long sentences broken across lines to carry their ideas. Add to this a preponderance of verbs ending in '-ing' and you’ve got a collection always on the go. An example is ‘An Old Flame’: a single sentence that runs over thirty lines exploring the way fire grows, consumes, dancing between literal and figurative states. Many poems feature water: heavy rain, rivers in spate:

‘streams unchoke, foaming after that
last drench of rain, their other language
clamouring.’ (‘Stella Rossa’)

As water courses, so do the poems, pouring down the page. But this movement doesn’t prevent the poetic eye from stopping to observe, keenly, the world around us, as seen in some wonderfully sharp images. Here are a few of my favourites: the titular ‘Earthworm’ is ‘an inner-tube/of blood and shit’; spring’s ‘garlic stink’ ‘Rain at Franschoek’); after black-berrying, ‘Our hands are gangland/killer’s mitts’(‘Brambles’); and quarrelling blackbirds are ‘cocksure duellists in tight frock//coats’(‘A Rising’).

Some poems lack a discernible viewpoint or narrator, seeming deeply rooted in the landscape they’re describing, but in others an ‘I’ provides a focal point, and I had a strong sense of a couple’s experiences but not in a way that excludes a reader. Unease runs through quite a few poems, the feeling that life is on a knife edge. Reading ‘Steeplejacks’ I held my breath, certain disaster loomed for the two souls who climb a church spire with ‘wind tugging, hearts/hammering’. During shrub-burning in South Africa, caution is ignored: ‘a guy in winkle pickers went past/teetering on a sloping stone with a camera as his family/watched. One slip, we said, but they just laughed’. (‘Fire Management’)

Such near misses become more personal in poems concerned with illness and recovery. ‘Veldtschoen’ is a fantastic poem that begins by exploring the history of well-loved boots but shifts to a revelation about a heart bypass, using the hinge of a comparison between tightly-laced boots and ‘thoracic scars’. A later poem, ‘Bypass’, has a speaker haunted by their closeness to death:

‘I’m cycling
home to show you that I’m still alive:
a breathless revenant, not six years dead.’

Such darkness is lightened by the collection’s many poems about the redemptive power of animals, birds and insects: all the living joy of the natural world. The ordering of poems is very well considered, moving between light and shade, humour and tragedy, and, in some ways, saving the best for last.

The collection ends with ‘Aphasia’, a richly meditative sequence that explores the history of lives lived along the River Swale in Yorkshire, and the industries supported by the river: ‘cotton towns’ chanting ‘litanies of servitude’, a rubber mill ‘of hot intractable machines’, chemical works, lead mines. People leave, history becomes nostalgia, and de-industrialisation hollows out a place to be reclaimed by nature. Through the long story of this community an ‘I’ leaves and returns, over-laying personal experiences and digging down into the language of place. Old grave stones do for paving now: ‘the means of//remembrance forgetting itself’. But in charting forgetting, these poems keep memory alive.
Katherine Stansfield
                  A review from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Black Shiver Moss: Graham Mort, Seren 
by Neil Leadbeater

Graham Mort was born in Lancashire and studied English at Liverpool University. After training to be a teacher, he taught in schools, colleges, prisons, special education and psychiatric units before becoming a freelance writer. He gained a doctorate from the University of Glamorgan and is now professor of creative writing and transcultural literature at Lancaster University. He is the author of nine previous collections of poetry, two prize-winning collections of short stories, radio dramas and educational course books.
Reading the poems in Black Shiver Moss it quickly becomes apparent that one is in the hands of a skilled practitioner, someone who has honed and perfected his craft over the years and is comfortable with it. The poems, which are predominantly of a pastoral nature, are full of intricate detail which is sharply observed and beautifully conveyed to the reader. His poems are populated more by animals than humans – by palomino foals, cows, pigs, cock pheasants and rough fell sheep – so that when a human does appear, as in ‘Girl at Cam Fell’ it almost comes as a surprise because of the intensity of the solitude that surrounds his work.
Mort is a poet who is familiar with the dawn. He rises early and captures its serenity in his lines. He is good on atmospherics, one of his strong points is his ability to conjure a landscape within a single line. His vocabulary is wide and he has a penchant for dropping unusual words into a sentence when least expected. In ‘Brambles’ he writes about “swinging a gravid / carrier bag at the gate  where Limousins / thud the field … ”, and later, “[of] wet snow blowing from the yard / to the log pile, the vegetable beds, the pond’s / cataleptic stare.”
The opening lines of ‘Fado’ give another instance of his tantalising use of vocabulary: “I love the sound of Fado: / the way melisma makes old-style / calligraphies of air …”
The themes are familiar ones: a household waking at dawn, holidays abroad, the weather and what it does to landscape, berry-picking, fell-walking, listening to music, changing the clocks, but they are written about in a way that never fails to engage our attention and, crucially, are about more than the landscapes they inhabit.  Many assume a reflective, even philosophical, stance with references to specific points in history.
The tone is not always that of serious wonderment. There is humour here too, as evidenced in the poem ‘Dogs’ where Mort considers the possibilities of dogs with “super-sensile ears” feeling “the aura of a poem coming near”.
The poems are not all confined to one place. There are references to South Africa, in particular, the fynbos of the Western Cape, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France as well as, closer to home, the “debatable lands” of Cumbria, the fells of the Lake District and the high moors of the north of England. Mort’s interest in Africa in a number of his poems ties in with his academic research on emergent African writing, the training of African writers and the promotion of their work.
In this collection Mort, with his startling exactitude and shrewd observation, leaves us “spellbound in stanzas”. Highly recommended.
A fine book...As Ray French says on the back cover....Mort is a skillful and sensitive writer, his stories are carefully crafted and the language subtle and deft.
                 Amazon Customer Review


When you take into consideration Graham Mort’s accolades and accomplishments, it’s difficult to understand why he isn’t spoken about and regarded as highly as he should be in the literature world. He is a prolific writer. A writer who can boast about turning his hand to both prose and poetry to great effect. A writer who has, evidently, got the ability to streamline and condense both so that his style doesn’t differ too far from each form. He is also a prize-winning writer: Eric Gregory award, Bridport Prize, Edge Hill Prize, Short Fiction Magazine International Short Story Prize.
As if his belt isn’t heavy enough, he can also add considerable academic research projects to it, including the British Council-funded Crossing Borders and Radiophonics. These projects have seen Mort travel to Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria and Zimbabwe to name a few where he worked with developing African writers. Mort has also been Writing Fellow at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa where he managed to write a substantial manuscript on the book this review is based on – Terroir.
Terroir can be loosely translated as ‘a sense of place’ and this is extremely apt with the characteristics of this collection of short stories. With the majority of his work, Mort focuses on the natural environment and the people in it, and reduces the products of that environment down to dense, subtle form which is both startling and intriguing in its contrasts and content. Terroir is a natural progression from his other work and is both poetic and stark in its style, structure and narrative.... Mort uses visceral imagery whilst calming the reader with matter-of-fact narration, combining to fill the reader with dread then being softly pushed back into the story, hushed in like a latecomer to the theatre.
Graham Mort has assembled a short story collection which, undoubtedly, should allow his talent to be noticed by the masses. Whilst dense and deep at times, which may result in a short story having to be read twice, each piece delves into human characteristics that all of us can relate to and connect with. Mort’s knack of pinpointing characters which thrum off the page makes for a collection which you feel privileged to read. You almost feel the experiences each character has gone through when finished, leaving you dazzled, affected and insightful.
                  Rhys Millsom, Wales Arts review, Dec 2015


The work in his latest, Cusp, is as tightly controlled and well-observed as its predecessors. Mort is not a people’s poet, His poetry has no immediacy, belly laughs, or political diatribe. It is fluid and dense, a rich verse drawn from his observing the natural world. Mort is out there, deep among the fells, following the becks as they course down their gullies…The book finishes with a twenty-page tour-de-force, ‘Electricity’, where Mort, master of form and functionality, is at the top of his powers. It’s a poem that sparks its way through world knowledge and its consequences, electricity, as the grand metaphor, ‘call me the turning worm at the heart of matter/ I’m everywhere…’ It held me.
                   Peter Finch, Poetry Review

A splendid addition to an already impressive portfolio of published work...This is poetry you can touch, feel, smell, taste and drown in. Mort’s passion and his sensual feel for language and form is evident in every line he writes. His gift for portraying everyday things in extraordinary ways sends the mind spinning to catch up. His way of seeing the world, of feeling his experiences is sometimes almost shocking in its newness.
       Cusp is Graham Mort’s first collection since his acclaimed volume Visibility was published in 2007. It comes just a year after Touch, his debut in short story writing which won the Edge Hill Prize for short fiction. Its success should be no surprise to those who know that Mort is Professor of Creative Writing and Transcultural Studies at Lancaster University. The collection reflects on his experiences in Africa as well as at home. As in all his work there is a strong sense of place in these poems and not just the ones bearing the titles of the cities or regions they evoke. In ‘Manchester’ his personification of the city conjures up pictures of an earlier time like grainy old film footage one would rather not be watching. ‘Lake Mburo’ describes a relaxing camping trip during which the campers soak up the beauty of nature and its creatures like a reviving drink they have been longing for. In ‘White Hill’ the poet recalls walks taken on cold winter mornings and how those memories inspire creativity.
           ….  Just now, when I
           looked up from where a poem is
           uncoiling, line into line, not trusting
           itself to be left alone with the helix
           of its language making nothing
           happen, ….
For me the most moving poem is ‘A Madhouse in Liguria (1955)’.  Mort’s sensitivity in describing the patients in their various states of illness, the stark contrast of the white clinical surroundings and the atmosphere of calm serenity with which the nuns look after their charges is breathtaking, a painting in words.
Complementing the poems depicting bygone ages ‘Easter Messaging’ brings us right up to date. In it the poet describes being parted from his wife and how they keep in touch in the age of mobile phones and computers.
           You text me on Whernside hill ….
           …. I mail you
           the brief dusk of Abuja ….
           I’ll send you this as well, pushing words at
           pixel-glittering space, remembering
           the moon again ….
The collection’s title poem tells of a December when it was too cold even to sleep and one became aware of one’s own mortality. ‘Electricity’, the last and longest poem in this elegant slender volume was commissioned for the 2001 Scientific writing project at the Belmont Arts Centre in Shrewsbury. It’s said the Eskimos have twenty seven words for snow. Well, Graham Mort doesn’t do too badly either in the number of terms he finds for how electricity behaves. I certainly appreciate the verbal skills he employs here, but personally I find this the least appealing of the three dozen poems making up the collection.
Any Cop?:  Graham Mort’s most recent volume of poems is a splendid addition to an already impressive portfolio of published work and would admirably grace the shelves of any poetry lover.                                                                                             Carola Huttmann
Name your world: Andrew Neilson reviews Cusp by Graham Mort (Seren, £8.99)
Something of a hidden gem among contemporary verse practitioners in England, Graham Mort is a poet of fascinating texture and nuance. In Cusp, his eighth collection and the first since the publication of his new and selected poems in 2007, Mort demonstrates a further refinement in his mastery of the lyric mode.
A typical Mort poem is a tightly wound mechanism, precise in language and dynamic in expression, all fortified by a robust sense of the line. Take this stanza from 'Drought', for example, which shifts with deceptive ease from attentive description to austere metaphor and almost aphoristic phrase-making, then back again:
      And below, ducking under
blossom that soaps each
     slender branch's arms, Lonsdale's
wide groove pulls his tributary
     down, draws out this moment the
way all things are instantly lived
     and past and lie as unremembered
futures. Then we die, and they are
     tides of a parched mind flooding
with old prophecies: those gulls
     stacked above an empty farm, its
churns dry, its first miraculous
     enamel bath a drinking trough, its
heaps of knackered chain and
     seized pump.
Given his descriptive gifts, it is perhaps no surprise that Mort is a particularly fine nature poet, and there are shades of the great Michael Longley in the way his textured language entwines and becomes almost indivisible from the subject of poems such as 'Italian Hawks', 'Black Crow', the spider in 'Happened' or the ants of 'Siege':
I watch ant columns enter as you sleep;
            shouts of Castilian are fading in the street
                        as they advance to their redoubts; a
forward party's raiding at your knee
            their armour gleaming in faint light
                       that buckles in the shutters above me.
It is testament to Mort's ability that even a rather whimsical piece about poetry itself, 'Fricative', is far from dry or abstract but enlivened by the vivid imagery of "rivers of grass, cloud/creeks, fjords of tidal blue sky/the hydrogen of galaxies".
In addition to these lyrics, Cusp closes with a long poem that gives voice to 'Electricity' itself, and Mort takes the opportunity to inhabit a more energetic and self-aggrandising voice. "I am the light of the world! The one/And only Elektro Electricus Electricity!" begins the poem, and the voice of electricity has much to tell, from the way "I name you and name your world - the way/you sign yourself in billboard lights across/your tiny global one-horse town" to a cosmic view of how electricity is the very stuff of life itself:
           What else? Protons electrons neutrons
atoms molecules matter - all that dust
           and gas fire and ice water and steam the
piss and wind of space-time dollops of stuff 
           whole families flying their wall-of-death
orbits showing off in the atom's introverted
           universe and that other universe out there
its infinite scale billowing still...
Inevitably, any poem considering the life force must turn to the shadow of mortality, and in this 'Electricity' does not disappoint, as the electrical activity of the brain allows it to embody memory itself: "your/mother's smell of lavender talc and sweat"; "your father's hands/mending a broken toy"; "the afternoon of/that lost day you recall meeting a lover/when rain drizzled after a missed bus...". A genuine tour de force performance, 'Electricity' caps one of the meatiest and most satisfying collections of poetry to emerge in recent years, one which deserves the widest of attention.
Bridport Prize
I chose ‘The Prince’… because the writing is word-perfect… with the story quietly remarking on how something out of the ordinary both does and doesn't affect daily life. In particular, I was enchanted by deft descriptions of nature…
                   Novelist and Bridport judge Tracy Chevalier

I'm looking forward to reading Mort's 'Terroir' after 'Touch' - a collection of short stories that is not only alluring at a craft level but performs an entrapment of sorts on the reader - you feel like the designer of a fate as you travel through Mort's writing, but also the participant and an observer - a sticky web. Every story leads you on from beginning to end inside an enigmatic atmosphere, carrying you on its breath and pulling you in with its every whisper, promisingly but without declarations - there's surprise in the eventualities and an unassuming eccentricity with characters; you don't know what is happening and yet you're always expectant for the bolt from the blue when you turn a corner.

They are quiet stories that pulsate with agency but slow down each pertinant action like in a film. There's heartbreak, apathy, mundanity, crystalline beauty and the stories are different worlds on a platter. The writing is dense because every sentence is tightly linked to others and yet they shine individually too - gems; yet the writing also breathes, doesn't choke on itself. Every line hooked me; every sentence justified the one coming before and after, but every sentence also robustly owned its space. My personal reading experience was that of being transported in a bubble that held a whole universe and the local within it; each story was light as air while their truths were weighty, like bones.

I particularly enjoy long collections - these 21 stories made for a slow, reflective journey; I couldn't hurry even if I wanted to (in a good way). I got to touch everything, linger over sentences and the unsaid, feel the cracks. This is the kind of short story collection I would read over and over after my first time - such discoveries in the reading life are pure joy.

                  Jessu John


In summary, Graham Mort's 'Touch' was, to my mind, an active examination as well as a retreat - every story cutting like metal, soothing like water, and shining; and the telling both stone-solid and tender.

Graham Mort is a highly-regarded poet and I have read three of his collections, but I only recently discovered that he had published a book of short stories. I ordered my copy from Amazon, eager tosee if it lived up to my expectations. I wasn't disappointed. All twenty-one stories are a slice of life.
Tough and gritty, but never bleak, most of them are set in the north of England, Mort's usual stamping ground. But there's nothing doggedly provincial in style or content, and his departure into stories set
in other parts of the world show a freshness and varsatility I never expected, though still with his trade-mark humour and shrewd observation. Not surprisingly, there's some fine writing here - it is the work a poet, after all - but this never holds up the action and I found myself re-reading many passages, just to savour the beauty of them.
Quite the best collection I have read in a very long time. Highly recommended.
                                                                                    John L Ball, Amazon


How To Write A Novel Blog
I was slow coming to this. You don’t rush to the book that pipped you to a major literary prize. But then good books have a way of finding you. And so for several nights over the holidays I settled by a fire, with a glass of something, savouring a collection I imagine will become a favourite.

The stories in Touch are bestowed with a poet’s precision. Beautifully crafted worlds, rich with nature’s rhythms, its chords and hues, unspool with a masterly resonance, a cadence that only the sheerest affection for words and their power allows. Meditations on the enduring human truths form, yet never at the expense of the unfurling narratives: familial binds, the tyranny of the past, of what can be borne by the heart, and what cannot. Mort is expert in implying something’s presence, in allowing the reader to find their own meaning and hope and delight, to complete the aesthetic journey he so brilliantly sets them on. There is much elegiac here – characters flanked by the ghosts of memory, gripped by loneliness, lives lost to love and the vagaries of fortune – and yet, as with the best stories, there remains a warmth woven through them, an aching beauty, an elegance and grace that is both affecting and comforting. More than that there’s a quiet dignity here.
To read this book is to understand the short story’s potential, its flair to simultaneously give great pleasure and reveal all that is human. I’d wager it’s the best collection of stories in recent years. Probably longer.
You can read Graham's thoughts on the short story in this discussion we had, an interview that led me to Touch.
                      Tom Vowler
Graham Mort possess the gift of making ordinary lives extraordinary. With gritty yet graceful language, Mort creates a unique poetry out of everyday and the banal. He makes beauty out of what we regard as uninteresting or unattractive. His observations are keen and precise (I often found myself thinking of cinematic shots), yet there is also a strong sensuous quality about his writing, deeply veined with metaphor and simile. Read sentences like this and it is impossible not to want to read more..Mort is a 'committed writer'..[.]..There is a melancholy throughout, and death is always present, even as an absence, or as something or someone missing. Yet there is also a wicked humour and a deep faith in the possibilities of life. However tragic some of these stories may be, we come away feeling enriched...[.]..the stories in Touch form a genuine literature, whose poetry will be as moving and meaningful in years to come.
                  Ian Seed

Although Graham Mort is probably best known as a poet, this collection of twenty-one stories - including the Bridgeport Prize-winning 'The Prince' - bears witness to his strengths as a fine prose writer and storyteller. Here are the themes that will be familiar to readers of his poetry, still presented in a language rich in image and sound but in a form that will hopefully bring his work to the attention of a wider readership. These bleakly beautiful stories are 'scattered moments set down [...] in words of an ever-fragile language'. They are moments, ordinary and extraordinary, in lives that then move on, though we are left to imagine where and how.
        , Suzy Ceulan Hughes
New Welsh Review

That Mort is also a Poetry Book Society recommended poet (Circular Breathing) shines through instantly in his prose and makes beautifully deft storytelling. Mort vividly illustrates the fragility of life whether at the hands of the laws of nature or machines; we see a pregnant women fleeing her war-torn city, lambs at the mercy of the fox, or a frog taunted by a gang of boys. Touch includes the absorbing 2007 Bridport Prize winning story 'The Prince', sensitively unfurling the impact of the extraordinary, and how children's imaginations can both scare and soothe their way through the aspects of life they are still to learn to understand... A true pleasure from first page to last.
             Susie Wild, New Welsh Review, Autumn 2010
Mort is a skillful and sensitive writer, his stories are carefully crafted and the language is subtle and deft, especially when writing about nature. He also has a way of describing everyday sights and sounds that grab your attention: "The Kettle coming to the boil sounded like the sea pulling at shingle." And "In the sunlight the ducklings looked like golden catkins dusted with brown pollen." The collection closes with "The Prince", about a dying child which, again contains some lovely passages: "He played slowly, prematurely aged, as if learning to be a child when already too late." It is beautifully written...
               Ray French, 'Planet', Issue 200
Touch, The North
Anyone familiar with Mort's poetry should not be surprised at the world he conjures up in these stories, haunted as they are by random brutality and short story as prose fiction's lyric poem. This rich collection does not disappoint in that respect: 'there's fuchsia and mombretia and ox-eye daisies nodding in the slipstream of cars' is a not untypical sentence. In Touch, Mort combines the poet's attention to the surface with the storyteller's tools of suspense and withholding of information to good effect. 'Her past hardly seemed real. That had been someone else, somewhere else. Another life. Vague. Distant. Without meaning now.' This is the nameless woman in one of the more upbeat stories, 'Charcoal Burner', who has stumbled from a nameless war zone into the forest, to give birth. Many of the protagonists are caught up in the battle fields of family life and find themselves at crossroads moments, the stock-in-trade of the short story. Although they vary in age and gender, the people shepherded in these stories share a loneliness, a watchfulness and a worrying existence. 'His parents were dead, or somewhere else'. This is Kevin, in 'Mud Bastard' who after flooring and possibly killing his cruel granddad, lets his racing pigeons ('the only things he had loved') escape, and is about to be beaten up himself by local bullies. 'It filled her with dread, the thought of the town.' Jenny, in 'Rain', is recovering alone after being burned in a fire. Although there is redemption here, especially the love stories, it's certainly harsh up north: where sunset resembles 'burning slagheap'; couples live 'in stultified marriages' and where of course your boss is an 'idle fat bastard'. The collection culminates in its finest story 'The Prince', really breathtakingly good, dealing as it does with many of Mort's preoccupations. There's a 'frisson' in the village over one 'flawless hot summer' about a rich boy quarantined with a mysterious illness and although the other children don't know it they sense that something is about to happen: 'We didn't know that he was dying then, but we sensed that we were near a great event.' Social class separates the children but the boy's mother invites the village children to a birthday, where they get a glimpse of a different sort of life and their first whiff of mortality. There's an emotional final scene that immerses the reader in everything that's good about this writing. It's stylish end to an impressive collection.
                     Susan Burns, The North, No. 46
Seren Books are one of the few publishers in the British Isles to publish short stories collections and they are to be applauded for bringing together these 21 stories spanning two decades of Graham Mort's writing career. The Prize-winning story 'The Prince' is a mesmerising piece of prose. Recalling one summer in the narrator's Yorkshire boyhood, it is a rich meditation on childhood and death. 'Touch' - the story that gives this anthology its title - is an equally fine but very different piece told in a series of alternating scenes, cutting back and forth from Miles in Uganda (who works for a UK-based NGO) and Carol, his schoolteacher wife, in Yorkshire. Each is contending with daily battles of life, far apart from one another, and the story describes the anatomy of a marriage surviving this work-enforced separation. Several of the stories centre on couples. in 'Annick and Serge' a husband struggles with his wife's mental illness, their stark situation reminiscent of a Beckett play. For me, the opening story, 'A Walk in the Snow' is one of the most effective - another story of a couple - and an impressive display of Mort's poetic talents: "snow-water floods the gutters and gurgles into grids. In one solitary entry we find undisturbed snow. It peers back at us like a blank page, quiet as a swallowed cry." For once, the warmth of the relationship here seems to prevail over the hostility of the setting. This collection is full of dazzling and convincing writing.
                    Passengers in Time Blog

The Guardian
This book, which showcases a selection of poems from five earlier collections alongside a generous tranche of new work, perfectly exhibits the blend of formal scrupulousness, sensory evocation and intellectual rigour that has shaped his reputation. A master technician, Mort forswears flash and glamour in favour of an architectural attention to the relationship between form and language, fitting words to lines with a dexterous fluency.

                Sarah Crown, The Guardian
“Graham Mort’s Visibility: New and Selected Poems continues the upward trajectory of Seren’s production values.”
“quiet but subtly transforming, even subversive, lines”
“strikingly brave, but also exact. Poem after poem in this admirable Selected pushes at the boundaries of Mort’s language – which is entirely his own.”
           Tim Liardet, Poetry Review, Summer 2008

“Graham Mort is a deeply engaged poet."
“This collection is distinguished by the way it conveys Mort’s engagement with people, places, nature, history.”
“Hard won, it is the work of a writer whose poems are beautifully wrought and yet underpinned by a sense of life’s inherent complexities.”
“It is, finally, a collection to read and return to for its unpretentious wisdom”.
“Mort has always been a master of technique, of ‘show not tell’, and his poems evoke the noises and smells of other countries, the unique atmosphere of other lives and times”
             Anna Crowe, Edinburgh Review, Jan 2008
A Night on The Lash
13 December 2011 - 9:41am
Graham Mort mines more worldly and concrete territory in his fluid, imagistic poems, with subjects ranging from a friend’s radiotherapy treatment to the recent Serbian conflict to a ride on the London Underground. A Night on the Lash is steeped in shadows, nightscapes; blood is a ‘darkening memory of heat’, while a blue dress looks like ‘a dark old bruise.’ Mort writes with quiet musicality and attractive ingenuity; he’ll introduce a few disparate elements into a poem, then interlace them until they mesh organically as a whole.
             Jane Yeh, Poetry Review
Envoi 130

Somewhat daunted initially, I turned first to the names I recognised and was rewarded by a brilliant, chilling poem by Graham Mort, BLUEPRINT, which could be used in any workshop as an example of how to avoid dead, clichéd language:
'Blue light is lifting footmarks from the snow,
the way fingerprints are sellotaped
from the scene of a crime ...'
            Envoi 130, Pauline Kirk

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