Book Reviews

Metropolitan Vol 1 & 2 – Various Authors

This is an extremely exciting blog post for me to write as I present to you my university’s anthologies. Started late last year, Metropolitan started as a way for the third year and graduate students to show their work and have a published piece of work to show for the end of their degree. This also had an online journal to go with it, featuring interviews and such from the authors and others. This unfortunately hasn’t been updated in some time, but the second volume of Metropolitan was launched on Monday 11th July. This one was a whole lot more special to me though. 

Metropolitan Vol. 2 was used as part of the module for third year students in their module “Professional Practise in the Creative Arts”. They were given anonymous submissions from all years and were allowed to choose and debate for the ones they wanted to go into the anthology. The reason this is so special to me is that two of my original poems have found themselves in this volume. At the end of my first year I never expected that I could be published, let alone chosen for my work by my peers and the staff, who are also incredibly talented authors themselves. 

Also aren’t these covers just gorgeous

What I wanted to do was give you a taste of what Metropolitan is about through this post. Split into the two volumes, I’d like to talk to you about some of my favourite pieces.

Volume 1

Gwefus Melys Glwyfus – Denn Yearwood

It’s true you can’t go far in an anthology produced by a welsh university and not come across a great welsh voice. Yearwood’s “Sweet Bruised Lips” follows Anwen and Rhianne who are at a bar, and Rhianne leaves to get another drink from the bar. She’s joined by Gwydion Griffiths, a writer, keen on keeping her company. This story is full of tension and power shifts as well as the relationship between mother and daughter and history repeating itself. It’s definitely got one of the best twists to a story that I probably should’ve noticed before hand, but definitely didn’t. 

Entry Taken from a Medical Encyclopaedia – Imogen Cownie

Cownie’s piece follows the styling of China Mieville’s piece of the same name. I am reluctant to call this a poem but then again I’m reluctant to call it fiction. It is about Hyperencephalopathy or Overload. Hyper intensive encephalopathy is described as “headaches, convulsions and coma that occur in the course of malignant hypertension”  This hypertension is caused by high blood pressure. However in Cownie’s piece she’s used Hyperencephalopathy in relation to a 28 year old South Korean who died after playing Final Fantasy for fifty hours straight. I genuinely thought this was real to begin with, but on going to check her sources, they’re all coming from 2017. Good job Cownie for tricking me like this. It’s such an informative piece on something incredibly fictional. 

An extract from In My Hand – Kirsty James

The first of the pieces to well me up on the coach home from Cardiff. In this piece, our protagonist with no name is meeting with Heather and her daughter Maya, with a bag full of unread letters. These are from his friend to be given to his daughter Maya. Whilst that in itself is not upsetting, what is is Maya’s unwillingness to accept the letters, and the letter we have the opportunity to read at the end of this piece. James has a stunning way of writing really great characters and from this two page extract, I really want to learn more about them. Plus there’s something great about each of the characters having an incredibly different voice that just reads incredibly well.

Perfection is Pain – Kristi Parmee

Speaking of great character voices, I love that of our protagonist in this story. Set in what I can only determine as a dystopian future of some kind, Perfection is Pain follows our protagonist through her process to be “upgraded” to perfection, meaning new teeth, a platinum kidney and a uterus that allows her to ovulate at will. In the short story, the protagonist enters the “Editing suite” to be edited and something doesn’t go to plan. With underlying thoughts on what it means to be perfect and to what extent people will go to, as well as the fact that you should be truly repentant to receive forgiveness, this story makes for very easy reading. 

Holes in the World – Richie Copeland

I couldn’t mention this anthology and not talk about Richie. He was my poetry tutor this year and genuinely made the whole experience in my first year a joy. He really sold me on creativity and allowing myself freedom of expression. And you can feel that enthusiasm for the art of writing in his work. This story follows a group of friends in Cardiff, Banana, Dai and our protagonist. Dai and the protagonist are close friends with Banana being a guy they knew from school who joins their friendship group, although makes mistakes along the way. A particular favourite of mine is him being told to dress up for Dai’s wedding and he comes dressed as Batman. This story is full of humour but also inherent sadness at the position of the people that are being written about. I also really love how I know many of the places that are mentioned. From living in Cardiff since September last year, I know exactly where the Burger King is across from the castle, and how Queen Street is often covered in McDonald’s wrappers. And what student doesn’t know where Revs is? I got a real good connection to each of these characters and I think that the use of imagery just really enhances this story. 

Gerontophobia – Sarah Dalley 

This story is a really interesting look at the life of a young person and their anxieties about the elderly. Whilst it’s socially expected for the elderly to be worried about the youth, it is not anticipated to be the other way around. Throughout they try and avoid the older characters who seem to have a lot of issues with them being outside at the same time. This seems to be a reversal of everything that we know from our current society. However towards the end the tables do start to turn and it is possible to see that young people are forced to act in a certain way because of fear. I think that this was a really interesting reversal on the society we live in and a really interesting read. 

Volume 2

This is How I Got Away With Murder – Breige Davies 

The dark, controlling nature of one friend versus the light, optimism of the other makes the story of this poem such a wonderfully intense one. The concrete imagery in this poem really cements the action in an idea that the reader an easily understand and the complete binary opposites show the contrast in characters. I think that this poem simply needs to be read to completely understand how great it is because I cannot do it the justice it deserves. 

Normal Norman – Alwyn Harries

This story speaks to me with a brother who’s on the autistic spectrum. Normal Norman shows the every day necessity for routines and compulsions for a child with an autism spectrum disorder and I think that it’s a really good way in which to show that they’re not entirely different, just that their brains work slightly differently. I find there’s a lot of humour in this story which often isn’t expected from something so serious as disorders of this kind, and ultimately I think it makes for a really interesting read, even for someone who understands it. It shows that there’s been a lot of work put into understanding those with the disorders it discusses and could even be shown to those with an autistic spectrum disorder to show them that they’re not weird at all, which is often something they like to worry about.

Blank Version 2 – Hannah Sierlis 

I can’t talk about volume 2 without mentioning Hannah. She is by far one of the best people I’ve met whilst at university, a South African with a whole load of interesting stories and a keen eye for imagery, Hannah has kept me entertained all year. Not to mention she read out her poem at the launch of this volume and I was blown away by it. This poem talks to a reader who may feel a little underwhelmed by life and what it has handed to them, who may feel boring or unworthy, and she encourages them to feel. Hannah plays around with words on the page, making some bigger or smaller, striking some out and underlining others to really emphasise her message and it is one of the poems that I continue to come back to regardless because it just fills me with so much joy to read it. 

Midnight Disturbance – Fiona Millar

Another great first year addition to this volume, and by far the shortest. Miller’s poem is 6 lines, 13 words short, but within this limitation she’s created an entire image that is by far one of the most common experienced by dog owners. I just found this poem to be so funny and engaging and really created a lovely image using very little at all. 

Lump – Kate Spalding

This poem ruined me for a while. I had to put the book down and just think for a second about how poignant this poem really is. Written from the point of view of a cancerous tumour inside the body of a woman who tries everything to remain healthy, it shows how smoking can affect your body and how leaving unknown lumps without going to the doctor can leave you untreated. The pure malice that comes from the voice of this cancer is truly horrifying, with an almost sneer coming through Spalding’s choices of words. I found it quite hard to read with it being very factual towards the end, as well as the use of imagery to enhance the devastation this caused her body. This poem caused me to really think and I love that it did. 

Him – Vicki Young 

A poem about unrequited love that you don’t quite realise until you’ve read it a couple of times. I read this and cried knowing that I have felt this way before and that people are feeling it now and I’m so lucky to have someone who makes me feel this way without the knowledge that he only wants one thing. I love how Young hasn’t used traditional metaphors or similes in this piece, and has focussed on creating some really interesting images regarding love, which can be incredibly challenging as a writer. I felt that this poem breathed a new lease of life into the genre of the love poem and I hope she continues on this similar thread in the future. 

Coffee Breath – Amy Parkes 

This poem is a brief snapshot into a couple of hours sat at a coffee shop alone. I’ve done it many a time before and I love that this has captured the very essence of that. It’s pretty melancholic in tone throughout, almost making me wish I could sit with Parkes at that coffee shop so she wouldn’t have to read alone or focus on the people around her. She picked out very distinct images and those are the ones that most people will recognise, for example the hipsters with their socks rolled up or the mother with a kid hanging from her arm, wishing she could just sit down and drink her coffee. I love that these images are so vivid and really bring the poem to life with lots of sensory vocabulary. 

So there are just a few of the many stories and poems collated in Metropolitan Volumes 1 and 2. If you’re interested in any of these stories and would like to read through the rest of the collection, they are available here and here (volume 2 to be put up shortly) for purchase. All of the proceeds that are made will allow us to be able to make more of these collections in the future and further give new voices a chance to be heard. 

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