Reaching Out introduces new and emerging voices in short story and poetry. Joanna Campbell’s Carr’s ‘Aurora and the Book Trolley’ spins us into fantasy worlds woven by a child who uses a medical dictionary to role play adults into territories way outside their comfort zones – “it’s her way of reaching out to people” her mother confides to a confused hospital librarian. Scarcity of detail, that aesthetic absence of comforting exposition, mirrors the more threatening and less abstract scarcities in the lives in both Christian Cook’s haunting future vision ‘Terra Firma’ and Sarah Hegarty’s gothic macabre ‘In the Blood’. The stories selected for this anthology have a through line; minimalism, one whose gaps are elliptical rather than empty; pointing to fullness the reductionism of trite generalization cannot contain. Tyler Keevil’s winning ‘Reaching Out’ is also defined by economy; in how it occupies a voice trying to communicate, in its understated tension and Chekhovian unspoken assumptions.
Poetry is more inherently indirect, using language to escape language. Each of Nicola Warwick’s are like a suggested mise en scène thick with time, place and atmosphere. And Frances Spurrier’s ‘Radiocarbon Dating’ alludes to Scottish poet George Mackay Brown’s ‘Further than Holy’, which is all about the rich particulars beyond abstract, reduced generalities. In Spurrier’s quasi mythic account of origins we find, ‘The sea inscribed our history on a palimpsest of sand/ then erased it.’ The metaphysical task of the author later surmised, ‘Somehow we found the words.’ The details are precise and visceral “Around are piers of shallow chalk lit into wide bays of flint, / shifting dunes and marram grass.”