This is a review of The Grapple Annual by Katelin Farnsworth.


The Grapple Annual No. 1

Duncan Felton



Canberra based The Grapple Annual is finally here. After a year in the making, I’m holding it in my hands and I’m kind of in love. The layout is beautiful, and it feels more like a book than a magazine. It’s quite thick, covering over 200 pages, with more than 30 pieces included. It features emerging writers as well as those more established. The Grapple will easily slot in next to other literary magazines – the likes of Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, and Meanjin.

Designed by Finbah Neil, The Grapple is a fantastic read. Editor Duncan Felton gives a warm welcome in his editorial:

 “Thanks for taking the time to read The Grapple Annual! This is the first Annual and the first project from Grapple Publishing – the first of many. It’s been a good year in the making, and many years more in the vague contemplating, so it’s rather momentous that you’re here reading it right now, on this very date.”

The Grapple Annual is wonderful because it offers something different. It works as a calendar-based anthology. Each piece in the book relates to a date in some way. This is such a delightful structure. The editor writes:

“Dates, years, times – just as these things structure our lives, so too do they structure this publication. Over several Annuals, we hope to cover all 366 days.”

It is easy to see why The Grapple recently won an award from Express Media for ‘Most Innovative New Project or Work by Young People.’ Definitelywell deserved. The book grapples with many themes, covering death, birth, taxes, love, climate change and family, amongst others. The writing differs greatly from piece to piece but is consistently good. I’ve chosen a few of my favourites to review.

The book opens (January 1st) with a piece by Jane Downing, Mount Olympos, and is an excellent starter to the anthology.                                        

Notes from Shanghai’ by Ella Jeffery comes on January 17th, and is one of my favourites. It catalogues adventures around the world and a broken relationship, wrapped in evocative stunning images. It’s a beautiful piece, dealing with multiple issues, layered with emotion. It’s set out in an easy to read way, broken up so you can enjoy it in flashes and bite size chunks. I found it particularly enjoyable because it’s relatable; there’s something in there for everyone.


“We went out for her birthday to a bar where goldfish in glass spheres hung from indoor trees. Drowsy fins and greased silver eyes between underwater roots. Ni hao, I said to them. Ni hao, ni hao, ni hao. They looked out from between the roots but didn’t move. There was no space. Snow came down outside, stained yellow by the streetlamps.”


The journal is scattered with interesting artworks, each piece presenting something unlike the next. Artist Shu Shu Zheng’s pieces, in particular, are captivating and take me into other worlds. I love the thick lines and ambiguity created. I would like to see more artwork in future journals, as I think the book struggles with large blocks of text. It would be nice to give the reader more of a break here and there.

I enjoyed Eric Greene’s ‘How To Kill and Cook a Cat.’ (March 17th) - a clever and engaging story about a 10-year-old kid, global warming, bloody cats and survival kits.
It’s sophisticated storytelling, giving the reader more than one point of view. The piece centres around a young boy who fears global warming and the end of the world.



‘What if it doesn’t work?’
‘What if what doesn’t work?’
‘You know, fixing the environment. Global warming stuff. What if it doesn’t work?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Like, if it gets really bad, and there’s nothing we can do; what happens then?’


October 31 (October 31st) by Nick Marland is another short story I enjoyed. Although at times it does feel a little long and drags in places, it’s an interesting one that will hold your attention. It tells an amusing tale of a man attempting to finish his Australian tax return on Halloween ‘that annual time of mysteries and horror’, while dealing with frustrating children, policemen and mysterious happenings.

Poet Eleanor Malbon offers a heartbreaking poem This one is true. (December 25th) Such sad, striking images that linger long after you’ve read it. Please read it! I had goosebumps. Taking place on Christmas Day, it follows a young homeless man who is picked up from the side of the road. It recounts the conversation that takes place between the man and the narrator. I love the way the poet weaves visuals in and out of it, the way she uses language and the short, snappy sentences.


‘and I tell him it’s Christmas
he tells me he forgot

politely, he asks what I did today

lunch with the family, wine and cricket in the arvo

when I stop the car he asks

and I give him all the change in my wallet

I don’t have any notes
it’s raining tonight’

Although the poetry sprinkled throughout the book is excellent, I would love to see more in future annuals. Yolande Norris (June 7th) paints incredibly simple images with her words and leaves the interpretation up to you. Love it. Greg Gould (October 27th) gives you quick, bite-sized flashes that say more than you initially think.


‘it seems such a flawed design

that the branch should snap

because the plums grow too heavy’


The Grapple Annual is an excellent new anthology, with a real mix of writers and artists involved. It’s certainly nice to see such a diverse publication and a wide range of topics being discussed. This is definitely one to watch. I will be subscribing!


To buy a copy (you know you want to) head to here. To contribute head here.


Katelin Farnsworth is a writer from Melbourne. She has been published in various journals such as Tincture, Offset, Voiceworks, & others. She dreams of endless libraries. Tweets @ktnworth




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