An Evening with Carol Ann Duffy and Friends

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Manchester’s much-loved Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy

Words by Sian Pemberton


The eighth instalment of Carol Ann Duffy and Friends kick started at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Alongside the Poet Laureate, graduates and students from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Writing School joined her for a celebration of poetry and poetic talent.

Four poets joined Carol Ann; Christopher Riesco, Lynn Pegler, John Burnside, and Michael Conley.

Christopher Riesco delivered a startling prose poem in strong contrast to his somewhat understated introduction. Michael Conley’s wonderfully comical There’s a Seventh Tongue in the Woods examined the struggle of youth and being a juvenile.

Lynn Pegler’s Risk Assessment, a paradox of the risks of warfare and the risks tedious daily tasks, was especially well received by the audience. It met with resounding applause as the poem concluded with the powerful line ‘he ticked the wrong box’.

John Burnside – a poet who has had an adjective named for him ‘Burnsidian’
The evening was fittingly concluded with John Burnside, introduced by Duffy herself as ‘one of the greatest living British writers’. Reading from his unpublished book, All One Breath delivered poetry united by what Burnside described as a ‘strong family theme’. Charismatic from the moment he took centre stage, the performance aspect of Burnside’s readings could not be faulted; from the humorous anecdotes to the faultless rendition.

The nights showcase was a true celebration of what the Manchester Metropolitan Writing School has to offer, with each poet an inspiration and example to future students and undergraduates in the audience. If poetry is ‘the music of being human’ as stated by Duffy, then collectively each poet’s contribution touches upon the struggles and experiences of daily life.

Carol Ann Duffy inspired her audience alongside other notable guest poets

As Carol Ann stated at the start of the evening ‘we are all essentially writing the same poem’, which as the night transpired appeared to hold great truth. Though there was great variety of poetic forms and themes from Riesco, to Lenn, to the darker side of Burnside’s poetry in death and transfiguration, each artist succeeded in inspiring and moving the public through his or her work.

Overall, it is this that has made the evening such a resounding success and a fine representation of the emerging talent the university can support and produce.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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