By Lisa Burns
The International Anthony Burgess Foundation once again played host to Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) finest literary talent on Thursday 5th June 2014. Students from the Manchester Writing School’s MA Creative Writing and Poetry course took to the stage to present some of the fruits of their labours over the past academic year.
The manager of the Manchester Writing School, James Draper, raised a giggle as he opened the event as an ‘end- of- year world class gala’. However tongue-in-cheek the description may have been, the evening undeniably showcased some fine poetry from a group of very gifted, up-and-coming artists.
The students reading their poetry were: Daniel Ryder, Scott Fellows, Justine Chamberlain, Ian Humphreys and Robert Harper. The poetry itself was a heady mix of different styles and emotions; the audience guided from cheeky humour to gentle observation to sobering pensiveness and back again. Each style seemed to reflect personal experiences and reveal something of the personalities of the poets. For instance, Daniel Ryder’s childhood memories of family holidays to Cleethorpes were committed to nostalgic verse; while Scott Fellows’ background as a Methodist minister and college chaplain seeped into his accounts of human pain and search for meaning in the face of loss.
This mix of styles bears testament not only to the talents of the students, but also to the capacity of MMU’s MA course to facilitate a broad range of approaches. Humanity Hallows journalist and MA poet, Justine Chamberlain commented: “I’d always liked poetry, but the MA has helped me to find better ways to say things I already wanted to say. It taught me different forms, which I borrow from. Everyone on the course likes different forms of poetry, but that broad range is useful; it encourages creative feedback.”
It seems that MMU’s MA students foster creative bonds of mutual respect and support, and these poetry students were perfect examples of this community spirit. Daniel Ryder enthused: “We all learned from each other. It’s great that MMU is so inclusive and open to people from all backgrounds and ages; it feeds into our work. It’s based on talent and merit.”
Daniel went on to share how MMU continues to shape and influence his writing: “I did my undergraduate degree at MMU and started writing poetry at the end of it. I wanted to do a Masters here because you’re taught by an array of award-winning, published poetry tutors…you know you’re being taught by the best. My writing has vastly improved because of the course…you get taught loads of different techniques.” Daniel enjoyed the course so much that he expressed a wish to continue on to complete his PhD at MMU.
Poetic talent was everywhere at the event. The audience also consisted of some published poets and MMU alumni. This creative talent was given a chance to shine in the open-mic session after the interval, in which members of the audience contributed with some of their own poetry readings.
Adam O’Riordan, MMU lecturer and published poet, remarked, “After a year of teaching the poetry students it’s really nice to see [their] work being performed”. This showcase is not the end for them, though. The next few months sees the students collaborating to create an anthology, as well as performances at the Royal Exchange Theatre, and many other exciting opportunities.
As the event came to a close, wine flowed freely, chat was animated and there was a real sense of excitement about the futures of these talented individuals. The next few months looks promising for them.
Lisa Burns studies History and English at MMU. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she loves having adventures in the great outdoors! Follow her on Twitter: @LittleRobin09