Carol Ann Duffy and Friends returned for a tenth series last Monday at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. This was the 28th successful event held in collaboration with The Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). The evening, designed to allow postgraduate students to showcase their poetry alongside successful poets, served as fantastic opportunity to introduce the best emerging talent.
Adam O’Riordan, Martin Kratz, Paul McGhee and Kim Moore joined our poet laureate and MMU’s Professor of Contemporary Poetry, for the evening. Dame Carol Ann opened the series with her epic poem, The Laughter of Stafford Girls’ High. She went on to reflect on the power of laughter in response to the recent tragic events in Paris.
Kim Moore, MA Creative Writing graduate and award-winning poet, stood in for the house poet. Her work has won her the New Writing North Award in 2014. She spoke passionately about her time at MMU and described her MA course as, ‘one of the best things I ever did’.
Paul McGhee, a student poet and in his final year of an MA at MMU, then took the stage showcasing a range of styles focusing on family and their lives and voices. One of his works was a character piece, based on photos given to him by family members, which he wrote as tribute to them. He also read a ‘guerrilla’ style piece where he visited a range of different locations in Lancaster and wrote about them. He included a list poem where he spoke about things his Father had given to him. This piece was in response to feelings that his dad was temporary, and came from wanting to show his appreciation of their relationship.
The second student poet, Martin Kratz, is currently writing a PhD at MMU. He is the co-editor of Mount Garden and his poetry has appeared in countless magazines. His poem, Man Who Walked Through Walls, was highly commended for the Forward Prize. This poem is about a bank robber, John Dillinger. Martin spoke about how this piece evolved, ‘starting off as one thing’ which ended up being ‘completely different.’ The event demonstrated the different writing styles poets adopted as Paul spoke about working from memory while Martin took a less personal, fictional approach.
Martin spoke fondly about MMU and said other poets he had spoken to had recommended the course to him. He said there were some great poets teaching on the course and this was a reason he had chosen to study here. Martin hailed Manchester as a ‘good place to be studying poetry’ due to its strong poetry scene and events available.
Martin spoke of reading poetry aloud, ‘It can trip you up and it becomes apparent that the poem might not be that successful. A big part of poetry and the enjoyment of it, is reading aloud. Poetry events like this series allow students to see how well their work is received and allowed them the opportunity to grow and adapt their work based on the audience’s reactions.’ Martin also spoke of constantly editing his work and so reading at events such as this one are almost the ‘final edit’ of a poem to see whether it is a successful or not.
Adam O’Riordan, lecturer in Poetry Writing at MMU, later shared his work. His poetry has an Elizabethan quality to it, rooted in the personal and family and how we engage and think about the past. He spoke about the event as a ‘gig’ for students with music and an audience with whom they could share their work. He described a sense of family and community for writers studying the MA course and praised the opportunity this poetry series gave students to display their work in a beautiful space.
The evening was inspiring to current students to experience holding a captivated audience alongside accomplished poets. Members of the audience thoroughly enjoyed the event. The popularity of the Carol Ann Duffy and Friends series means that writers at MMU will continue to have a great chance to get their work noticed.
The next events in the series will be held on Monday 19th January and Monday 9th March. For more information, please visit the Manchester Writing School website.
Emma Heathcote is in her second year studying English. She likes 19th Century novels and the Harry Potter series.