Introducing a new series of insights into the different societies at Manchester Met, aAh! Magazine kicks off with a Poetry Society Q&A. Read on to find out how it all works.
Ariadna Garrido, president of the society, is a translator and poet. She has already published several collections, and is awaiting publication of an illustrated book in Catalan.
She lives and works in Manchester where she founded the MMU Poetry Society with her team a year ago. Since then, it has gained much attention, with workshop sessions and open mics.
Ariadna spoke to us about barriers to communication, diversifying the Manchester poetry scene, and the influences on her work before returning to Catalonia for the Christmas break.
Hi Ariadna, let’s start with your role in the Poetry Society, what does it involve and what do you enjoy most about it?
“As chair of the Poetry Society, I’m entitled to make sure everyone is doing their job, everyone is engaged, and everyone is okay. Mental health plays a huge part – I’m constantly asking my team how they’re feeling, not just about their workload, but also their personal stresses. This role is about making sure the team functions.”
What do you find most difficult about your role?
“I am a linguist (I studied Catalan languages at university); my mother tongue is Catalan, I speak Spanish, a bit of English and some romance languages. I think the way we express ourselves is very important. However, the information you put out there can be perceived and received in different ways.
“This can be challenging sometimes when you are directing any team. I have insecurities, we all do, but the more we expand our knowledge about each other’s vocabulary, the more we can work together.”
Can you tell us more about the translation work you have done?
“At one point I worked for an organisation creating subtitles for videos. This involved not just transcribing, but translating, which was very interesting. Words hold power, and that power relates to how we perceive things. I can play around with it.
“However, the difference between writing and translating, is that you don’t have that “create” bit in translation; it doesn’t require that much energy. You mentioned Martin Kratz; I think the same as him, translation is not the same as writing – they are different worlds.”
Why do you think poetry has been important in 2020?
“I think poetry has what music has, they’re interlinked. The advantage to music is that it doesn’t always require words, a code, a language to be understood. With poetry, the narrator must convey a message through words. They want to express something intense, unforgettable. Good poetry cannot be ignored. You become transfixed by the words.”
“In times like these, we need to compensate, create, and channel our energy into something positive. Writers often talk about trauma; something which happened in their home country, something terrible they must live with and learn how to move on. Poetry is therapeutic; it’s making a list and saying it out loud.”
How do you encourage people to join your society who fear sharing their work?
“I think we have this shame, especially among women, that we don’t want to share our work because we fear rejection, but we have to keep trying. On our team, everyone has a different approach to poetry, and everyone is at a different stage. I might be a published author, but that doesn’t mean anything, I still have a lot to learn.
“We try to make sure the Poetry Society is a safe and non-judgmental space for everyone, and we try to help people meet others with similar interests. From there, hopefully, they feel confident enough to converse with members of the Manchester Writing School or go to the new Poetry Library which is opening here soon.”
How does it feel to be a part of the growing Manchester Poetry Scene?
“It’s very, very exciting. I was lucky enough to meet the new Manchester Poetry Library team. Becky Swain is the director, and Martin Kratz works there as well. I talked to them yesterday and said, ‘You guys are doing a great job’ because now there’s a domino effect in the poetry scene. Manchester has Carol Ann Duffy, a Poetry Library, a Writing School and of course, the MMU Poetry Society. It’s picking up pace.
What do you think the best written poems have in common?
“Define “best”. I like, for example, the Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik and Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, then there are Helen Mort and Elvira Sastre. They are all great and completely different types of poetry, so it’s difficult to put a judgement on them.
“Some people like poetry which is very short and simplistic like haikus, and some people like longer poems with more complicated phrasing and concepts. For me, it depends on my mood. It’s like watching a series; some days I want Sense 8, other days, The Crown. I’m very eclectic, and like all types of poetry. I don’t think one should exclude the other.”
What are your team and members like? Do they study varied subjects?
“Our Vice-Chair, Victoria, is from Germany, and Jess (Treasurer) and Hope (Social Secretary), are from Preston. They are all amazing. I didn’t know so many Prestonians liked poetry! I have another couple of friends from Preston who also love poetry – it’s like a family.
“We have participants studying Film, Creative Writing, Fashion as well as scientific subjects. We are a range of ages and backgrounds which offers much variety. One role we wanted to install was a diversity officer, so we will try and do that in the year to come.
“I like to make sure we have people from different backgrounds in the society. It reflects better. It also helps when you publish something targeting only one group in the population, and someone else in the team picks up on it and says, ‘What if we do it this way instead?'”
What are the best poetry pages to follow on Instagram? Or anthologies, magazines, websites?
“I follow the Manchester Poetry Library page on Instagram because it’s local and fresh. Poetry Foundation is a great website. The BBC have a Writers’ Room where you can find useful information and top tips. Malika Booker’s website has a section for writers called Malika’s Poetry Kitchen because that’s where everything’s cooking, right!?
“There are a lot of Spanish and Catalan poets I like on Twitter such as Elvira Sastre, who I mentioned before. Catalan poetry is so interesting. It talks about exile during the war, gender, race, grief, love between women, between men. It’s very diverse and I really like that.”
What poetry forms and genres are on the rise at the moment?
“Spoken Word has become increasingly important because it is often what connects with people; it’s a performance. There is Lemn Sissay who I saw in a video and he was killing it on stage and Rupi Kaur also has a very original delivery.
“Everything which is poignant will be brought to a Poetry Slam, and that’s because poetry is from the streets. Jam sessions provide a platform for voices to be heard. But no matter what changes, poetry is always going to be here – people will always want to do interesting things with words.
Get involved and join MMU Poetry Society‘s Spoken Word Poetry Competition taking place on Friday 15th January, 2021.
Special mention and thanks to the following:
The Poetry Society team – Victoria Thiele (Vice-Chair), Hope Donaldson (Social Secretary), Montana White (Secretary), Jess Grady (Treasurer).
Former members – Georgia Griffiths (Publicity Officer), Kate Griffiths (Treasurer), Amy Jubb (Vice Chair) and Joel Cordingley (Secretary).
MMU Poetry Society’s incredible members, participants and supporters, too.