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Society Spotlight: The Poetry Society – all about bringing poetry to the people

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Featured image: Pexels/Marcelo Jaboo

aAh! wants to shine a light on what goes beyond our studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. So let’s showcase some of our favourite clubs and societies, and the students who make up their committees.

The first society underneath the spotlight is… The Poetry Society.

Poetry is such an integral part of the university experience, from critically analysing it in depth in lectures to writing it on the campus green with your feet kicking up in the air; to even being creeped out by the barefooted man writing poetry on the campus green.

Whether you love or hate it, poetry is always in our dialogue, being controversial, compassionate, explicit, aloof, or just downright entertaining. Manchester Metropolitan has such a creative and colourful atmosphere surrounding writing, so it makes no sense why the hottest society at the moment is The Poetry Society.

Founded last year during the pandemic, The Poetry Society offers a space for poets with any level of expertise and experience to come together to refine their craft and find some friends. A wholesome society of kind-hearted people where every writer is included, and so is their writing. It’s ironic that with The Poetry Society, your poetry ability doesn’t matter, you will still be welcomed. It’s more about your personality and your passion.

Thinking of joining The Poetry Society? Ask yourself a few questions:

Understand stanzas?

Adore alliteration?

If yes, then read on.

(Yes, I did write a haiku about The Poetry Society.)

aAh! spoke to society chair Hope Donaldson and vice-chair Thomas Gallimore Barker as we shine a spotlight on Manchester Met’s The Poetry Society.

Photography: Penguin Photography/The Poetry Society

For those who don’t know, what is MMU’s The Poetry Society?

Donaldson: The Poetry Society is a safe and inclusive space to: learn about, read, write, and perform poetry.

Barker: No matter what people’s skills are, we are very inclusive and open to everyone regardless how the amount of poetry they read or write.

Who is a part of MMU’s The Poetry Society, who builds the team to make the society what is it?

D:  Well, there’s me, Hope. I’m the chair and have my wingman Tom, who is vice-chair and treasure. We also have a great amount of support from MMU’s Art and Humanities faculty and the Manchester Writing School. But the greatest support we have, and it’s important to mention, is from the Manchester Poetry Library. They are absolutely fantastic. Plus, there are 37 [paying] members and even more non-members a part of the society.

Why should people join The Poetry Society and become a part of the team?

B: [The Poetry Society] is a creative outlet that helps us express our personal feelings and thoughts in a productive manner. It’s also a social space where we can meet like-minded people, which is ever more relevant after the periods of isolation during the pandemic.

D: Our main focus as a society is to support the student community’s passion for poetry and provide a space for those who don’t do a creative writing degree to learn about poetry, how to write and gain the confidence to perform. The Poetry Society is all about bringing poetry to the people.

What events and socials does MMU’s The Poetry Society host for its members?

D: We run four events at the minute, roughly one every two weeks that are now in person.

Our combined workshops are an hour of writing using prompts and workshopping that teaches our members about different forms of poetry, followed by peer feedback where the group receives compliments and constructive criticism on their work.

[Plus,] open mic nights, an hour and a half where we give space to 10+ performances, depending on time, so our members and non-members can perform their poetry to a supportive audience and build confidence. This is always one of our most popular events.

[We also run] guest speaker events – normally we do one of these a term. This again is about an hour and a half and we invite poets, organisations and publishers to give unique insights to those who attend. Last term we had a private tour of Manchester Poetry Library and a Q&A session with the director Becky Swain, as well as a talk and Q&A session with Ivan Wadeson from the Manchester City of Literature. It’s really cool that we can introduce our members to knowledge beyond the society and beyond the university. We really want to show off what’s happening in Manchester and the poetry scene.

Finally, we do socials at the end of the term. We join at local cocktail bar The Font, where we play games, relax, and get to know each other. We choose that place as they are very inclusive, accessible, and got a quieter area downstairs where people can order veggie and vegan food and also non-alcoholic drinks that are still. It’s inclusive to everyone.

B: It just got a really nice atmosphere, that’s for certain.

What is special to The Poetry Society that makes it unique?

B: The Poetry Society is a special social because we offer things that no offer society or group for that matter provides; we are the only society in MMU and of our size in Manchester that has such a connection to poetry. Plus, the extra things we put forward to our members like loyalty points, anthologies and library tours aren’t necessarily common to other societies. Quite often when it comes to people performing your work, you got to be in “the circle” and go out there to different places to do your research but with The Poetry Society, everything is right there. It’s easy for people to participate, you don’t have to go too far to be involved.

D: We as a committee are very passionate about poetry, and not only do we study it which helps us teach it, we are also active poets with performing experience, publications, and Instagram followers. We use our area of expertise to support our members and for them to achieve similar opportunities we wished we had when we were starting off.

You mentioned loyalty points, how does that work?

B: It’s quite a unique idea and not common in other societies and we’ve been trialling it over the last couple of months as it is very new. The whole pretext is quite simple: you buy a ticket, or you attend an event or you perform at an open mic night and you get loyalty points, and by the end of the year you can receive some good prizes. It’s a way of giving back to our members – a thank you and token of our appreciation for attending and being a part of the society

D: It’s a way of recognising them because we get recognition as a committee but it’s important to give back to our members and thank them. Without members, there is no society and with no engagement, there are no events

Poetry is such a communal art form, do you think there is a great sense of community within The Poetry Society and the university.

B: Definitely. Even though the University of East Angela was the first university to offer creative writing and by extension poetry, as a degree, I think MMU, in my opinion, was the first to create a vibrant community of writers and artists. This is partly because of the facility, we got Carol Ann Duffy DBE (Poet Laureate, 2009-2019) and [author] Andrew MacMillian, but also, partly due to our effort and the legacy The Poetry Society has at MMU. We definitely helped to build a sense of community that wasn’t previously at the university.

D: To add to this, we kind of built this committee by making poetry accessible to students on different courses and degrees, and even different departments. We have a lot of students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mechanics) who really enjoy poetry and without the society, I don’t think they wouldn’t have had as much access to it. There is a lot going on in Manchester, but you have to find it, and we’ve become the middleman to provide a service to students and inform them about what’s happening in the writing scene of our city.

The Poetry Society won Best New Society 2021, why do you think you got this awarded and how did it feel?

D: It definitely was an incredible experience. I can speak for all committee members, both past and present, that we built the society from the ground up during the pandemic. We worked really hard to have constant online events to distract our members from what was happening during the Covid-19 outbreak and, without access to a Freshers Fair and traditional ways to advertise a society, we still managed to gain 30+ members. We did some incredible things and made some incredible memories, not to toot our own horn but, we work so hard and winning Best New Society was really well deserved as our hard work paid off. It was nice to be recognised.

Is there anything on the horizon for MMU’s The Poetry Society to look forward to?

D: Well… last academic year we created a digital anthology, and it was a great success, even with the pandemic we were able to launch a website, publish an anthology, and have an online performance showcase. But this year we are working with the Short Fiction Creation Society, which is a new creative writing society, and we are going to develop last year’s project into a printed anthology and live performance with all new work.

At the time of publication, MMU’s The Poetry Society and Short Fiction Creation Society are still welcoming submissions for their 2022 Anthology. Whether it be poetry under 30 lines or flash fiction under 750 words, they want your writing, and it could even be accepted to be featured in print. A maximum of 45 submissions will be chosen from Manchester Metropolitan students. Entries are £2 with a maximum of two entries per student. Submission closes on 9th May 2022, 9:00am.

More information about the application process can be found on the MMU Union website.

Any final thoughts regarding MMU’s The Poetry Society that you wish to express?

B: Just come around and take part; vibe with The Poetry Society.

One academic year of MMU’s The Poetry Society’s membership is £5, giving members access to all events, both online and in-person. Plus, provides discounts to open mic nights and guest speaker events, being only £1 per event. However, this society does not require a membership to be a part of, especially when attending social, but prices may be higher for ticketed events for non-paying members.

More information about The Poetry Society can be found on their page on the MMU’s Union website.

Find The Poetry Society on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Website

aAh!’s is always looking to showcase the different people and groups at Manchester Metropolitan. To hear more from other societies and clubs, read more of the Society Spotlight.

Are you on the committee or a member of a society? Are you wanting to get the word out about your club? Contact Society Spotlight at aAh.Editor@gmail.com

About the author / 

Robbie Drepaul

Writer | Student Editorial Assistant - aAh! | English Literature and Creative Writing Student | Just Happy To Be Here | Not Sure How To Change My Profile Picture |

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