New Writing: The Quirks and Quiddities
As with previous books in this series, the Manchester Anthology VI includes a selection of new voices from The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing. Poetry, novel extracts and short stories are featured. For many, this will be their first publication in an anthology, which can be a milestone towards developing confidence as a writer. For others, though their work appears already in print, studying an MA in Creative Writing suggests they believe there is still much to be learned, or they are looking to write differently or with another readership in mind:
The contents of this anthology, though diverse in many ways, bear the hallmarks of writing that has been carefully honed and polished, put through the trials and tribulations of a workshop and revision process, manicured in and through the academy. Highlights for me include Joe Carrick-Varty’s clipped couplets, in ‘Swing Set’, the careful brevity of ‘Happiness’ by Madison White, the striking parallel text form of ‘Homing’ by Roma Havers, and the contemporary diction of Patrick Clarke’s ‘Let’s Build A Lighthouse’.
For many, the works included here will demonstrate that creative writing can clearly be taught; though most would also agree that talent needs to be there in advance. The nuts and bolts of what makes a poem work, for instance, is a subject that can be studied, along with knowing what the pitfalls are (it is just as important for us to know why a ‘bad’ poem is bad as it is to know why a ‘good’ poem is good). At the same time, the rigorous process of crafting under these conditions risks ironing out the quirks or quiddities that make a voice distinctive and original. Poems that are too competent are missing something vital.
However, the poems and other writings in this anthology are especially indicative of the fact that it is first wise to know the rules so that we know how to break them properly. By its very nature, this sort of publication usually marks an early point in a writer’s career, when they are still unsure of who they are: what their poetics are or stance is in relation to the taught content or tutelage. If these writers decide to commit themselves fully to the vocation of a poet or prose writer (and it is unlikely all of them will), their future work will almost certainly be characterised by more risk-taking and individual flair. In terms of my own take on this (some of my poems were published in the 2014 edition), my writing at that time now seems inhibited and constrained by fear. I see that as a positive in retrospect, as it was appropriate at the time to air on the side of caution, and I only began to feel like a poet after the course was over.
The anthology signifies, for me, this crucial stage in a writer’s development, a kind of intersection between feeling like a student and standing on one’s own feet; the end of an apprenticeship and the start of an autonomous path. Hopefully both the contributors and readers of this collection will value this moment for what it is: a springboard to a future self and phase of reinvention.
The Manchester Anthology VI can be purchased from Blackwell’s bookshop, Manchester: