on 10 July 2010
This book is a really good read. I'm a huge fan of poetry and found this book wide ranging, informative and funny. As it says it's volume 1, I'm very much looking forward to future volumes.
Anyone interested in poetry should buy this book, you definitely don't need to be from Manchester to enjoy it and if you get the chance to hear any of the poets in this book perform, take it, they are a very talented bunch!
The more I read this book, the more I find myself wishing it came with a CD attached. It is an anthology of currently practising Manchester poets, but many are performance poets, and a lot of performance poetry doesn't work on the page for the good reason that it isn't meant to: it is a performance art which needs to be heard, and sometimes seen in action, for maximum effect. In-your-face exaggeration and insistent repetition that can fall flat on the page could work well with a hyped-up audience chanting along; Dominic Berry and Rosie Lugosi are two of several poets in here who don't really do much for me in this format but whom I can see working well in the format they were meant for. A CD of a live performance wouldn't replicate that format exactly but it would come close. How much would it add to production costs, I wonder, and might extra sales compensate?
Among those whose true medium is the page, there's quite a wide range of technique and degree of craft. Some are too concerned with what they want to say, at the expense of how it's said; there are some preachy, finger-wagging sermons, statements of the bleedin' obvious and, above all, poets whose desperation to get their message across drives them to spell out in big letters at the end of the poem what they have already said perfectly well in the previous verses. A lot of new writers, in any poetry scene, would do well to adopt the practice of automatically crossing out the last few lines of every poem and seeing whether anything is actually lost thereby.
There is lots of energy and humour in here (I shall long treasure Copland Smith's "Arabella") and several poets who have got beyond the stage of wanting to say something to where they have the confidence and skill to say it effectively. Helen Thomas, Angela Topping, Andrew Oldham among others all repay reading. I would single out three. Matthew Curry uses rhyme to great effect in the edgy "And The Palm Trees Whose Leaves Are Fraying", Mantz Yorke's "The Boat" is packed with observation and detail without being merely anecdotal and Michelle Paramanantham is a really interesting voice whom I wish I could indicate in a quote, but her poem, "Thoughts Such As These" has lineation which this form won't let me reproduce (I have done a fuller review on my blog and put quotes in there). I could have done with more than one poem from these three especially, and I'd also have liked notes on contributors so that I could find out more about them. I'm guessing the lack of these is so that more poets could be included, but there are actually three blank pages at the end...
This is billed as Volume 1. It's interesting, but more a portrait of a whole scene than of the "best of" that scene. I hope vol 2 will be a bit less wide-ranging and perhaps concentrate more on building up a fuller picture of fewer poets. They could call it "Really the best of..."