The Manchester Anthology 2013 was recently launched at the John Rylands Library. It contains highlights from the work produced by the University of Manchester’s Creative Writing MA students over the past year. The event consisted of recitations by the students, including poetry, short fiction and novel extracts, and concluded with the editor, Natasha Smith, paying homage to the late Seamus Heaney.
The University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing plays host to some of Britain’s most prestigious programmes, with students flocking from far and wide to attend its courses in Creative Writing and in Contemporary Literature and Culture. Its members of staff include Geoff Ryman, John McAuliffe and Jeanette Winterson, who was appointed as Professor of Creative Writing last year. With such literary giants giving workshops and seminars, it is no wonder that students of the Centre for New Writing produce the sort of work seen in The Manchester Anthology. The Centre runs a host of exciting events throughout the year. ‘Literature Live’, for example, is a series of on-campus readings, with past authors including Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan and Will Self. This September, the Centre held the third British and Irish Contemporary Poetry Conference.
However, the students themselves must surely take the lion’s share of the credit for The Manchester Anthology’s success. The extraordinary range of genres that the students can handle is immediately noticeable. The various novel extracts leave you wanting to read the completed masterpiece, whether they be comic, historical or fantasy. On the other hand, the short stories seem like finished jewels. Lu Croft’s ‘Ellie’s Lump’ looks at how women do (or do not) deal with having a mastectomy. Though the story is little more than a page long, it successfully addresses this sensitive issue; it is intense but not overwhelming.
The students who contributed to The Manchester Anthology are of all ages and backgrounds, and the subjects they tackle reflect this. While Croft’s piece deals with breast cancer, Helen Isserlis’ poems are clearly written from a younger woman’s perspective:
I grew up with Britpop, the Walkman
the Gameboy, episodes of friends
(the first time round) and Disney
while Walt was still alive; his obituary,
a double spread in The Young Telegraph;
had a picture of him with his dogs.
With a foreword by Jeanette Winterson and the collective effort of 28 promising new writers from the University of Manchester, The Manchester Anthology is certainly worth a read.