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12th February 2021

Mancunian Ways for Mancunion readers

Deputy Books Editor Aileen Loftus reviews Mancunian Ways, a poetry anthology featuring work from a range of Manchester based poets, including Lemn Sissay and Jackie Hagan.
Mancunian Ways for Mancunion readers
‘Rain’ by Lemn Sissay; Photo: Aileen Loftus @ The Mancunion

Mancunian Ways is a poetry anthology, featuring works that are clearly made in Manchester. The collection includes a range of poetry. It includes some of Lemn Sissay’s work, a commissioned poem by Jackie Haganas, and a small selection of photography. 

The poems are distinctly Mancunian, and some instantly recognisable, such as ‘Rain’ by Lemn Sissay. I have walked by the poem so many times on the corner of Dilworth Street and Oxford Road, but never managed to reach the end of it. I always walk past by the time I get to ‘triumphant’. It calls to mind a clear Mancunian route, or ‘way’, as well as classic Manchester weather, both themes that run throughout the anthology.

Many of the poems include references to specific Manchester establishments, including Afflecks and Eighth Day Cafe. As a Manchester based reader, I felt like I knew a secret language, or was a member of an exclusive club. The poems make you feel proud to be part of that club, even if you can only claim recent or periphery status.

In the centre of the anthology is a collection of photographs. This includes the photo that is featured on the cover, ‘Library Walkway’ by Cheryl Pearson. It is the walkway of Central Library, visualising one possible meaning of Mancunian ways. The photography is placed alongside the poetry, which further locates the poems in Manchester, and mirrors the way creativity is found within the city.  

‘While it is a strange time to launch a book, it is an important one. A time for artists to write and create more than ever. If we can’t meet in person, we must put pen to paper to be heard’. (Isabelle Kenyon, editor of Mancunian Ways)

The poems span the city’s history. They cover that which has not changed, and that which has. Poignantly, Estelle Price’s poem, remembering the 15th of June 1996 bombing, and David Keyworth’s ‘23_05_2017’, are side by side in the collection. Susan Sollazzi’s ‘Central Library’ curls its way across the page, a visual protest against the climate crisis. It ties the library to the city’s history of protest covered by the anthology.

It is a lovely collection to dip in and out of. Especially when, due to lockdown, many of us are stuck at home. The collection makes you wish you were visiting the places mentioned, even just walking down Oxford Road and experiencing the noisy bustle of rush hour. It is worth reminding yourself that the bustle will return, as bright and chaotic as it has always been.

Sections, such as ‘Modern Manchester’ and ‘Northern Culture’, divide the anthology. The fluidity of the themes and the large crossover between the boundaries of these groupings means they seem a little redundant. It’s nice to consider a small group of poems at a time, though. 

Mancunian Ways is published by Fly on the Wall. It is a social enterprise company and a not for profit publisher, based in Manchester. Fly on the Wall publish short stories, poetry and photography books on pressing issues. All have a socially conscious theme. Fly on the Wall Press was on the regional shortlist for The British Book Awards’ Small Press of the Year 2020

Thank you to Fly on the Wall for providing this copy of Mancunian Ways.

Aileen Loftus

Aileen Loftus

Books Editor

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