Impact Case Study

Taking poetry’s influence beyond the page

Manchester Writing School poets are widening access to contemporary poetry by encouraging new writing, engaging with schools and appearing at public events.

How it started

Manchester Met’s poetry research has deep roots, growing out of a pioneering group of former colleagues including Michael Schmidt, Jeffrey Wainwright and Simon Armitage.

Their work was founded on influential books including Killing Time (1999) the one-thousand-line poem by Armitage screened by the BBC, Wainwright’s Out of the Air (1999) and Poetry:, The Basics (2004) plus Schmidt’s The Lives of the Poets (1998) and The Harvill Book of 20th Century Poetry in English (2000).

What we did

Our poets united in wanting to contribute to defining and developing the mainstream lyric tradition in contemporary English poetry. Their work draws on both the early 20th century modernists and the English lyric tradition. It aspires to be a private and public art. This lyric tradition takes an interest in the vernacular, in poems employing multiple ‘voices’, in free verse as a form in itself and an interest in the longer structures of poetic sequences.

Manchester Met’s current poets are committed to publishing, broadcasting, discussing and promoting poetry to as wide an audience as possible.

Our poets respond to public occasions through commissions from broadcasters and newspapers. For example, Roberts marked the first anniversary of 9/11 with the commissioned poem ‘Last Words’ for BBC Radio 4. Duffy published a response to the Royal wedding in the Guardian.

Why it matters

Manchester Metropolitan’s poets have attracted the attention of broadcasters, literary editors, composers, opera commissioners, theatre producers and educators. These champions have broadened appreciation of their work, helping it to find audiences beyond its published pages.

"The poet and dramatist Michael Symmons Roberts is an outstanding writer, whom radio has done much to nurture"

Sunday Times

The poets have mentored more than 300 new writers since 2008, many of whom have gone on to be  published. These include Andrew Forster, Carole Coates and Alan Buckley.

Roberts serves as a trustee of the Arvon Foundation, the largest and most influential creative writing organisation in the UK.

University poets have nurtured new talent through the creation of new poetry awards (The Ted Hughes Award and the Manchester Poetry Prize) and the support of existing ones. Kate Tempest, Fiona Benson and Anthony Rowland are among the beneficiaries.

Carol Ann Duffy’s series of hosted readings at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre provide many new poets with their first public performances and Manchester Met’s poets have travelled widely to give public readings in Europe and the US.

Manchester Metropolitan poetry is widely taught in schools, as part of the GCSE and A-Level syllabus, and at university level.

Carol Ann Duffy regularly appears at ‘Poetry Live’ events, attended by 75,000 pupils in 50 venues each year. The university’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival has encouraged new writing byas well as forchildren.

Mother Tongue Other Tongue, a poetry competition celebrating diversity and the many languages spoken in Northwest secondary schools, attracted 550 entries in 41 languages from 30 secondary schools in 2012.

Sprackland is a founder - with Sir Andrew Motion - of the Poetry Archive, which allows free access to hundreds of recordings, and of its memory and recitation project, Poetry by Heart

The Poetry Archive attracts 150,000 visitors per month and is used by teachers and students across the UK. It has helped to influence public policy on poetry and education.

Featured Researcher

Professor Michael Symmons Roberts

Michael has published six collections of poetry. He is also a regular broadcaster on radio and TV as a radio dramatist and opera librettist.

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