Tuesday, 8 March 2011

An apology for poetry

Whatever Robbie Burns and conspiratorial mice might say, plans are good. Books need them. Otherwise all the pages come out at the wrong time, the wrong way up, and in the wrong order, like an experimental novel from the sixties that comes in a shoe box. And that's not what we're up to here, as far as I know. Printers charge extra for shoe boxes.

So, a plan.

The general aim is to make an anthology representing the work of the Manchester MA course. That doesn't narrow things down much: Manchester University loves its creative writing, and has a whole Centre for New Writing which runs events and workshops throughout the year for everyone including undergraduates, postgraduates and sometimes even real people from the outside world - you know, those ones with jobs and lives and stuff.

To narrow this down, we decided to limit this to just the prose side of the MA course. There are plenty of hotshot poets here, studying under John McAuliffe and Vona Groarke, and it was tough deciding to leave them out, but it also made the project much easier. After all, if we want to promote our work by sending it to agents, publishers, reviewers and so forth, we want the package that lands on their desks to be relevant. There's no point sending poetry to someone who only works with novels. I mean, they might rather enjoy it, and be jolly pleased by the whole thing, but from a practical perspective it isn't very helpful.

This was supported by the specialist decision-making technique I turned to whenever things got iffy: what would UEA do? It doesn't quite fit on a wristband, but it's a good motto for the project. In this case, the UEA answer is to create two separate anthologies, one for prose and one for poetry, so the work can be distributed wherever it's most relevant. That way poetry shacks don't have to wade through stories, and novelists' agents don't see line breaks and panic and hurl the book through a window.

Seems like a good idea. Unfortunately two books means twice as much work, money, chaos and complication. So, for this year at least, there'll be no Manchester MA poetry anthology.

Where are we then? Yes: anthology. MA. Prose. Stories and that. There will be some. They will be good.

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