Diaspora space and the devolution of literary culture

Postcolonial Manchester offers a radical new perspective on Britain's devolved literary cultures by focusing on Manchester's vibrant, multicultural literary scene. This book presents the North West of England as quintessential 'diaspora space' and contributes to a better understanding of the region in social, cultural and aesthetic terms. It examines the way in which stories, poems and plays set in locales such as 'the Curry Mile' and Moss Side, have attempted to reshape Manchester's collective visions. The book features a broad demographic of authors and texts emanating from different diasporic communities and representing a wide range of religious affiliations. Manchester's black and Asian writers have struggled to achieve recognition within the literary mainstream, partly as a result of exclusion from London-centric, transnational publishing houses. Manchester's unfortunate reputation as one of Britain's 'crime capitals' is analysed by the use of fiction to stretch and complicate more popular explanations. A historical overview of Manchester's literary anthologies is presented through a transition from a writing that paid tribute to political resistance to more complex political statements, and focuses on the short story as a literary mode. The book combines close readings of some of the city's best-known performance poets such as Lemn Sissay and SuAndi with analysis of the literary cultures that have both facilitated and challenged their art. The book affords readers the opportunity to hear many of the chapter authors 'in their own words' by reflecting on how they themselves in terms of the literary mainstream and their identities.

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Manchester and the devolution of British literary culture
Corinne Fowler and Lynne Pearce

. 3970 Postcolonial Manchester:Layout 1 28/6/13 12:37 Page 7 Introduction 7 Such an exploration is strikingly apparent in much of Lemn Sissay’s poetry. In ‘Island Mentality’ (2000a), for example, Britain figures as a ‘dot on my world map’ that is ‘hemmed in by the sea’ (1992: 26). As discussed in Chapter 5, his later poem called ‘The Gilt of Cain’ (2007) – one of his London-based landmark poems – graphically illustrates the capital city’s ‘external geography’, eroding the boundaries between city and coastline, slavery and modern-day commerce. Inscribed upon a

in Postcolonial Manchester
Corinne Fowler

. . . It’s one of my proudest achievements in literature and . . . there’s not a Manchester black writer who has not, in the past twenty years, been through Cultureword! (Lemn Sissay)1 The Introduction to this book explored how Manchester’s diaspora space has impacted on the city’s white writers as well as upon their black and Asian counterparts. Yet when it comes to publishing, it is black and Asian Mancunians who face the most daunting challenges in getting their work accepted by major publishers. Once published, they face a struggle to access wide readerships. In

in Postcolonial Manchester
Manchester’s poetry in performance (1960s to the present)
Corinne Fowler

a computer screen. Resisting the artificial separation between ‘page and stage’ poetry, however, the chapter also understands performance as a pagebased phenomenon. This aspect of performance is expressed in Patience Agbabi’s poem ‘The Word’: ‘give me a page and I’ll perform on it’ (Agbabi in Sissay, 1998: 34) or Lemn Sissay’s sense of ‘actual work with words’ (in Grabner, 2007: 70). Both Agbabi and Sissay reject the label ‘performance poet’ as limiting, partly because it implies some sort of spectacle. This aspect of poetic performance therefore pertains to

in Postcolonial Manchester
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Corinne Fowler and Lynne Pearce

immigration as much as Manchester’s graveyards. The city’s Southern Cemetery in Chorlton-cum-Hardy contains within its bounds a long-standing Jewish graveyard, with a Muslim section adjacent to that, testifying to the fact that Manchester has been ‘home’, in the archaic sense (see Chapter 1), to a multiethnic demographic for centuries. Manchester’s graveyards have inspired several of the city’s writers to consider the significance of place to the interment of skulls, ribs and femurs in local soil. Lemn Sissay’s poem ‘For My Headstone’ (1992) is about the inscription on his

in Postcolonial Manchester
Open Access (free)
The ‘outside’ in poetry in the 1980s and 1990s
Linden Peach

, who, from the point of view of the centre, have not received the recognition of David Dabydeen, Fred D’Aguiar or John Agard. These writers, such as Kwesi Owusu, Amon Saba Saakana or Lemn Sissay, locate themselves in a space which owes more to the African diaspora, to black history, African roots and orature, embracing poetry as performance, and to music more than a British-African paradigm. Performance poetry, poetry readings, a plethora of small press publications and little magazines still constitute from even the ‘new’ centre’s point of view a marginal cultural

in Across the margins
Manchester’s mixed-genre anthologies and short-story collections
Lynne Pearce

publishing and ‘live literature’ scene has responded to the exclusion of mainstream publishing with regards to poetry, the first part of this chapter pays tribute to the role of both the writing devel- 3970 Postcolonial Manchester:Layout 1 28/6/13 12:38 Page 155 Collective resistance 155 opment organization Commonword (and, in particular, its black writing wing, Cultureword, founded in the 1986 by Lemn Sissay) and Comma Press (conceived and managed by Ra Page) in commissioning and promoting mixed-genre anthologies and short-story collections from the 1970s to the

in Postcolonial Manchester
Peter Barry

proved vulnerable to subsequent urban development. Lemn Sissay, the official poet for the London 2012 Olympics who was elected Chancellor of Manchester University for seven years (2015–22), was first associated with the term ‘landmark poem’ in the late 1990s. The term ‘landmark’ implies something high up and visible from a distance, and the original pieces were a fairly conventional poem painted on the side of a prominent Manchester pub called Hardy’s Well, and a poem The word among stones 125 called ‘Rain’, which looked at first sight like a giant crossword and

in Extending ecocriticism
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Tom Woodin

white working class’ and that ‘activists in black writing and publishing projects are wary and sometimes hostile’ to the Fed.49 A clash of assumptions ensued, with some white writers invoking integration against assertions of an autonomous identity.50 For their part, black writers were unwilling to tolerate what they perceived as racism and did not see it as their role to start educating people, the feeling being that they had waited long Class and identity 167 enough. Commonword worker Lemn Sissay, for example, resigned from the Fed executive committee

in Working-class writing and publishing in the late twentieth century
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The postcolonial city
Lynne Pearce

establishment not only of writing organizations and community publishers such as Commonword but of more local enterprises such as the Moss Side Arts Group that Lemn Sissay pays tribute to in his preface to his 1988 collection, Tender Fingers in a Clenched Fist. It was 3970 Postcolonial Manchester:Layout 1 28/6/13 12:37 Page 47 Manchester: the postcolonial city 47 Sissay, moreover, who (along with other now internationally renowned Mancunian performers such as John Lyons (born in the Caribbean and now living in Hebden Bridge) and SuAndi) first put the Mancunian

in Postcolonial Manchester