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.
Manchester’s poetry in performance (1960s to the present)
who regularly perform their work. Correspondingly, I examine
what Manchester’s poetry in performance tells us about the dominant
critical pretexts for literary approbation in Britain, as discussed in
Chapter 2. As I will argue, these limitations are also exposed by blackpoets’ struggle not so much for applause as for literary approbation.
This chapter evokes the figure of ‘the neighbour’ as a compelling
metaphor to describe blackpoets’ relationship with contemporary
English poetry. Crucially and perhaps uniquely, the focus on the
neighbour allows the chapter to
Manchester’s thriving performance scene, the city’s blackpoets have yet
to gain acceptance by Britain’s seven most frequently reviewed poetry
3970 Postcolonial Manchester:Layout 1
publishers: Anvil, Bloodaxe, Carcanet, Faber and Faber, Jonathan
Cape, Penguin and Picador (Dawes, 2005: 286).
This problem is not merely restricted to black and Asian poets from
the city of Manchester. As Kwame Dawes argues, all British black and
British Asian poets’ chances of publication are adversely affected by
Manchester and the devolution of British literary culture
Corinne Fowler and Lynne Pearce
– to work out
how transnational concerns within the context of the neighbourhood
may be brought within the ‘practice of everyday life’ (de Certeau,
1984), and vice versa.
As Chapter 5 argues in relation to Manchester’s long-established
history of poetry in performance, Kalu’s ‘Old Radicals’ encapsulates
the evolution of certain key social and literary developments in the
‘everyday life’ of black Britain. On one level, the poem might be read as
both a personal and collective coming-of-age poem for British blackpoets; it explores the social, personal and political
’; because they do not have
a common language, the blackpoets of the diaspora are, however,
forced to appropriate the language of the white colonizer to express
their views.25 Elaborating upon the ways in which they adopted language,
Dispersed by the slave trade to the four corners of the earth, the
blacks have no language common to them all; to incite the
oppressed to unite they must have recourse to the words of
the oppressor. It is the French language which will furnish the
black singer the largest audience amongst the blacks, at least
within the limits
in the dominant symbolic order. Different concepts of identity are
brought together and clash with each other, a recurring feature also of
British Subjects (1993), which should compete with Dabydeen’s Turner
(1994) as the most significant work by a blackpoet in the 1990s, where he
mockingly observes on re-entering the country,
my passport photo’s too open-faced,
haircut wrong (an afro) for the decade;
the stamp, British Citizen not bold enough
for my liking and too much for theirs.
(‘Home’, 1993: 14)
It is difficult to compare, say, the experience of Wales by
the ‘Red Summer’ by James Weldon Johnson, blackpoet and
executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People. 14 The
Red Summer had a catalytic effect upon McKay. He was transformed into a
revolutionary. It was his open, militant and courageous response that
first brought him into the limelight. And it was for his reaction to
1919, ‘If we must die’, that he is most
thing, for our own people … it gives an avenue for pure unfettered black
In addition to the visual arts, Creation for Liberation did much to promote
the work of blackpoets, including Maya Angelou, Michael Smith, Grace
Nichols, Lorna Goodison and Marc Matthews.59 Indeed, the group was responsible for Ntozake Shange and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze’s 1988 national tour.60 By
1990, with ticket receipts and various forms of sponsorship, Creation for Liberation was generating annual revenues in excess of £39,000.61
Basement sessions and outreach
Passing and writing in The White Boy Shuffle and The Human Stain
atavism is from Sollors’s Neither Black Nor White, p. 49. The notion of atavism is explored in, to give just two examples, Kate Chopin’s short story ‘Desirée’s Baby’ (1893) and Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929).
26 Gass, p. 46.
27 Richard Bernstein, ‘Books of the Times: BlackPoet’s First Novel Aims the Jokes Both Ways’, New York Times (31 May 1996), 25.
28 Brauner, p. 149.
29 In fact, as Mark Maslan argues convincingly, The Human Stain is ‘only nominally about an
sympathize with each other’s position,—for the Negro to realize more deeply than he does at present the need of uplifting the masses of his people, for the white people to realize more vividly than they have yet done the deadening and disastrous effect of a color-prejudice that classes Phillis Wheatley and Sam Hose in the same despised class.
Phillis Wheatley was an eighteenth-century blackpoet (and a slave), Sam Hose was a black farm labourer who was lynched with particular cruelty in 1899 after he had apparently killed his employer. Du Bois’s point here is that