Some recent literary works about Manchester share a distinctive aesthetic and a fascination with the city’s disappearing histories and new developments. The playwright Alistair McDowall’s Pomona at the Royal Exchange took the Pomona area’s seemingly empty site and re-imagined it as a dystopian fantasy; earlier this year the young Irish theatre company Anú took Angel Meadow in Ancoats as the subject of their play of that name, which steered audiences through a slum house’s various history. And Angel Meadow, and its redevelopment, features too in the work of Stockport-born and Hebdenbridge-resident poet Peter Riley who also writes extensively about other parts of Manchester in his excellent collection Due North.
The plays tilt their representations of Manchester towards an apocalyptic, history-less abyss and Riley’s complex, fascinating book also acknowledges the damage that ‘development’ has done to the city. Due North manages, however, to hold together his excursions through history, landscapes, autobiography and occasionally polemical asides while keeping a grip on the kind of lyric cry he finds in the AE Housman poem the book uses as an epigraph. It’s an unusual and imaginative response to the city, and an example of the ways in which writers can invent new ways of looking at a subject we might think we knew.
We are very glad, in Issue 15 of the Review, to be publishing work which is similarly inventive and quick and affecting, some by established writers like Beverley Bie Brahic, Michael Farrell, Tom French and Elizabeth Smither (of Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, respectively), but also new writers from the Caribbean (Jannie Horsford), North America (Laura Legge and Sara Lane among others) and Ireland (Fergus Cronin and Cathal McCabe), while we are also excited to be publishing work by a number of UK poets and fiction writers who are just beginning to make their mark with pamphlets and other magazine publications. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have.