New Bard explores life on the margins

Saturday 3rd September 2022 10:02 am
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Eighth Manx Bard Michael Manning, pictured front in his ceremonial robes, with back row from left, current Manx Youth Bard Iva Petrova, fifth Manx Bard Annie Kissack,seventh Manx Bard Owen Atkinson and sixth Manx Bard Zoe Cannell. They are pictured at the naming event held at Moorhouse Farm, in Colby on Sunday ()

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Poetry is deeply political.

That’s according to Michael Manning, who has been named as the eighth Manx Bard.

Michael, who has worked for homeless charity Graih for most of his working life, and is a bank healthcare assistant for Noble’s Hospital and Manannan Court, says he is inspired by life on the margins of society.

Asked what he hopes to do with the role over the year Michael told Island Life he was still getting his read around the privilege of being named Bard.

‘It’s a great honour and perhaps part of the role is seeing public poetry as an act of service to and for the island,’ he said.

‘I will certainly bring my interest in the margins to the role, which could mean many things. I am interested in how poetry can articulate a vision for justice and peace, and bear witness to our current reality.

‘I think that part of the role will involve attempting to gauge our Manx society in the light of the contemporary crises we face.

‘Poetry is deeply political, as any art is, and I’m keen to explore that over the year. I would also love to engage with different groups of people, both in performing poetry and also helping others to produce and enjoy poetry too. I’m open to ideas so get in touch!’

The announcement was made at a naming event held at Moorhouse Farm in Colby on Sunday.

Michael was handed the ceremonial robes and staff of the Manx Bard before he read one of his submitted poems ‘Zero-10’.

Asked what inspires his writing, Michael said: ‘I’ll often be struck by a particular phrase or image and begin to work around that.

‘Emotion is usually a powerful inspiration. If there is something that I feel angry about, or want to question, or celebrate, then poetry is one way of doing that.

‘My faith as a Christian and the way that interacts with the world inspires me.

‘I have spent much of my life with people who are often on the margins of society and their stories, resilience, lives and experiences have deeply shaped my poetry and much else besides.

‘There is something about the margins that is revelatory and I find that an inspiring place to explore through poetry.

‘Poetry can be a powerful expression of a vision of how we want a particular situation, or society, or relationship to be like and in that sense I find it inspirational.’

Michael said he has always had a love of language: ‘I’m still tickled by funny phrases and puns and word plays. I think I started to write poetry as a way to express emotions: rage, love, sadness, doubt, anger, joy, hope, longing... I love writing and enjoy writing in all sorts of different ways and poetry has become part of that over the years.’

Michael described poetry ‘as a very potent form of power’.

‘The way language can name something, or open up another point of view, or explore ambiguity and questions. I think there is an element of bearing witness in poetry: to our own experiences, to the world we live in, to the things that move us.

‘Poetry is also just great fun! Language is the best game there is.’

The first Manx Bard was awarded posthumously to T.E. Brown in 2014 as part of the Island of Culture initiative.

Poets have competed since then for the honour, awarded annually, with the judging panel making its decision based on their poetry, performance as well as the initiative and innovation they can bring to the role.

This year’s judging panel comprised fifth Manx Bard Annie Kissack, seventh Manx Bard Owen Atkinson, Unesco Biosphere Isle of Man project manager Jo Overty and Manx Gaelic singer-songwriter Aalin Clague.

Manx Bard committee chairman Bridge Carter said: ‘The other finalists were all equally Bard material, it just so happened that Michael actually didn’t so much as stand out but rather jumped out at us with his incredible performance this year.’

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