Creative Writing student Michael Sutton has reaped the benefits of taking his higher education opportunity by claiming a prestigious university award.
The 25-year-old from Toxteth, Liverpool, shared the 2018 Rhiannon Evans Poetry Award at Edge Hill University, picking up £250.
“I was taken aback, and somewhat confused,” he admits, after learning of the judges’ decision. “It was a very welcome surprise, and it has spurred me on to want to achieve more with my writing.”
Michael often struggled for motivation during his schooling and became disenchanted with traditional education. He admits reaching the third year of his Creative Writing degree is a source of pride.
“School wasn’t great”, he admitted. “My experiences with compulsory education marred my perceptions of education overall.
“After that I tried a couple of college courses, music and film, but ended up dropping out of both. So, I am surprised with myself for having reached my third year.”
Michael took various jobs upon entering paid employment, including support work and charity fundraising, without quite finding his niche; but he knew he saw a potential future utilising the written word at university.
“The overview of the course stood out. The tutors sounded like interesting writers, and the modules seemed unique and expansive. The opportunity to take Non-Fiction and Graphic Novel modules, for instance, were not offered by other prospective universities. Modules like these have led me to experiment and grow as a writer.”
He admits to having developed his literary criticism skills during the course, leading to the publication of numerous reviews and essays in online and print publications.
“It is good for a writer to work in multiple forms. Poetry, though beautiful, is not the most stable or profitable profession, and I would prefer not to languish, so I feel like critical writing is a good back-up plan.”
A latecomer to literature, it was through the lyrics of Bob Dylan which proved a turning point for Michael.
“I was more interested in music until my late teens,and this is how I first developed an interest in language. My first poems were song lyrics. Discovering Dylan was huge, as this directed me towards poets like Allen Ginsburg and Arthur Rimbaud.”
Michael admits it is through different forms of suffering from which he takes the inspiration for his writing.
“As depressing as it sounds, I try to transform this gloomy certainty of life into scenes of absurdity. In this way I can take pain from my own life and the wider world and turn it into something manageable, and sometimes amusing.
“But, mostly, my poetry stems from experimenting with language, and meaning tends to arise naturally from these experiments.”
Michael has gone on to perform his poetry in live settings, something he admits to growing to enjoy – and learn from.
“I am able to trick myself into confidence, so I can escape the nerves. It is something I would like to do more of and get better at. There is an art to performing poetry, just as there is an art to performing music. It is not just recitation.
“Every poem has a unique frequency, requiring a unique delivery. Reading in front of people is a great way to get a feel for a poem in progress, as you can gauge the response of the audience.
“Whereas a comedian would listen out for the level of laughter when trying out new jokes, a poet looks for more subtle responses; a raised eyebrow, a gentle nod of the head. If someone gets up to leave it’s probably not a good sign…”
In recent times Michael has collaborated on his work, something he would be keen to do more of in future.
“Poetry is such a solitary artform and though I appreciate this introspective aspect, collaboration brings out a reactive side to writing which can breed distinctive and innovative work. I think literature would benefit from more collaboration.”
Post-university Michael is keen to continue in education, as well as seeing more of his work in print.
“Eventually I would like to go into teaching as I am interested in working with other writers. But in the meantime, I am working on getting my poetry published. To see my work in print and be able to share it with readers is my foremost goal.”
Click here for more information about studying for a degree in Creative Writing.