Being a Poet Laureate

Ever since the seventeenth century, the UK has had a Poet Laureate, and until 2009 the position was always held by a man. Although women had been considered, none were chosen. In the late nineteenth century, Christina Rossetti missed out when it was decided that, rather than appoint a woman, there would be no laureate at all. In 2009, (now Dame) Carol Ann Duffy was appointed. She said at the outset that her main reason for accepting the role was because they hadn’t had a woman. (1)

Some UK cities have their own Poet Laureate – Birmingham currently has Matt Windle – and some counties do too. Gloucestershire has one (Brenda Read-Brown), Staffordshire does (Emily Rose Galvin) and Worcestershire has had one since 2011. The current Worcestershire PL, appointed in June, is Betti Moretti. There are also several Young PLs:  Worcestershire’s is Rachel Evans and Birmingham’s is Nyanda Foday. So, as you can see, women are doing pretty well on the laureate front now.

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Receiving my award from Maggie Doyle, Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus

In Worcestershire the post lasts for just one year, and I was honoured to represent the county in 2015/16. Are you a poet, wondering if you could be a laureate one day? Have you ever wondered what a poet laureate actually does? The short answer to the second question is that it depends a lot on the person. But if you would like to find out how it worked for me, then now’s your chance!

On 15th September Black Pear Press will launch my latest poetry collection, Don’t Oil The HingesA year as Worcestershire Poet Laureate. The poems fit into three main categories: those directly relating to the county, some of the many I wrote during this very special year, and some which featured in my blog during that period. The book is also a diary of edited extracts from my blog, plus other snippets to give an insight into my life as a writer and performer.

The PL role tends to be an honorary position. Throughout my year, as always, I worked hard to maximise opportunities to earn a living from being a poet and musician. Poetry book sales will never be anywhere near enough to live on, but they certainly help. So please do help me (and the publisher) by buying a copy! If you can’t make the launch, when I will read extracts from the book and welcome several guest performers (see my previous blog for exactly who and where), you can pre-order copies online from Black Pear Press.

I needed an endorsement for the back cover, so I asked The Archers actor, Sunny Ormonde (who performs one of my poems as part of her excellent one-woman show) and this is what she wrote:

“Needing a poem about local life for my show at Bewdley Festival I discovered Heather’s wonderfully funny poems on line. Immediately smitten, I contacted her and was over the moon when she kindly offered to write a special poem for the show and Dad was a fan of The Archers was born. Nothing could have been more perfect – it was a huge hit and continues to be so.

Don’t Oil The Hinges is a delightful collection of poems – a pot pourri of Worcestershire life and experiences. Joyful, funny, touching, informative and vibrant. Heather is one of the finest poets around.”
(1) Carol Ann Duffy becomes first female poet laureate – Alison Flood, The Guardian, May 2009 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/may/01/carol-ann-duffy-poet-laureate

Poetry Workshop – Women in WW1

To mark 100 years since the formation of the Women’s Institute, poetry workshops are taking place across Worcestershire. These are part of an outreach project to create poems for a new art installation at Croome Court from November. Of the poems written by members of 16 different and diverse groups, 100 will be chosen to be included in the installation, and poets are, where possible, writing about the experiences of a female relative during WW1. Participants are being asked to do a little research and bring in mementos, photographs, old family recipes etc about their chosen WW1 woman for inspiration. The workshops are facilitated by either myself or Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, Brenda Read-Brown.

Yesterday I ran one of these workshops for Worcester Writers’ Circle at The Hive in Worcester. I really enjoyed working with the 7 poets who attended and was very pleased with the quality of the poems which emerged during the day.

On the morning of Thursday 16th June I’ll be running a similar workshop in Bewdley as part of Worcestershire Literary Festival. If you’re interested in attending, look out for further information http://worcslitfest.co.uk/

Here’s the feedback from yesterday’s session:

“Excellent workshop Heather, it has given me a new view and incentive to my poetry.”

“Thank you, Heather, for helping to clarify my muddle lines of poetry and for running such a productive and enjoyable workshop.”

“Smashing workshop – good original activities to describe and to “do” focusing the mind on specifics. Great facilitation and encouragement throughout.”

“The combination of the facilitator and the participants seemed to produce some magic from everyone. Thank you, Heather.”

“Very good & enjoyable. A catalyst for thought & further poems.”

“Thoroughly enjoyable session. Good direction; friendly, pertinent advice. We all produced a piece of work.”