Pearls of Wisdom from one of our Poet Laureates

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Emily Galvin is the Staffordshire Poet Laureate.  After bumping into her at a recent event where I was able to hear her perform some of her work I took the opportunity to grab a quick interview about her life in poetry, her goals and just what being Poet Laureate was all about:

What was the selection and appointment process for the Laureateship?

Initially, the process began with an online application. Entrants had to submit three poems, one of which should have a Staffordshire based theme, and a manifesto of sorts outlining their aims for the role. This first stage was then narrowed down to a shortlist, who were all invited for interview at the Staffordshire Council buildings to select the successful applicant.

How long it the term, or is it open-ended?

The role runs for two years, from National Poetry Day until the late September/early October two years later.

What kind of duties do you have in your role?

My duties as Laureate can be fairly varied, from school workshops and talks, to slam appearances and council led commissions. All the work I get a chance to undertake is exciting, but the most rewarding thing I've done so far would have to be the charity anthology I have put together with Fishbowl Publishing Limited for St Giles Hospice. Not only did I get the privilege of reading so many wonderful pieces of work, but the personal stories from contributors, and the sheer level of dedication to the hospice, was really touching to see.

What has the position given you?

I think an easier question would be what the position hasn't given me! Not only does the title give me a great platform to get involved and in touch with all sorts of different communities and organisations, it's also given both me and my poetry a burst of confidence that I was lacking previously. To be able to overcome some of the challenges posed, such as difficult commission work or event organisation, can be a real boost, and always encourages me to push further with the role.

Poetry is seen a resurgence in popularity in the UK, is it cooler than it used to be?

I think in terms of the media, poetry has definitely had some kind of resurgence within popular culture. Not only does there seem to be a greater mainstream appreciation for the medium, but the lines between art forms, be that musical, visual or spoken, are blurring and changing, which is hugely exciting! It's something that really feeds in to the vitality and drive of local poetry scenes too - the more widespread the audience for poetry, the more diverse and open the poetry world becomes for people who may have previously found poetry niche or offputting. It's an incredibly exciting time to get involved!

What are your aims and goals for the future as a poet?

I think, specifics aside, I only have one real goal for the future of the laureateship, which is keep moving forward, and keep promoting poetry and the arts in all their forms as much as I possibly can. The role could so easily be about personal achievements, but I am much more eager to reach out to those people who don't know where to start with writing, or have never found their 'place' in poetry. There is something out there for everyone, all it takes is support and encouragement!

What pearls of wisdom do you have for those who may be looking for a way forward with their poetry?

As someone who uses language as their job, I'm surprising terrible at giving pearls of wisdom! I would say my biggest piece of advice is always, keep writing, even if that's a scribble on a beer mat at the end of the night! Even more importantly, though, I'd really urge people to start sharing their work, whatever it is. It can be hugely scary to do (I never wanted to!), especially if you've always been writing for yourself, but if you can find that one friend, writing group or even online forum that you can share your words with, then I promise you that the satisfaction you'll get, and the improvements you will go on to make, will be limitless.

Sound advice, and of course, what better forum to use than WriteOutLoud?  It's a safe environment, anyone can publish their material and exchange ideas and viewpoints.  And if you want to find an Open Mic night near you just check out the WriteOutLoud Gig Guide!  Cockatiels and Bold Women, an Anthology for St Giles is available along with more of Emily's work at Fishbowl Publishing.  Interested in the whole Poet Laureate scene?  You may like to read my interview with Warwickshire Young Poet Laureate Annabel Peet.

◄ Last call for Foyle Young Poets Award entries

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