Each year as part of our National Poetry Day celebrations, we announce the Poet Laureate for the year ahead. This year's applications were read by staff at the Library of Birmingham, the previous Poet Laureate Stephen Morrison-Burke, Dorothy Wilson, Artistic Director and Chief Executive at mac, Sally Luton from the Feeney Trust and Denise Hayes, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing from Newman University College.
The role of Birmingham Poet Laureate is an honorary position and one that is very much respected. Birmingham's Poet Laureate for 2013/14 will build upon the work of previous Poets Laureate and play a vital role in promoting the enjoyment of reading and writing poetry. Three poets from the city were shortlisted.
. . . .and the winner was . . . Joanna Skelt
Joanna Skelt became the first Poet Laureate of the Library of Birmingham.
As part of their application to become Birmingham Poet Laureate, poets were asked to write poems on the themes of 'Water' and 'Birmingham'. You can download some of their poems here.
Andy Conner has a long track record of writing and performing poetry. Long-established on the West Midlands live poetry scene, he has also performed at venues around the country and on local radio and Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Andy is also proprietor of Dynamic Press, a small, local publishing company. He works as a supply teacher, spreading the poetic gospel in numerous primary and secondary schools throughout the region.
Andy’s most recent project is a book of original poetry, with accompanying resources for teachers and students. This take a strong anti-bullying standpoint, with an emphasis on enhancing children’s self-awareness and respect for individual differences, by developing their own creativity. Some units from this book are featured on www.schools-out.org.uk, an internationally-recognised website, committed to challenging homophobia in schools.
Andy declares he is a proud Brummie who likes to laugh. He is also an incurable romantic, currently in love with the new Library of Birmingham.
Hayley Frances is spoken word artist who has performed poems at the likes of Glastonbury and Bestival. She sees language as a performance tool and she is currently planning to integrate art forms to accentuate words in a variety of ways. Hayley also hopes to promote performance poetry digitally and is currently working on the development of an app for spoken word artists and poetry fanatics.
A passionate and thoughtful poet with a fascination for, and love of, place, Jo’s writing blends the personal with the social yet remains strongly rooted in everyday experience. Commissioned to produce a spoken word play in poetry inspired by Leicester in 2007, a jazz poetry CD about Birmingham called Feeling for Gold in 2009 and a show called Poetry Encounters with a Sierra Leonean writer in 2012, Jo also enjoys reading poetry in bookshops and café settings.
Jo teaches journal and travel writing at MAC Birmingham and recently set up Pens and Gems - a new writing group in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. She has just completed research on the role that writing plays in promoting peace in West Africa and she runs a monthly international poetry reading group.