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A Beginner’s Guide to Young Poet Laureateship by India Miller

India Miller was the fifth Young Poet Laureate for Birmingham.

India wrote this poem for the Young Poet Laureate shortlisting event where the candidates for the 2010-2011 post performed their poems. Find out more in her blog.

A Beginner’s Guide to Young Poet Laureateship

I’m old hat, now, and due for repose -
To be dragged off to the senile Young Poet’s abode -
But before you kick me out of here, I’ve got some things to say
(I’m not sure whether they’ll be any use, but anyway…)
Perhaps they’ll help you – maybe? – some day?

But first, I’ve got to congratulate you
For getting to this stage
Your poetry’s original – it’s rhyming and rhythmic,
Melancholy, hopeful, pensive, cataclysmic!
I’ve loved every moment, reading and listening
So whether or not you win this year,
Remember that you’ve all got talent –
Keep writing - people’ll want to hear
what you’ve got to say.

I suppose you’ll want to hear a little bit about the role,
I’ll try to summarise my year, then, the whole
Array of events I’ve written for:

The year began with a whirlwind
When I heard that I had won:
There were emails galore, stacks of books for my prize
There were newspaper interviews (well, there was one…)
But soon I settled into it, agreed to go to some events;
I grew into the role and the opportunity it presents

My first was the Birmingham half-marathon -
I wrote a few lines about running
The first time I’d read for such a huge crowd
But my fears were unfounded
I had a brilliant time and the crowds were stunning.

Another quite exciting task
Was when I was asked
To write a poem for Camilla Parker-Bowles
On the subject of Birmingham Libraries –
I read to a group of primary school children
And met the Duchess herself
She went home with a copy of my poem,
Which I’m sure has been placed, pride of place, on her shelf

Some other events have been for Birmingham Council –
To celebrate the progress made by many different people
I wrote poems for the Safeguarding awards
And also for those of Young People –
I enjoyed considering the great things people do
Summing it up in poetry was hard, but I tried to convey the praise they were due

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most this year
Was my trip to the first Wenlock poetry festival –
I lead a children’s poetry club and went to a writing workshop –
I saw my first poetry slam and I hope to go back next year!

A radio interview was next on the cards at Unity FM
It was live so no time for mistakes – I talked about my poems
With Chris Morgan, former Birmingham Poet Laureate

The Book Bash was the busiest event I think I’ve ever done –
Four workshops with the adult poet laureate, Adrian.
We made rhyme and rhythm with chocolate and jam
And Key Stage 2 children and mums and dads.

I’ve had plenty of other experiences, too,
But I really don’t want to begin to bore you,
So I’ll give you a few other hints and tips
And then we’ll get on with your poem no. 2

One thing that’s quite important is to act without delay –
If there are things you want to do, don’t leave it till late in the day:
The year goes very quickly and there’s so much to fit it
(Not to mention all the work from school – it’s unforgiving!)
Remember what you’re aiming for
You’ve already had success,
Get help from the library, the adult poet laureate,
To make your poems the best they can be
(In fact, that’s an important thing that you might not yet know –
You’ll work with your elder counterpart to do some of your shows
And they’ll help you with your poetry and things you might not yet know)

One thing that’s easy to forget is to keep up with your writing –
With all the commissioned poems, remember to write for yourself.
Maybe enter competitions, or for your own pleasure
Or just write for your granny, for your cat, for whatever!

And make sure that you read, as well, to make your poems better
To pick up hints and tips and see how others choose to write
To open your eyes to the poetry world and how you might
Experiment – and just to enjoy the things others write

So now I’m almost done, the most important thing to say,
Is that you must just be yourself – you don’t need to do it my way
Whether you love to work with children or you’re more comfortable with teens
Whether you excel at workshops, or at readings, ceremonies
Whatever you want to get out of the role, it’s all out there for you,
Whoever you are, why ever you’re here,
You can do whatever you want to.