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Matt Windle from Northfield – Former Young Poet Laureate, uses Birmingham Central Library.
A keen amateur boxer, 19-year-old Matt doesn’t necessarily fit the bill of what you’d expect a former Young Poet Laureate to look like. But when the Northfield resident takes to the stage, all becomes clear. One of Birmingham’s leading lights in the performance scene, his unmistakable brand of ‘Slam Poetry’ is the hallmark of a story where ‘the boy done good’.
By day, Matt leads poetry workshops in schools and libraries, using influences such as R&B and Rap music to engage his students and bringing poetry to the level of those he teaches. Often dealing with unruly and under-achieving students, Matt’s approach to teaching often results in improved behaviour and greater willingness to engage in learning. By night, Matt trains and competes at Warley Amateur Boxing Club.
Given Matt’s background, it’s little wonder he knows how to relate to his students. A former pupil at Bournville School, Matt struggled with behavioural issues before being excluded prior to starting Year 10.
After leaving Bournville, Matt attended Wake Green Behaviour Support Centre. It was there that a teacher discovered Matt’s raw talent for poetry and, with encouragement, Matt gained the confidence to enter the Young Poet Laureate competition, run by Birmingham Libraries. Although he didn’t win the competition that year, Matt stayed heavily involved with Birmingham Poets and learned enough to emerge triumphant in the following year’s competition.
Notably, since discovering poetry, Matt has found direction in his life and never been in trouble again.
Matt trained as a plumber in the belief that he would be unable to make a full-time living from poetry, but has been amazed by the doors his talent has opened. Highlights have included a recent trip to Indonesia where he spent a week working in an international school. Upon returning, Matt found ‘thank you’ poems from inspired youngsters in his email inbox.
Matt says: “When I go into schools, kids come up to me and say ‘Are you the boxer?’ I tell them I am a boxer, but I’ve been invited because I’m a poet. They say something like: ‘We thought you’d have glasses and a big book’. Sometimes they say poetry’s boring, and when I’ve done my session I always say: ‘Does anyone still think poetry’s boring then?’ They never do”.
Rewriting the Book with the Library of Birmingham