Stephen Morrison-Burke - Birmingham poet laureate 2012 to 2013
The appointment was announced on National Poetry Day, 4 October 2012, at the launch of the Birmingham Book Festival at Cafe Yumm in the Custard Factory. Stephen was presented with the Poet Laureate glass plaque by Brian Gambles, Assistant Director for Culture in Birmingham City Council and Library of Birmingham Project Manager.
Stephen Morrison-Burke is a Spoken Word Artist/Poet from Birmingham who has been performing for 18 months. In that time, Stephen has won multiple poetry slam competitions, taken part in theatrical projects and performed at various festivals in front of hundreds of people. Stephen has also supported two internationally renowned poets recently whilst they visited Birmingham on their European tour. Winning the Poetry Slam in Cambridge earlier this year put Stephen through to the national final, where he became National Slam Champion. When not taking to the stage to perform, Stephen currently works as a Freelance Poet, teaching workshops to youth offenders and young carers.
“The position of Birmingham Poet Laureate is not for me. I’m too young, not responsible enough and have a palpable gripe with the Government at the best of times. Why slot myself into a system that I have spent many nights dreaming about overthrowing, Che Guevara style. No, not my kind of party I’m afraid. No way. Not going to happen. Not on your nelly mate! I didn’t apply for the role that year. Twelve months on and my opinion had somewhat altered. I had come across an avuncular type gentleman who sat me on his knee like a cheap Santa and wisely advised me that if I want to make substantial changes, it’s best to work with the system instead of continually rallying against it. Be a part of the change you wish to see. I left that underground grotto feeling reinvigorated and in July 2012 I applied. Four poems were sent off along with a statement of interest which included my poetry accomplishments hitherto and a description of what attributes I believed I would bring to the position. On the strength of my application I was long listed as one of six people that would be invited back to partake in a short interview. I must stress that throughout the process of application, I repeatedly convinced myself that I wasn’t bothered by the outcome and was only half interested in the role anyway. I guess it’s similar to being twelve years old and fancying someone at school. Your friend asks them out for you whilst you stand there attempting to appear nonchalant as if you couldn’t care less. Deep down, your life depends on it. Well that was me. I was telling myself mellifluous porky pies to ease the inevitable disappointment.
I was fairly happy with how the informal interview went. The panel asked me a series of questions to which I gave my honest opinion. Previous to the interview, I had listed a multitude of questions I may potentially be asked on the day and had scripted my answers in accordance. That didn’t feel right for me personally. I knew why I wanted to be named as Birmingham Poet Laureate, what my plans are, why I applied and how I would work with the Young Poet Laureate given the chance. It all felt overwhelmingly natural, so why attempt to reshape what is instinctive so that it fits into an orthodox format? I had a much better idea. I was simply going to be my random self and allow my erratic mentality to shine through in the hope that the panel would become disorientated by my genuine optimism and have the perspicacity to recognise the perfect ‘neurotic risk’ when they see one. They did.”