A poet with punch and a spoken-wordsmith determined to bring poetry to everyone have taken up the mantles of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate.
Matt Windle and Nyanda Foday were announced as new champions of Birmingham at a special National Poetry Day Gala event last night (6 October), at the launch of the Birmingham Literature Festival.
Professional super flyweight boxer, Matt Windle, Birmingham’s 20th Poet Laureate said: “I am hugely proud of my Brummie heritage and that’s a passion I will spread as Poet Laureate of this great city.
“I want to help people see that poetry can be for everybody whether it’s writing prose, performing on stage or simply sending a text or tweet. We all create poetry every day and that should be celebrated!
“I am a professional boxer currently ranked 6th in Britain. When people discover that I am also a poet, they are surprised that I don’t match the usual ‘type’ of what a poet ‘should’ be and I am often surprised by how many people then open up to me and admit to being a ‘secret’ writer.”
17 year old Nyanda, Birmingham’s 11th Young Poet Laureate said: “Poetry has always been a big part of my life. I have tried a variety of styles and want to show others my age and younger that there is so much more to poetry than they know.
“For example, I think more should be done to accommodate rap in young people’s poetry, as it is a valid and significant portion of the poetry scene- after all, rap is simply rhythm and poetry. I think this would be a great way to bring more people into poetry.”
The duo were selected as part of a city-wide search by the Library of Birmingham and regional literature development agency Writing West Midlands, to find talented poets to represent the city. Their work might include writing poems to commission, performing poetry, running workshops, getting involved in cultural events and working with the city’s many poets and poetry groups.
Jonathan Davidson, CEO of Writing West Midlands said: “Nyanda Foday is a wonderfully exciting appointment as Birmingham Young Poet Laureate. Her commitment to poetry is long-standing and she is both an accomplished performer and writer.
“Matt Windle, who becomes Birmingham Poet Laureate, was himself a Birmingham Young Poet Laureate, and is testimony to the value of supporting young writers.
“Matt has become a unique voice in contemporary poetry, and a man intent on finding new ways of communicating to readers and audiences.
“Over the next few months we will work with them both to plan a two year programme of activities, but for now they join us and thousands of others in attending the Birmingham Literature Festival’s eclectic programme of events.”
Councillor Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Congratulations to both Matt and Nyanda in being named the city’s latest Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate.
“Birmingham is home to a wealth of literary talent and our poet laureates have played an important part in promoting poetry for 20 years, so I’m eager to see what works they produce as our new poet laureates.
“The Library of Birmingham’s partnership with Writing West Midlands has generated brilliant work from previous laureates, and its profile as a cultural destination will enable Matt and Nyanda to make poetry accessible to people across the city.
“Birmingham libraries have led the way with innovative projects like this, such as Stories from the Web and Book Start, which celebrate language, literature and, of course, poetry.”
The Birmingham Poet Laureate scheme 2016–18 is managed for the Library of Birmingham by Writing West Midlands and the Birmingham Literature Festival. It is supported by Poetry on Loan.