Earlier this year, we introduced you to our 2019 Young Poet Laureate (YPL), Hannah Owens. Hannah was appointed to the role in January 2019 at a Selection Day held at Rugby Library and since then has represented Warwickshire Libraries at a number of different events, performing her poetry and meeting lots of people throughout the county. Here’s a whistle stop trip through what’s she’s been doing.
Hannah started her Laureateship by performing at both the meeting of the Arts Council held at Stratford Library in February and at the Warwickshire Libraries Staff Conference. At both, the audience were treated to some thought-provoking poetry and reaction was very positive. In April, Hannah was the opening act for Liz Berry, a West Midlands poet who visited us at Kenilworth Library for an evening of verse. Liz read a number of her poems, including from her 2014 collection, ‘Black Country‘. More recently, Hannah was able to perform at a Warwickshire County Council Cabinet meeting – you’ll be able to see a video of the performance on the Young Poet Laureate web page soon. She’s also visited some of our library groups, including a fun-filled session with the Warwick Library Page Turners group in May, during which poetry was shared and members of the group inspired to put pen to paper in their own verses.
Hannah has appeared at a number of literary festivals in the county throughout the year. The Stratford Literary Fringe Festival invited Hannah to take part in an evening of performances by local writers and poets and on a rainy June evening at the Stratford Poetry Festival, Hannah shared the stage with Romalyn Ante, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s poet-in-residence. At that event, both Hannah and Romalyn shared with the audience what inspired them, read their works and took part in a Question & Answer session that explored their writing routines and what they enjoyed most about the written word. A similar event has been pencilled in for next year’s Warwickshire Libraries Young Poet Laureate to attend (more on this later).
In May, it was the turn of EcoFest, held in Leamington’s Pump Room Gardens – Hannah performed her poetry from the newly renovated Bandstand in the Gardens. In early July, the Leamington Poetry Festival presented a session called ‘Poetry of the Pioneers’ at which Hannah performed. During that event, held in the stunning backdrop of Leamington’s Parish Church, Hannah was interviewed and encouraged younger people in the audience to share a poem from an anthology of poetry she had bought with her.
Hannah has also performed at several open mic sessions, honing her performance skills. In March, at an Open Mic afternoon held at Rugby Library, Hannah returned to the scene of her Laureateship selection. Along with other local poets, Hannah took to the microphone and shared her work. Just a few days later, she returned to the open mic at an evening held in Leamington by ScriptStuff, a local poetry organisation. Hannah read three of her poems to attendees, joining in with other local people inspired to share their creative output.
During the summer holidays, Hannah has also been volunteering at a number of libraries to help with their Summer Reading Challenge events and inspire the children taking part to write their own Poem To The Moon. As a county, we set ourselves the task of writing 253 short poems or stories on a blank rocket, each of which could travel 1000 miles, enabling us to reach the moon. Throughout the libraries in Warwickshire, we managed to achieve this (you can see our posts about our #PoemToTheMoon on our Twitter page @warkslibraries). Hannah worked with children at Nuneaton, Rugby, Wolston and Leamington Libraries to create and add to our rocket collection.
As we are now approaching Autumn, Hannah has a few months left in her Laureateship but there are still some events to come. She has been commissioned to write a poem on the themes of ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Generational Divides’ and will be sharing this at a monthly poetry evening held in October. Before that, on 21st September, she’ll be leading a workshop aimed at 12-18 year olds at Rugby Library on writing haiku to celebrate the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan – places can be booked here. She’s also had a poet mentor during the year who can be on hand to offer advice on writing and performing.
We’ll be launching the search for the 2020 Warwickshire Libraries YPL in September – details will be available on the Young Poet Laureate page so if writing, sharing and performing poetry is something that interests you, you’re between 13 and 17 years old and you like the sound of the activities you could be involved with as the Warwickshire Libraries YPL, why not apply?
Keep an eye on the website and on our social media pages for more information in the coming weeks. You’ll have until early November to get your applications in so get writing!