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Staffordshire's youngest poet laureate to take written word to the streets


Joe Jones

A teenager who has recently become Staffordshire's youngest poet laureate aims to take the fruits of her talent out to the streets of the region and modernise the genre.

Talented writer Matilda Houston-Brown, 14, has high hopes to take her poetry out and into the general public – with plans to perform her own writing in nearby local parks and displaying verses on buses.

Various plans have been put into place for a year-wide set of activities devoted to celebrating the written word.

Matilda won the title of Staffordshire’s next young poet laureate after impressing judges with her poem about Hanley’s Central Forest Park, which highlighted how once coal-mined land was given a fresh lease of life by becoming a leisure spot.

The poem reads:

See the silver curve of the sculpted tree,
Feeling nesh as cold air settles round me,
Children, excited, on a circular swing,
Stare at graffiti: art that skateboards bring,

Watch continuous, endless flights of geese,
Smell the scents of an oatcake, of warmth and of cheese.
Sit and see the time that all this was not there,
Beneath lake, beneath water,

Time hangs, falters,
Amongst shadows of ancient chimneys,
Rising in smoking air as pyramids of industry,
See thick dust; honest footprints in honest work,
Shine through darkness, through coal heaps, through murk,

Fire in ovens,
Loyalty to loved ones,
Sit:
See us 
Listen to us
Remember us
The very soul of Stoke-on-Trent.

Matilda explained: "It's about the workers who made the Industrial Revolution and were the backbone of Stoke-on-Trent. Now from this coal heap, you've got a beautiful area.

“People tend to think poetry is just for important events, like weddings and funerals, but it's for the everyday things as well."

The poet is the youngest person to hold the poet laureate title since the annual competition for 14 to 18-year-olds was launched three years ago. Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council run it jointly.

Now she will be commissioned to write and perform poems for special events, such as World Book Day, and will look at ways to get young people more involved in reading and writing. 

Matilda added: “I would love to see poetry on the side of buses and on bus shelters. It could also be displayed on public notice boards and in schools. We could start with lines from well-known poems, but also include poets from Staffordshire.”

“It's about getting poetry into the open. I want to use social media as well.We could even have a poet of the month.” 

Matilda has been writing stories since she was little, but she only turned to composing poetry a few years ago.

Her nine-year-old brother Wilfred inspired one of her first poems.

He is also immortalised in one of the pieces she submitted for the competition, which is about his favourite climbing tree.

She said: “He's quite a character. He's got this mop of hair and won't stop moving around.

“For my poems, I have ideas, characters and stories on the go all the time. Sometimes, I find one sentence tie the whole thing together. But it's not just words on the page.

“When you perform poetry, it's full of energy.”

Matilda, who dreams of becoming a professional writer and performance poet, is excited to take on her new role.

“It's amazing and I feel quite proud of myself,” she added.

Bob Moston, head of English at Endon High School, is impressed with her literary talents.

He said: "Matilda has got a maturity of style in her writing, but also has the experiences of someone her age.

"It's what makes her work unique."

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This exactly really impressed me, it's something I would like other cities to do because I do strongly feel youngsters should be supported to write and draw. Matilda's also done a great job with her poem, which I wish her well with.

Hopefully her talent continues into adulthood because it should be encouraged.

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