Confessions of a Young Poet Laureate

 So what does a Young Poet Laureate in Herefordshire do and how do you get to be one anyway? Prize-winning young poet and YPL Hal Husbands explains.

What’s up, poets? I’m Hal, I’m a Young Poet Laureate of Herefordshire and a SLAMbassador, and I’ll be your best friend for today. Don’t mention it, my lovely luscious logophiles – it’s a pleasure, and I get a slightly perverse kick out of having you all listen to me.

I’m still young, and almost as clueless as all of you, but since I’ve made a start to my career, let me play the oracle. Everyone, gather round, and circulate the carbonated beverage.

What happens in a YPL contest?

STAGE  1 – Entering
Here in Herefordshire, entrants were asked to send four original poems to a judging panel. I found this tough, because I don’t ever finalise poems. The French poet Valéry totally got this too – he once said, ‘A poem is never finished, only abandoned.’

STAGE 2 – Preparation
Finalists from across the county were asked to take part in a workshop with a  performer from the city Theatre. We learned basic techniques of performance, like breathing, vocal warm-ups, and beating stage fright.

STAGE 3 – Final
Matt Windal, an intense poet from Birmingham, hosted the reading. It was enough for me just to get to watch him rip it up. After a truly sweet reading, both myself and another entrant were chosen for the post.

What does a YPL do?

But I still haven’t told you what I do. I’m only halfway through my ‘term’ so there’s still more to do this year. We write ‘theme’ poems for events, we go to workshops and readings, visit schools, and we also meet literary gods, a chance many would stab you in the eye for.

We recently judged a poetry contest for kids affected by bereavement. The task was immense, and me and my partner read hundreds of poems. Much joy, much crying, and much coffee drunk.

What’s so great about being a YPL?

But let’s talk about you, dear readers. Not sure if you should enter? Do it for:

People will take you seriously. As they should.

A challenge
You write about themes you never considered before – a workout for your words!

You meet others who intensely love the word. Get their Instant Messaging addresses and start sharing. You may even write or record together one day.

You schmooze important people. Grasshopper, they have wisdom for you, and they might even help you with a book or a CD, or mentor you.

You get books, CDs and festival and reading invites chucked at you, so you can immerse yourself in the name of Art, instead of doing homework.

Remember, the YPL programme may work differently where you live. There are various Young Poet Laureate schemes around and you need to allow for a little regional variation from one place to another.

I’m interested. Tell me more…

I knew you’d see it my way. And now, I share my knowledge with you, my radiant Minions of delicious delightful Poet-Tray. Here’s how you get to live the dream…

Everything except TV. Notice the poetry around you.

Everything. But mostly poetry. You can steal ideas, I won’t tell. You can even make an inspiration book with pieces you love.

Get your Apple on and find podcasts, especially if you live in the middle of nowhere and can’t get to Slams.

Anytime, anywhere. But it’s better to make a regular date with your notebook. If you’re struggling, write something, anything without lifting your pen for 2 minutes.

Take your poems apart and reengineer them, a sick voodoo scientist sewing bits of animals together.

Record your poems. Perform in front of your mirror.

You’re ready to roll!
Be well, write on.

Young Poet Laureate schemes are currently in operation in Birmingham, Worcestershire, Stoke-on-Trent and the Wirral, as well as Herefordshire. New YPL schemes in others parts of the country will be launched shortly . Remember, YPL programmes will vary from one area to another so look out for future articles on the Young Poets Network to help you find out what your local scheme involves and how to apply.

Hal Husbands is 19 years old, and was born and lives in Herefordshire. She has been writing since she was young, and wants to become a good poet. Hal hopes to finish a collection of her poems one day, and perhaps author some books in different genres, for example drama or criticism. She is a winner of the SLAMbassadors 2010 performance poetry competition.



What good is comparing your eyes to the
Blue I have found?
I can mix a chemical bluer,
However blue your eyes may be between themselves.
I can always make something more beautiful
Than you, with the correct measures of
Elements, and controlled conditions.

Red, oh red.
Unfelt wounds, palm prints along the walls.
My chopped hands find coral lights that strobe from soft lead.
Red, oh red.
Did you want your former lovers in a begging round instead?
Passing colour photographs through each other’s gloves, and over tin drums?
Red, oh red.
I am glad magma, perched on the blue city’s edge, and awaiting saintdom.

By Hal Husbands

Published March, 2011

4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Young Poet Laureate

  1. Some surprising and effective images in that poem, Hal. Keep on writing – you have the spark few have. Can I suggest changing the word ‘beautiful’ (which is always hard to use) to ‘pure’ – which is more unusual – goes with the ‘element’ image. also offers you a rhyme which gives more balance to the level of rhyme in the second part. Also, I’d consider changing ‘perched’ – good word, but doesn’t quite go with the idea of ‘magma’. Enjoy your YPL project.

  2. I like how ‘visual’ that poem is, like you can just picture the colours of chemical blue and all other elements in your head.

  3. I love the line ‘strobe from soft lead’ – the alliteration is really pleasing, the description sounding soft when you say it too.

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