Hampshire Poet 2016
In a frankly surreal start to the New Year, I find myself appointed Hampshire Poet 2016. (I don’t yet know if I’m allowed to call myself any kind of laureate, but I’m fairly sure there’s no sherry involved. Pity.)
Someone has fulfilled this role every year since 2008, when the council celebrated the National Year of Reading. S/he acts as a combination of tame verse-maker for special occasions, local ambassador and general poetry aficionado to visit schools, lead workshops and enthuse about words to anyone who will listen. My tenure follows Joan McGavin, last year’s Laureate, and Brian Evans-Jones from the year before.
When I was younger and more malleable, a job application would bring out the prissy swot in me. What are they looking for? Do I have all the correct qualifications? Does my CV look big in this?
Now? Well, I have a more relaxed approach. I reckon if someone is going to work with me, they should know what they’re letting themselves in for. Which is why I ended up in November drafting the requested half-page saying why I wanted the post, and choosing two poems to send them.
My application started thusly:
Why I would like the title
Mainly for the outfit. I’m thinking superhero lycra/cape? No, wait: sorry. I do take this seriously. It would mean I could discuss poetry with people and organisations I couldn’t approach on my own.
I have to acknowledge my debt to Shelley Harris, who researched her novel Vigilante by dressing as a superhero and going out in a real town centre, helping startled people. Half of me really yearns to do the same as Poetwoman (I need a logo and maybe a pushup bra), but if I ever dressed in lycra to visit my kids’ schools they would put themselves up for adoption before lunch.
Honestly, I never thought I stood a chance. This post has been held by serious academics, and my closing lines were:
If you’re looking for an academic poet with a current university teaching post, I am not your woman. If you would like someone with energy and her own car to travel the county trying to excite people about poetry – and then spread the word effectively online – I would give it my best shot. I think it would be a really interesting year.
I sent a heartfelt, if idiosyncratic, application and left the decision entirely up to them. Let’s hope they don’t regret it. On Thursday I have my first planning meeting with Hampshire Cultural Trust.
I joke about a lot of things, and think there are many people who take themselves as poets far too seriously. Get me drunk and I could name names. I do take the work seriously: you can’t write anything worth reading if you don’t. But for myself, there is a healthy dollop of scepticism. To communicate and be remembered, you have to find some common ground with your audience, and often the quickest way there is via a laugh.
I’m hoping to meet loads of people in the coming year, and leave them with a little bit of poetry in their soul. They may even have written it themselves, to their own surprise.
You can read Hampshire Cultural Trust’s official announcement here.
That is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC news! Sorry for the shouting, but I am shouting here! You are so perfect for this role – wonderful poetry, lovely enthusiastic, funny person. I’m delighted for you.
Thanks Claire – pretty excited myself. You set the Hampshire bar pretty high. This year is going to be fun.
ALSO SHOUTING, and GRINNING – this is THE BEST news so far this year 🙂 I honestly can’t imagine anyone better for the job, and you will be SO good at it.
Also: what a *fabulous* source of tweetage/bloggage – we’re going to enjoy it enormously 😉
Well done you. SO proud of you. Xx
Thank you! To be honest I don’t yet know how many of my big plans I’ll be able to do – I’ll know more after the meeting tomorrow. I might have to shelve the skywriting initiative.
This is brilliant – congratulations! Also to the judges for making such a great choice.
Well, the judges can’t say I didn’t warn them what they were getting 🙂
I’d like to join in with the shouting – HURRAY! – congratulations, you will be MARVELLOUS. A brilliant choice by Hampshire. I’m really looking forward to hearing about your year and reading your new poems! xx
Thank you, Josephine. I can’t wait to get stuck in to the year.
This is brilliant. Huge congratulations. I love your approach to the application xx
I’ve never done it before, but it paid off! More honest, in the long run.
Great news. Congratulations. I’m sure it will be a most interesting year…for you and everyone else! Like your style.
As I said on Twitter, HUGE congratulations! Sounds as if you’re in for an interesting and fun 2016. I’m looking forward to following your adventures. x
I don’t think anyone will be able to escape my adventures now.
Fantastic! You will be the perfect ‘poetry woman’ – have fun, although I’m sure it will be hard work too. *proud* xxxx
I intend to have enormous fun, or I’ll have been doing something wrong.
Congratulations!! I enjoyed reading the half page personal statement you posted above, and I am pleased to see that the use of humour in application forms can sometimes work ☺
It was a gamble – I wouldn’t recommend it (my lawyers have told me to say that).
Congratulations! And your approach to the application is inspiring. I hope to learn from that!
Thank you! I think I’ve reach an age where assertiveness takes over from fear. Life is short. Let’s enjoy it and make it worthwhile.
Great news, Isobel.
Who would have thought four decades, I would be reading about this wonderful appointment you’ve secured.
I helped set up the now well known Poetry Festival in Ledbury, vice chaired and secretaried the Friends of the Dymock Poets and know where you are at – I hope!
Well done, you!
Catharine Luck – Ullswater Road days!