An Evening with the Staffordshire Poet Laureate

The elements conspired to reduce the attendance at our Christmas talk (with coffee and mince pies!), but those who made it through the rain were rewarded with a different, but nonetheless fascinating presentation from Emily Galvin, the Staffordshire Poet Laureate. Poetry is, for many people, a challenging discipline; like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Emily set about trying to dispel the prejudices surrounding it and show that it has relevance in our modern world. Her two year stint as Poet Laureate commenced last year, when she posted these comments on the Staffordshire County Council website:

"As someone who has found healing and increasing personal confidence through both the enjoyment and writing of poetry, my main aim as Staffordshire Poet Laureate will be to extend that enjoyment to younger generations, who may not have been exposed to the wide variety of emotion and individuality modern poetry has to offer."

Emily was not a "natural poet". She started writing poetry four years ago and openly disliked and didn't understand poetry when at school, criticising the teaching methods. Virtually coerced into attending a poetry group at the George IV pub in Lichfield, she suddenly realised how uplifting poetry could be. At a time of bereavement and personal pain, she began to understand that poetry writing could be a cathartic and a shared process, which could not only help her but also others. Prompted to apply to be the next Laureate, she was required to set out what her aims would be if selected and back up her application with three poems.

Her successful appointment has led her to attend arts festivals and poetry events, to broadcast through local media and to visit schools around the County. As a relatively young person in her late twenties, she has perhaps better been able to connect with younger people and to help them understand the value of poetry. As she told us, involvement in popular music or acting is seen as acceptable (cool even!) but mentioning that you are a poet prompts puzzled looks. Emily has published her poems through the local publisher, Fishbowl Publications. This has included a collaboration with St Giles Hospice, prompted by messages written by patients and relatives touched by bereavement. On top of these commitments, it must be remembered that she has also a "day job" - in an accountancy company.

Emily concluded by reading a short selection of her poems, before all enjoyed the usual Christmas fayre of tea, coffee and mince pies. The audience may have been smaller than usual, but the evening proved to be most convivial and a notable, almost unique, ending to our 2018 season.

Roger Hockney
December, 2018