To help celebrate the launch of this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, we sat down with five former Fenland Poet Laureates, to find out a bit more about them:
Who are you and when did you win the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition?
Hello, my name’s Leanne Moden. I’m a poet, writer and performer from Wisbech – capital of the Fens! I started performing my poetry in 2010, and I’ve performed in loads of different places across the UK, including the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, the Beverley Folk Festival, Bestival and Camp Bestival, and the Hammer and Tongue National Slam at the Royal Albert Hall. I was Fenland Poet Laureate in 2013 and after my laureateship, I jumped on board as one of the coordinators of the awards.
How did you hear about the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition?
A friend of mine gave me a flyer for the competition – she knew that I would be interested, because I am a huge poetry fan and also a massive advocate for the Fens. It’s a pretty rural area and so doesn’t get much investment, so it was wonderful to see such an exciting local competition celebrating the many talented writers in the region. In fact, I couldn’t wait to sign up!
What inspired you to write the poem you submitted to the Competition?
Well, I’m quite obsessed with local history, and I particularly love some of the smaller museums in the region. The Wisbech & Fenland museum is one of my favourites, and when I visited them to get some inspiration for my FPL entry, the display on Fen Skating really struck me. I researched it some more when I got home, and found out tonnes of cool things about the history of the sport. It was the juxtaposition of humanity, history and the natural world that really drew me in, and I knew that I needed to write about Fen Skating for my FPL entry.
What did you do with your year as Fenland Poet Laureate?
I wanted to use my time as Laureate to help to raise the profile of creative writing in the Fens, and to support other writers to share their work. To do this, I set up the Fen Speak spoken word open mic nights, which run every third Wednesday of the month alternating between venues in Wisbech and Ely. I also hosted and co-organised these events from 2013-2015. I curated, edited and published the ‘Glass Cases and Curios’ pamphlet, a collection of work by twenty-two talented writers and artists from across the East of England. The publication was launched in December 2013 and sold out completely within seven days! I also worked with three museums (Wisbech, Chatteris and Whittlesey), writing poems inspired by artefacts in their respective collections. I gave talks at local community groups in Wisbech, and led poetry workshops at Wisbech Museum, Wisbech Library, the Macmillan Pallative Care Centre, and the Thomas Clarkson Academy. I also fulfilled a huge ambition when I performed with the legendary John Hegley at the Arts Alive in Libraries event in Chatteris!
What advice would you have to people entering the competition this year?
Think of a new way to interpret the competition theme, and be as daring and original as you can. It’s really important to make your entry stand out in some way, so don’t be afraid to do something different! That goes for content as well as form, and style as well as substance. And most important of all, have fun writing you poem, and best of luck for the competition!