Thom Boulton is a contemporary free verse poet who lives and performs in the South West, UK. He is Plymouth's current Poet Laureate.
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Well, that's it. Two years ago I was given the honorary title of Plymouth's Poet Laureate and as of today my tenure is over. It has been wild. I can only describe this opportunity as 'an opportunity'. I was handed a title that has struck up interest, connections, and possibilities which have been both exciting and daunting! The role of the 'Laureate' has been a controversial one, and it is my hope that maybe, somewhere along the past two years, I have helped to demonstrate how it can be done, should be done, and why it is a relevant position in the city.
Firstly, this role has allowed me to open doors which as a young(ish) writer can be extremely difficult. Those words placed by my name have encouraged interest in projects and ideas where there may have been no interest before. For this I will always be grateful. Would I have been on the news with a robot? Probably not. Would I have appeared on stage with Father Christmas and yelled a poem at a crowd of hundreds? Probably not.
Secondly, I've tried to use the attention of this role to promote what Plymouth has. Sometimes this is successful and other times it hasn't been. I could have attempted to organise Plymouth's first inter-school competition but would it have had such a big draw as it did without the title? That, I am unsure of. Still, I feel highlighting the wonderful groups and talent of this city should be the primary drive for anyone in this role.
Finally, the role of the laureate with regards to writing for events is a good thing. Not every writer can write from a prompt or with a limited time frame and to be honest, since taking on the role, I feel I have lost this ability! This has been due to changing my style and approach to writing, developing myself, but still it's not an easy task and normally an unwanted one by some writers. Being the assigned person to produce something for a Commonwealth event or a light festival is a big challenge but necessary in my opinion to continue engaging with the public. Poetry belongs to the people and having it at these various events through the year is another reason why our city should be proud.
As the two years are up, I can't help but feel like David Tennant's Doctor in his final episode of the TV series. On one hand, it feels like the right time to move on. I have new adventures on the horizon and can't wait to focus all my energy on them but at the same time, to quote The Doctor, "I don't want to go." I will miss being the laureate, the jokes and banter that comes with it, but I look forward to the next person taking on this role and developing it further. Thank you to all of you who have supported me over the past two years. I hope you stay with me as I step forward into the next phase of my writing career.
The Poet Formerly Known as Laureate.