In 2002, the city of Birmingham was faced with a crisis: the abolition of its position of Poet Laureate. This position had been vacant for two consecutive years and nobody wanted it. As a result, the post was abolished and the scholar in Birmingham resigned. But one man saw potential in this opportunity: Alastair Moffat.
Alastair Moffat is an anthropologist and historian who has published many books on world history and culture. He also founded two publishing companies, Blackstaff Press and Lulu Press, that publish academic titles in anthropology, archaeology, history, philosophy, religion, literature and more.
With this background he felt he had all the skills to be a poet laureate and so began his campaign to get elected for this position despite having no experience in poetry or any
John Martin was born in 1899 and died in 1957, but his life is a story that deserves to be told. He began his life as a miner and later became a jobbing printer in Birmingham, England. His print shop would eventually take him to America where he became a poet laureate of the city of Birmingham.
In the early 1900s, John Martin took up an apprenticeship as a miner in Birmingham’s coal mines when he was just 14 years old. When World War I broke out, the British government granted many mining jobs to women and children who were deemed to have shown patriotism by fighting for their country overseas. John Martin seized this opportunity to find work outside of the mines and found himself employed at one of the largest printing firms in the city.
The nation’s storytellers are in danger. It’s not just that these writers are disappearing, it’s that the work they do is disappearing, too. The great storytellers of our day – novelists, poets, historians – are struggling to find the time and resources to create the next great American narrative.
This is where Benjamin Zephaniah might have something to say about the future of our storytelling. He understands what it takes for a writer to produce great poetry and prose when they don’t have much time on their hands – lots of creativity and motivation.
Benjamin has been one of Birmingham’s most successful poets since 2002 when he became the first ever poet laureate for Birmingham.
Campaigner against racism
The inspiration for the poet laureate was to create a position that would bring poetry and literature to the city of Birmingham and to inspire its citizens.
The first poet laureate of Birmingham, W.H. Auden, was appointed by the city council in June 2002, and he served until his death in September 2006. The position is not now held continuously; instead it is awarded every three years for six-year terms.
The poet laureates of Birmingham (also known as Poets Laureate of Birmingham) are:
– William Blake (1757-1827)
– Lord Byron (1788-1824)
– William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Born in 1874, Elizabeth Ashe was an African-American poet and writer who helped campaign for civil rights. She wrote for the Birmingham Daily Times and the Birmingham News, among others, but her most significant work came when she became Poet Laureate of Birmingham in 2002.
Having a poet laureate means that the person has to be knowledgeable about poetry and racial issues. The job of the poet laureate is to visit schools, colleges, prisons, and other community centers in Birmingham and teach children about the history of Birmingham’s black communities.
The expat writer was writing for publications across Britain
and took writing opportunities abroad.