On Wednesday 19 October, Thom Boulton was announced as Plymouth’s new Poet Laureate.
At an event held at Plymouth Athenaeum, five talented poets who had been shortlisted for this honorary role (David Wooley, Dennis Silverwood, Rosemarie Corlett, John Horsham and Thom Boulton) performed a selection of their work.
The judges (Dom Jinks, Director of Plymouth Culture, Heather Norman-Soderlind, Chair of Literature Works, Councillor Glenn Jordan, Cabinet Member for Culture at Plymouth City Council and writer Babs Horton Writer) and an audience of literary enthusiasts listened with joy and intrigue to the poems performed on stage. The poets also shared their submission pieces, encapsulating what Plymouth means to them, each one with a different story to tell.
Next, the five poets were interviewed by the panel to find out more about their passion for writing and how they would like to use their work to make a difference. After much deliberation, Director of Plymouth Culture Dom Jinks was delighted to announce that Thom Boulton has been chosen as the city’s new Poet Laureate.
The panel were extremely impressed by the work of all five shortlisted poets, but for them Thom’s work stood out.
“Thom’s got a freshness about his work that’s really captivating” said Dom.
“He’s a slight maverick and very funny, yet at the same time emotive, which makes you stop and think about the meaning behind the words. This is a prestigious and important role and we are certain that Thom’s accessible style and unrelenting passion for poetry will inspire Plymouth’s next generation of writers.”
Thom Boulton (who is also known as Blaidh Nemorlith) describes himself as a poet and storyteller, submerged in the realms of folklore and fairy tales. A writer of adult and children’s books, Thom grew up in Dobwalls, Cornwall and was a pupil at Liskeard School and Community College before studying a Bachelor of Education (with Hons) at Rolle College, Exmouth. The campus transferred to University of Plymouth during his studies and when he graduated, Thom and his wife decided to stay in Plymouth as they had grown to love the city and recognised the incredible opportunities it offered.
Today, Thom is a qualified Primary Teacher for Key Stage 1 pupils at Plaistow Hill Infants and Nursery School in St Budeaux. He will be the city’s second Poet Laureate, taking on the role from Mike Sullivan (also known as Sullivan the Poet) who wrote and performed poetry at a huge number of events across the city for people of all ages.
“We are so grateful to Mike for all he has done in his role as our first Poet Laureate” says Dom. “His work has been invaluable and we’re excited to see how Thom will take on this prestigious role and help us to further embed literature into Plymouth’s rich cultural scene.”
Plymouth Poet Laureate is a two-year role offered by Plymouth City Council with the support of Plymouth Culture and Literature Works. As part of his role, Thom will be commissioned to write and present bespoke poetry, enthuse and inform residents through workshops, and contribute to important civic events and festivals.
Thom, who was still in shock about his appointment, told us:
“It is an incredible feeling to discover that people not only like your work but also think you have what it takes to be part of the cultural drive of the city. Poetry has always felt like part of my backbone and without it I feel lost in thought, feelings and dragged down by my worries. Writing has given me a chance to express myself and deal with the weirdness of the world around us. I was inspired at a young age to write and spent a lot of the time either keeping it to myself or posting it on websites under different names. After 12 years of searching I’ve finally found the right place to share it, Plymouth writing group CrossCountry Writers, which welcomes newbies, amateurs and professionals”
So now that Thom has been declared as the city’s next Poet Laureate, what are his aspirations for the role?
“I want to focus on two things. Firstly, encouraging the next wave of writers by working in schools and holding events across the city and secondly, I want to help new and shy writers come forward, take note of the incredible writing scene already here in Plymouth and realise that their writing is of value and importance. We all have a voice, sometimes we need someone to help it be heard.”
Watch Thom perform on the evening of Saturday 12 November at Kings Tamerton Community Centre (Newton Avenue, Plymouth, PL5 2BU) alongside other poets and musicians at #mindthebards, an event raising funds for mental health charity Mind. Tickets for #mindthebards are just £5 each and can be purchased at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mindthebards.
Photo credits Peter Davey