5 November 2020
Gifted writer Fatma Mohiuddin, 14, has been crowned Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate, and said she was “amazed and incredibly proud”, as it was the first time she had ever entered a poetry competition. Fatma, a pupil at King Edward VI High School for Girls, Edgbaston was among hundreds of talented youngsters who applied for the honour which, along with the adult Laureateship, is awarded every two years by the Birmingham Library and Writing West Midlands. She follows in the footsteps of her fellow-Edwardian Aliyah Begum, the previous Young Laureate who is also a member of the school’s Spoken Word Poetry Club, run by the Old Edwardian performance poet Jasmine Gardosi.
As Young Laureate, Fatma will write and perform at important occasions and workshops across the region, many of them online and via Zoom, under current restrictions. These are designed to inspire and encourage thousands of young people to become creative writers themselves. Previous Laureates have appeared on radio and TV, met politicians and royalty and written on a range of subjects, including sport, romance, gaming and what it’s like to be young today. The role also involves producing poems for special events like Holocaust Memorial Day, and Black History Month.
“This was the first time I’ve put my poetry out there for people,” she said. “I certainly didn’t expect to win but I wrote a lot over lockdown. I got really inspired and our poetry teacher sent us emails letting us know about the competition. For the Young Laureateship, we had to submit two poems of up to 30 lines long and I was really excited to be shortlisted. I attended a Zoom interview and answered some questions then performed one of my poems, which I wrote specially for it about Poetry itself and I performed it to music – a piece by Chopin.
I’ve always loved writing and two or three years ago I got particularly interested in creative writing and prose, then I joined our school’s Spoken Word Club and began focusing on poetry most of all. The previous Young Laureate Aliyah Begum is also a member and she and another friend encouraged me to enter the competition and build my confidence by performing my work in public.
Fatma, who is also an enthusiastic netball player, representing the school and the Bournville Club, eventually hopes to become a journalist or a teacher. For the moment though, she is preparing for a variety of radio and Zoom interviews and is writing new poems to mark Black History Month and International Women’s Day.
“What I love about poetry is that it’s such a great way to express your thoughts and ideas,” she added, “specially things that can’t be said: really deep topics that you can’t entirely express in normal speech but which you can through poetry. In year 7 I was quite nervous when performing and did not enjoy it as much. But I gradually gained confidence and experimented with the things you can do while performing and now it is one of my favourite things about poetry. If a performance is done well it elevates the whole poem.”
‘We are incredibly proud of Fatma’s achievement, but not surprised,” said the new Principal of KEHS, Kirsty von Malaisé. “She has an exceptional ability to marshal the power of poetry and we look forward to seeing what she will write in the coming months.”
Below is Fatma’s winning poem:
By Fatma Mohiuddin
Sometimes our words are just too powerful,
Our apologies are too painful
And our feelings are too tearful,
Sometimes our mind has listened to our thoughts for too long,
Wanting to hear something other than the broken echoes of lost hope.
And so it reaches for words.
Words that are moulded into a symphony of melodic notes.
Watching the ink bleed onto the page,
Words that are stained crimson from the anger in their flame.
A flame that’s called – poetry.
Poetry speaks when the words can’t escape the cage of our muted lips,
It whispers in its quiet, pained, hidden yet beautiful voice.
It sings to the fragile song of pain and hope.
Because poetry isn’t just a crowd of words and lines
Poetry is a desperation,
It’s a purpose
A picture perfect creation
Poetry is musical and magical
It sings and it shouts.
It’s meaningful and melodious.
And it defies all doubt.
Poetry dances on the shards of false stereotypes.
It ignites an amber spark in the centre of our eyes,
But most of all poetry is a delicate flood of words that doesn’t lose hope.
It’s the way we can make sense of the thoughts in the deepest part of our mind.
Through the darkest shadows poetry is a light.
Because poetry is more than a crowd of words and lines,
It’s for times that we realise that
Sometimes our words really are too powerful to be said.
But there are never any words that are too powerful to be written.