Hawwa Hussain, a pupil at Eden Girls’ School in Hillfields in Coventry, was named Coventry’s first Young Poet Laureate in October 2021.
We spoke with Hawwa about her discovery of poetry, her passion for writing, and how she thinks her new platform can inspire others to be creative.
How does it feel to be Coventry’s first ever Young Poet Laureate?
Being Coventry’s first Young Poet Laureate is quite amazing because it means that I can be a role model for other young poets, especially in a time where young people don’t really write poetry much anymore, and where social media has taken over.
Poetry isn’t just something you should moan and groan about when you hear it. It’s something beautiful, and hopefully I will be able to show that.
Why is it important that Coventry celebrates poetry and has a Poet Laureate and Young Poet Laureate?
Coventry has such a big history, especially because of the world wars, and I think that poetry is something that has the power to stir up emotions within people that will make them love their city and appreciate all the wonderful things it has to offer.
I think that having Poet Laureates will inspire other people to not only write poetry, but explore things they’re passionate about, it’s a way of expressing your views, in a very… poetic way.
How did you start writing poetry and where do you get your inspiration from?
I first started writing poetry in primary school. We’d have competitions with Young Writers, an organisation that hosts writing competitions, and we had a couple in school, and then I started doing them at home.
I remember sitting in my room with my notebook, crafting these poems, thinking of words that rhyme, even if the line didn’t really make sense! I sometimes read back over them and the lines sound so ridiculous, you can tell I was just trying to make the words rhyme! Over time though, I’ve noticed that my poetry style has changed, so now I don’t think about rhymes, it’s just what I feel coming out onto the page.
How did you hear about the opportunity to be the Young Poet Laureate?
I heard about this incredible opportunity from my English teacher, Mrs Hamman. She’s an amazing teacher, I’m truly blessed to have her. She encouraged us all to apply for it, and so I applied, and the next thing I know, I have an email saying they wanted to interview me!
Who is your favourite poet and why?
It’s quite weird but I don’t really read that much poetry, I’m more into writing it. But some of the poets I have read and liked are Percy Shelley, Roy McFarlane and Simon Armitage. I also really like Emilie Lauren Jones’s (the Poet Laureate) poems! Their poems are quite happy and make me smile, and I also really like Emilie’s ‘Jay Z Comes to Coventry’, because I love the description she gives of Coventry.
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry to me means a form of writing in which people can express their feelings or tell a story. It can be anything they want it to be.
There is no right or wrong answer. It can be funny, happy, sad, motivational, whatever the poet envisions it to be. In fact, some poetry is taken differently by different people, the writer might mean it to be funny, but someone might see it as sad. It’s such a broad topic, it can be anything.
What one piece of advice would you give to other young people who would like to start writing or reading poetry but aren’t sure if it’s for them or where to start?
My advice would be that you’ll never know unless you try it. You may try writing some poetry, you may read some, and find that you don’t like it. That’s fine. Poetry might not be for everyone.
But also, it’s important that you try reading and writing different styles. You might like a certain type, you might not like another, but it’s important to try. Don’t be embarrassed if you tried and didn’t like it. It’s not that you failed, it’s just that you don’t like it, in the same way we try different foods and might not like them.
If you’re not sure what to write, just write whatever comes to your head. Whatever comes to your head, put it into words, even if you think it doesn’t make sense. Poets write all sorts of different poems, but all types of poems are welcomed by different people.
You don’t need to share your poems if you don’t want to, you may choose to keep them to yourself, they are your poems. But always try. You might just find that you have a hidden talent.
How did it feel to be involved with The Walk: Coventry Embraces when Little Amal visited Coventry in October?
It was an absolutely amazing experience being with Little Amal, she was incredible. I will never forget how a puppet managed to represent so much, she had so much personality, so much character.
We’d been rehearsing without her, so we just had to imagine that she was there, so that made rehearsing a little challenging. But when she arrived, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t prepared because it was easy to look awe-struck when I saw her. She was just absolutely incredible.
The show was something I will always remember, all the lights, the dancers, the directors and producers, all the helpers, the pyrotechnics, and of course, Amal herself!
What are you looking forward to in your role as Coventry's Young Poet Laureate, and what are your future plans for your poetry?
I am most looking forward to working with other poets, learning more about different styles of poetry, and making my poetry even better. I really want to use my poetry to encourage other young people to not only write poetry, but also enjoy it, and use it as an opportunity to share their experiences. I really want to encourage the idea that poetry is completely unique and personal to you, it can be written in any way, shape or form, as long as it is what the poet wants it to be.
I'm really excited to be working on the Ghost of the Ruins performance, it has really given me a chance to think about the future of Coventry, and explore the ideas of community, hope and think about memorable places in Coventry. I can't wait to see the whole performance put together!