We are delighted to announce the new Young People’s Laureate for London is Momtaza Mehri.
Momtaza will work with Spread the Word for a year on youth-focused residencies across the capital. The Young People’s Laureate’s mission is to raise the visibility of poetry in the capital, nationally and internationally; engage and inspire London’s young people with poetry through the issues that affect them; and support the development of London’s talented young poets in a tangible way.
She will receive a range of poetry-development opportunities to assist her career progression and will front a tour in six outer London Boroughs: Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Kingston, Bromley, Redbridge and Sutton. In her role, she will also co-host a special development project for talented young London poets called The Young People’s PoetryLab.
Momtaza says “It’s an unexpected and thrilling feeling being the Young People’s Laureate for London. I want to use this role to amplify the voices of young Londoners and showcase their creative potential. I know they will inspire me as much as I hope to inspire them. I am excited by the possibilities we can imagine together, through and with poetry.”
The role is a sign of Momtaza’s talent and potential. Rishi Dastidar, Spread the Word’s Chair of Trustees, explains that “Becoming Young People’s Laureate is a sign that this is a poet to watch. Momtaza Mehri is an inspired choice. Her poetry is precise and powerful, and rich with images that are haunting. She is not afraid to tackle the biggest of subjects which, combined with her talent, is going to give the role a renewed sense of purpose and visibility.”
Each year an esteemed judging panel selects a poet to become the Young People’s Laureate for London. Caleb Femi was appointed the first Young People’s Laureate for London in October 2016. “Poetry has the potential to play a vital part in self-expression and artistic enjoyment in the lives of young people,” he says. “We need a dedicated person who can assist in integrating the joys of poetry into the everydayness of young Londoners. We are extremely lucky to have such a talented and dedicated poet like Momtaza Mehri. Her tenure is sure to be an extraordinary one.”
“The Young People’s Laureate is both the voice of and advocate for London youth, as well as being an ambassador for global poetry,” says Joelle Taylor, Young People’s Laureate for London judge: “A dynamic and diverse city demands a poet that can speak for it and help others to find their mouths too – and that is at the heart of why the role was created.”
Momtaza is a poet, essayist and editor with a background in biochemical science. Her work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Vogue magazine, The Poetry Review, BBC Radio 4, Real Life Mag and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space. She is a Complete Works Fellow and has been shortlisted for the Brunel African Poetry Prize and the Plough Prize. She won the 2017 Out-Spoken Page Poetry Prize and was third in the 2017 National Poetry Competition. Her chapbook sugah.lump.prayer was published as part of the New Generation African Poets series, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani, in 2017. Her poems also feature in Ten: Poets of the New Generation, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2017.
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