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Five Minutes with Former Fenland Poet Laureate Elaine Ewart

To help celebrate the launch of this year’s Fenland Poet Laureate Competition, we sat down with five former Fenland Poet Laureates, to find out a bit more about them:

Who are you and when did you win the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition?

I’m Elaine Ewart and I’m a writer, PhD student and former lawyer! I won the FPL competition in its first year, in 2011.

How did you hear about the Fenland Poet Laureate Competition?

I was volunteering at the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre at Welney, and they asked me to do a display to advertise the competition. I thought, ‘hang on, I could enter that! It looks brilliant.’ At this point I had never had a poem published before, and had never read out my poetry in public.

What inspired you to write the poem you submitted to the Competition?

My poem, ‘The Drowned Lands,’ was inspired by my experiences of volunteering on the reserve at Welney. To be honest, I wasn’t much cop at the practical aspects of conservation work but it was magnificent to just be out there in such an evocative landscape.

What did you do with your year as Fenland Poet Laureate?

It was the first year of the awards, so no-one had heard of the Fenland Poet Laureate, but it still sounded impressive. I wrote poems for lots of local events, from the arrival of the Paralympic flame in Wisbech to the Prickwillow Zombie Festival, led my first poetry workshop, did a number of poetry readings, and gradually raised the profile of the project. One highlight was being commissioned to write a poem for Wisbech Museum for their beautiful exhibition celebrating Dickens’ bicentenary. It was a hugely enjoyable year, in which I met some fantastic people involved in poetry and the arts in Fenland, and did some things I never thought I’d have the nerve to do.

What advice would you have to people entering the competition this year?

Sometimes it’s hard to think of fresh ways of writing about Fenland, but remember, there will be things about the fens that only you know. Your perspective is unique. Be bold!

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