Award-winning poet and writer Aliyah Begum, 15, from Acocks Green has been crowned Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate, during the Birmingham Literature Festival and said she was “overwhelmed and incredibly proud”. Aliyah, 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. As Young Laureate, she will write and perform at important occasions and workshops across the region, designed to inspire and encourage thousands of young people to become creative writers themselves. Previous Young 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, Black History Month and International Women's Day.
“When I heard I’d been selected as Young Laureate, I was incredibly happy as I genuinely wasn’t expecting it,” Aliyah explained. “Everyone had to submit two poems and write 300 words about themselves and what they’d hope to do in the role. Three of us were shortlisted for the final interviews at Birmingham Library and I had to perform one of my poems and a poem by someone else. I chose one called “For the victims of the Real Dead Seas”, which I wrote about the victims of the refugee crisis. It was in front of a panel of four who were really nice – but it was pretty nerve-wracking. I didn’t come out feeling ‘Yeah I nailed it!’ so I’m thrilled to get such an exciting opportunity.”
Aliyah has always loved writing poems and stories and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious international award ‘Foyle’s Young Poet of the Year.’ She also excels at Maths and won a place at KEHS aged 11 after attending Cottesbrooke Junior School (now Cedars Academy) in Acocks Green. She admits that she used to be cripplingly shy but that taking part in performance poetry through her school’s Spoken Word Club, run by Old Edwardian poet Jasmine Gardosi, helped her to overcome it and boosted her confidence.
“I wasn’t very confident in Year 7,” she said, “but joining the Spoken Word Club helped make me more outgoing. I recently performed at Poetry Jam, an open mic night in different coffee shops in the city centre, which was scary but exciting. I love Birmingham and I just feel great to be representing the city. I’m the middle one of three sisters and it’s wonderful to have made my whole family proud of me. My school have been really supportive and I’m so glad Jasmine and my English teacher Mrs Shore-Nye both encouraged me to apply.”
“We’re hugely proud of Aliyah,” said Ann Clark, Principal of KEHS. "She is a remarkably talented young woman who richly deserves the prestigious award of Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate."
Aliyah was crowned Young Laureate at a ceremony this week, during the Birmingham Literature Festival. Below are two of her award-winning poems.
Some infinities are bigger than others
My mum says she doesn’t understand Maths but she teaches me
how to make her smile
through the parabola of her frown,
how to decrease the height of her raised eyebrow
through the angle of its jilt,
and how to give the best hugs
through the curve of her arms.
When she replies to my ‘I Love You’s with ‘I Love You More’
she teaches me that some infinities are bigger than others,
when I ask her ‘What About My Sisters?’
she tells me that infinity divided by three is still infinity,
when I open my mouth to ask something else,
she tells me that ‘Often The Most Complicated Things In Life Are Simpler Than People Think’,
which doesn’t answer my question but I stay silent
as I can tell from the
semi-circles under her eyes that
she is tired.
Mind the Gap
Step over the yellow line
because at this point in time
the lines that once divided and defined
(between you and me)
we have learnt to colour outside of.
Between old and young,
we laugh that times never really change,
between different mother tongues,
a smile can always be exchanged,
and between now and then, us and them,
we also see that things never really stay the same.
From the corn markets to coal mining,
from concrete buildings to aluminium disks,
the past inches further away,
and the only way to evolve is to take certain risks.
But the gap between now and then is not as wide as it seems;
Trains are still delayed at Moor Street
and Dairy Milk still tastes just as sweet.
You wait ages for an 11 bus,
to finally be greeted by a fleet.
Step over the yellow line,
notice how the paint has worn away,
because change is a constant
that will always stay the same,
so watch your step but
don't mind the gap
between past times and today.