Young poets like Matt Abbott and Amanda Gorman have something important to say

Poetry is powerful and poetry matters. Anyone who saw young poet Amanda Gorman recite her poem The Hill We Climb at President Joe Biden’s inauguration this week will have been left in no doubt about that.

Poet Matt Abbott is working with poetry organisation Write Out Loud on their fundraising campaign. (Andy Thomas/Calcots Photography).

Calling for unity and togetherness, Gorman’s message reached across the globe providing a much-needed glimmer of hope for the future.

There is an organisation in Marsden, West Yorkshire, that has long recognised the value and importance of poetry.

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For 18 years the volunteer-run Write Out Loud website has been supporting and championing poetry and poets – everyone from the first-time writer to the international award-winner – and it is now seeking to grow into a professionally-run poetry organisation.

Helping them to do that is acclaimed young poet Matt Abbott, recently brought on board as their Development Manager, whose first task has been to launch a fundraising campaign.

“At the start of the pandemic last year Write Out Loud launched the anthology Beyond the Storm – it received 2,300 entries from around the world, whittled down to 100 for the collection, and raised around £8,000 for NHS charities.

"That made them realise they have a lot of power in terms of generating support and they felt that they had come to a point of ‘adapt or die’ so they approached me as someone who might be able to help raise funds and take Write Out Loud to a new generation.”

Abbott is the perfect person for the job. Still only 31, he began his career as a poet when he was a teenager, writing and performing his work in and around his hometown of Wakefield.

In the intervening years his achievements have included writing critically acclaimed poetry collections for both adults and children, a debut stage show Two Little Ducks that toured the UK and was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, and has been commissioned to make work for among others Leeds United, Nationwide Building Society, Cancer Research UK and the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Last year he was a patron for the Poetry Society’s prestigious Foyle Young Poets of the Year competition. His aim, like Write Out Loud’s, is to connect as many people as possible with poetry.

“As a reader it can provide an escape, something to lose yourself in. I think there is so much content on social media and in the news cycle, poetry gives you some breathing space. And in terms of writing, it also helps with mental health and wellbeing – it can be a way of making sense of things.”

Although he has been busy with commissions and working on a novel, Abbott says that his enforced break from live performance due to Covid-19 has given him time to reflect.

“I have been thinking about what my work does and who the audience is – I have always been an activist but I would really like to use my poetry to effect change. A lot of my writing is about social and political issues and that will continue, but having this period to reassess a little has been useful.”

To donate to Write Out Loud’s fundraising campaign, which runs until January 31, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/wolpoetry