If I could travel back in time and speak to my sixteen-year-old self, no doubt she would be horrified to learn that I perform poetry. In front of other people! On stage! Out loud!
I can see her blushing beetroot-red at the very thought of it.
Like many people, I spent much of my life as a closet poet. I wrote poetry and read poetry and enjoyed watching people perform their own poetry at events. But there was no way I was going to expose my poetry to the light of day. The closest I came to that was the work-shopping sessions in my creative writing group at university. Each Wednesday morning I would walk to class, dizzy with anticipation, knowing that we would be discussing one of my poems. And the thought of reading my work aloud? It made me feel physically sick.
So what changed?
Well, for me, it was a combination of several things: my nan died, I spent a bit of time out of work, and I moved away from home, all within the space of a year or so. This upheaval in my personal life gave me the shot in the arm that I so desperately needed. I decide that if I wanted to have a fulfilling life, I would need to go out and embrace every opportunity.
So I did.
When I was offered a five-minute open mic slot at a poetry cabaret night in Norwich in 2010, I jumped at the chance, even though the thought of getting up in front of people still terrified me. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.
As I read my first poem, I felt so nauseous that I genuinely thought I was going to be sick on my shoes! Perhaps, if that had happened, I could have explained it away as performance art? Who knows.
I've now been performing for two years. I've worked with some incredible people and done some amazing things. I've recited poems in the back rooms of pubs, performed in tents at festivals, and competed in a poetry slam on stage at the Roundhouse in Camden. I worked alongside the likes of Steve Larkin, Richard Tyrone Jones, Hollie McNish, Fay Roberts, Young Dawkins, Mark Niel, and the actor Miriam Margolyes. I've collaborated with some very talented people, worked on fantastic projects, and made some wonderful new friends.
But I still get nervous before every performance.
This year, as Fenland Poet Laureate, I'm hoping to give other closet poets the opportunity to engage more actively with poetry, through a series of local workshops and events. I want to spread my own enthusiasm for poetry and foster a supportive environment in which local people can experiment with poetry. I really believe that poetry should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background, education or level of confidence. With the support of Karen Harvey at Atelier East, Poet Laureate Emeritus Elaine Ewart, and David Wright at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, I hope to promote poetry in the Fens and work with other organisations to bring local poetry firmly into the mainstream.
Just as long as my nerves don't get the better of me!
Leanne Moden is the Fenland Poet Laureate 2013.
You can find her on twitter @crimsonebolg and you can check out her blog at www.tenyearstime.blogspot.co.uk
If you would like Leanne to write a poem to celebrate a Fenland community project, or if you are interested in booking her for your own event, please email email@example.com.