Foyle Young Poet, Pushcart Nominee & BBC New Voice
Laura Irena Potts (born 16 February 1996) is an English poet and writer of radio drama. She is twice-recipient of The Foyle Young Poets Award and a Pushcart Prize nominee. In April 2017 Laura became one of the BBC’s New Voices at the age of 21, and received a commendation from The Poetry Society in 2018.
Laura was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and grew up in the village of Horbury. She is the only child of George Potts, a shipbuilder, and Jane Finch. Her mother, a pianist, earned a place at Leeds College of Music whilst her father was a bagpiper with Newcastle Pipeband during his younger days. She is of English, Scottish and Irish descent.
Laura was educated at Wakefield Girls’ High School (2007–2014) and read English, History and Classical Latin during her school days. She was a quiet and conscientious student, gaining four A*s in her A-Levels. She received The Year Prize, The English Literature Prize, The Classics Prize and The Memorial Medal for Poetry during her final year.
Laura began to write poetry at an early age, winning The Foyle Young Poets Award twice during her school days. By the age of sixteen she had supported Helen Mort and Ian McMillan, and had started to write for The University of York’s Lemon Press. She had also become one of The University of Leeds’ Lieder Poets, for which she collaborated with a composer from The Royal Welsh Conservatoire and performed at Leeds College of Music.
Laura rejected a chance to read English at Oxford University, instead accepting The University of York where she spent ‘two years of [her] life always moving somewhere but going nowhere’. She briefly moved to Carmarthen to work at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea where she researched Dylan’s work and wrote articles for The Dylan Thomas Society. Though an editor for The Yorker Magazine and winner of the University’s Media Award for Creative Writing, she soon moved to study abroad at The University of Cape Town and left York on her return. She has later praised her own bravery in leaving an academic path ‘which gave [her] no growth and very little hope’.
On returning home to Wakefield, Laura worked odd jobs to fund her writing and largely wrote at night. Her work was soon accepted by long-established journals including The Interpreter’s House, Prole and The University of Salzburg’s Poetry Salzburg Review. Ezra Pound’s Agenda made her the Chosen Young TS Eliot Poet in February 2017, and soon afterwards she was shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction at The University of Colorado. Within six months Laura had performed alongside Andrew Motion, Mike Harding and Linton Kwesi Johnson.
In April 2017, Laura became one of the BBC’s Verb New Voices. The youngest of three writers selected, she was commissioned to write radio drama for BBC Radio 3. Her first piece, Sweet The Mourning Dew, is a series of poems based on the true stories of individuals who have lost loved ones to war, charting experiences from World War II to the present day. The piece, featuring Carnegie-Medal winner Berlie Doherty, was broadcast on The Christmas Verb in 2017 with Carol Ann Duffy and Hollie McNish.
In July 2017, Laura became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets. Her work has since been published in Introduction X: The Poetry Business Book of New Poets. Soon afterwards she appeared on BBC Radio Leeds and was shortlisted in the 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition, judged by Helen Mort. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017.
Laura is no stranger to public performance, and gave her first at Wakefield’s Red Shed at the age of thirteen. 2017 saw her give a New Writing Showcase at the Ilkley Literature Festival and read at the BBC’s Contains Strong Language Festival in Hull, the City of Culture. She also wrote the short collection of poems North and Mourning based on her northern family heritage, and performed these with cellist Keely Hodgson at the Wakefield Lit Fest and The Verb New Voices Showcase.
In 2018, Laura received a commendation from The Poetry Society and was highly commended in the Prole Laureate Competition. She was awarded first prize for poetry by The Maria Edgeworth Literary Society in Dublin, and third place in The Bristol Poetry Prize. By spring, she had become an editor at Write Out Loud and received first prize in The Mother’s Milk Writing Awards. She was also awarded a scholarship to The Winchester Writers’ Festival, a bursary to the Kendal Poetry Festival, and a place in The Writing Squad. She is set to read at Winchester College in the autumn.
Laura still lives in her hometown of Wakefield, where she is a volunteer for Wakefield Hospice and was the official face of their Easter 2018 fundraising appeal. She is a supporter of local writing groups for the elderly and periodically teaches an adult writing class. She also hosts a monthly radio show on Chapel FM in Leeds interviewing local writers on the origins of their work, and is now an editor at Write Out Loud.
Laura has described herself as ‘an intensely private person’ and her own ‘little light’. She splits her time between Wakefield and Oxford, where her partner lives.