Meet Matilda Bray, Poet and Children's Literacy Advocate

September 5, 2023

Meet Matilda Bray

Published poet, occasional playwright, children’s literacy advocate and high school student

With the submission period about to open for the 2nd Annual Phillips’ Mill Play with Words Student Playwriting Challenge, we checked in with one of our inaugural winners. Matilda Bray, a poet and senior at The Solebury School, submitted one of her first plays to the competition last year, and encourages other young aspiring writers to do the same.

“It can be scary to put your work out there,” she acknowledges. “But it can also be really rewarding.” Matilda would certainly know. She has achieved enormous success as a poet, publishing two books of poetry and winning numerous competitions. She is also an active advocate for children’s literacy and donated proceeds from her first book of poetry, “Under the Moon as My Sun,” to the Children’s Literacy Initiative of Philadephia. 

How was your summer? Did you do anything fun?

Matilda: I had a great summer. I was accepted to the Iowa Young Writers Studio at the University of Iowa. It was an amazing time. I was in the heart of Iowa City, and that was really, really lovely. For those two weeks, I was able to really hone in on my writing skills. It was great. 

You are a poet. Yet, you submitted a play to the Phillips’ Mill Play with Words Playwriting Challenge last year, and you were among the winners. Do you do a lot of playwriting as well? 

Matilda: That was actually one of the first plays I wrote. I have always been very interested in poetry, but I want to continue to write plays too. It was a way for me to explore day-to-day life. 

When you submit your writing to contests like these, it’s an opportunity to have your work read and to see it performed. It’s an inspiring process. I also loved seeing the other plays get read out loud. 

What would you tell students thinking about submitting this year?

Matilda: It’s a great opportunity to put your work out there, and to explore your own creativity. When you write for school, it’s very academic. This is something you can focus on outside of school. You might fear having it read, but the whole process is really rewarding.You will feel very accomplished. 

Why do you write? 

Matilda: Writing is an important tool in general in so many ways. I have been writing since I was very young to let out my emotions and to better understand myself and connect with the world around me. When I write plays, short stories and poems, it helps me find myself in the process. Writing gives you a better understanding of yourself and the reason why you are feeling the way you are feeling. The process (of self-discovery) can be scary, but it is also really enlightening in the end.

Do you have any favorite writers or poets?

Matilda: Robert Frost and Seamus Heaney, I love writing nature poetry. I love just going outside, and Frost writes about nature in such a wonderful, beautiful way. Heaney for the same reason. I am digging the way he describes stuff and how he strings things together; it is really beautiful.

I also really enjoy William Carlos Williams. He writes very short poems that pack a punch. There is this great Mark Twain quote I love, “I apologize for such a long letter — I didn't have time to write a short one.”

Do you like writing in a short format?

Matilda: Yes, I would actually have little slips of paper all around the house that were in the poetry format. It comes very naturally to me. I just wasn’t drawn to writing full sentences. I am interested in the spacing out of words, and using my own punctuation.

Have you tried ChatGPT?

Matilda: Yes. But what it is missing is the very human connection. It’s a robot and doesn’t express feelings the same. If we are feeling a human struggle, a robot could explain it in more detail, but we know the truth behind the struggle. It can never be quite the same.

What are you working on now?

Matilda: College applications! I am looking to double major in English and Philosophy.

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t writing?

Matilda: I love baking and biking. I am a runner; I am on the cross country team at school, all that stuff, and always being outdoors.

Anything else you would like to share?

Matilda: Yes, thank you. Proceeds from the sales of my book “When You Wanted Blue” will help support the Trenton Literacy Movement. 

Learn more about Matilda Bray, her work and her advocacy at matildabraypoet.com.


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Illustration of the Phillips' Mill -Artist: Kathie Jankauskus