International Mother Language Day

This coming Saturday, February 21st, is International Mother Language Day. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I was contacted by the Birmingham Poet Laureate Adrian Blackledge who invited me to perform at a poetry event at the Library of Birmingham. In a programme including Arabic, Bengali, Dutch, English, Farsi, Kurdish, Patois, Somali, Spanish, Urdu and Yoruba, he wanted someone to perform “poems in a more ‘local’ West Midlands/Black Country voice”.

One of the poems I’ll be performing is Childhood Snaps, made up of ‘snapshots’ in words of things and events I remember from my childhood in Cradley Heath. I posted it on my blog recently

My set is from 12.45 to 1.00. Here are the details:

Saturday February 21st 11.00am – 3.00pm
International Mother Language Day
Room 101, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, B1 2ND

Tickets from £3.50

I’m looking forward to an interesting day!


This post is all about loss.

I recently came across a site called I am not a silent poet which “welcomes quality poems of protest. ….. looks for poems about abuse in any of its forms.”  Yesterday Reuben Woolley, who set up the site, accepted one of my poems which you can read here.

There are lots of other poems up there to be explored, though of course it’s not exactly light reading.

Last Saturday, National Libraries Day, there was a rally to show support for the Library of Birmingham and to protest against proposed cuts to this new award-winning facility. Here’s an extract from a speech made by Benjamin Zephaniah on the day: “This library is a great example of how to invest in the intellectual and cultural life of the people of Birmingham. Its opening filled me with pride. I was telling my friends all over the world that Birmingham was the place to be, but in a very short time I have gone from pride to fear. I fear that cuts to this library will signal the beginning of the end for this wonderful place.”  For more information about the campaign visit

Lost Librarian

I am lines
on a sepia page
dots on eyes
corners torn

tear me out
and shed my tears
leave my print
where ink has worn

© Heather Wastie

So much of our cultural and artistic life has suffered from severe cuts over the past few years. Now the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove (so much more than just a theatre) has been asked to prove its worth before the council agrees to fund it. A Facebook page has been set up to gather information and garner support. To find out more, show support and add your voice see  My comments are already up there.

For an indication of how much has already been lost in the arts take a look at If you believe, like I do, in the importance of investment in culture and the arts, please consider this when deciding who to vote for in the election.

Collecting feedback

Here’s one piece of advice for anyone who is out there doing readings/presentations/performances: take a comments book with you, so that when someone says they’ve enjoyed your work, you can ask them to write it down as proof. On Tuesday I gave a presentation for a local retirement group and several people very kindly wrote feedback in my book which I left on the table with a pen. Their words have now been added to my feedback page and also appear below. As well as being able to quote what people have said, there’s also the satisfaction of being praised (which we performers need more than some might think!) and sometimes there are constructive suggestions too. By the way, if you know of a group who may be interested in an entertaining mix of poetry and songs about the carpet industry, do please pass on my details!

Superb morning, thoroughly enjoyable, so cleverly presented.
This was a very interesting morning. Fabulous.
Most interesting – a unique look at the carpet industry.
Delightful morning – very nostalgic.
Great. She is very good.
Very interesting talk and music.
A very interesting and talented lady.
Very enjoyable and interesting.

Found Poetry – 3 ways

I am a collector of words. You may see me making notes on my phone after hearing an interesting turn of phrase. You may see me armed with an mp3 player recording someone’s memories to be shaped into a poem or a song, with their permission and involvement of course. I also like to find poems in what I read. In this post you will find 3 examples of ways to find a poem.

A few days ago I was looking through a parish magazine and saw a page which caught my eye. Here’s a ‘pause for thought’ poem most of which is copied from that page.

Funerals and christenings 2015

Out with the old

Kenneth, Ronald,
William, Harold,
Raymond, John

Phyllis, Rita,
Sybil, Daisy,
Rachel, Jane

In with new

Sophie, Chelsea,
Piper Ocean,
Devan, Charlie,

Brendon, Wayne
and Jenson-Jake

© Heather Wastie

My second example is a Humument, A Human document, a tribute to a friend. This was made by obscuring words in an article he had written, leaving ones which stood out for me as a kind of hidden message. In this example, the found words remain in the original order and no other words are added. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Humument for Paul

Finally, I refer to a previous post, made when I was Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet

My poem in that post is a juxtaposition of texts copied from different sources: a book about Persian Rugs, a website about Nima Yoshij “The father of modern Persian poetry”, an interview with Mick Lowe, who worked as a designer, and one of Nima Yoshij’s poems. I hope that the way I chose to combine these different texts says something without the necessity for additional words.

Poetry is everywhere.

Childhood snaps

Childhood snaps

Taking my red hot threepenny bit, Mr Lowe in the chip shop
adorned my palm as I stood waiting, drawing patterns with his pen.

No such attention from Mr Price the cobbler when I called for
a hard, leather-scented brown paper parcel for my dad.

Chips or shoes, whatever I carried home, I could still motion
the pulling up of socks after every few steps.

We drew a marker pen smile on a cardboard box with cardboard feet,
three eyes and a Toblerone nose, my brother and I.

One day, fingers wrapped round a scaffolding pole in Newtown Lane,
my friend Janet swung and bashed her front teeth and they swung too.

In our front room, glowering at the piano I’d sit, stubborn fingers thrust
deeply into armpits for twice the requisite practice time.

My reasoning power was no better than my skipping – a wooden grip,
two skips with a rope and I’d trip, decide I can’t do it, go back in the warm.

Mom doing the washing up, the budgie perched on the rim of her specs,
peering in at her, tapping the glass, one day toppling into the bowl.

Slender fingers squeezing off the suds
and delicately rinsing the budgie under the tap.

In ’62 the Big Freeze slapped snow up the step, howled in the entry.
Was it my dad carved a tunnel of white, straddling the gutter?

Across our road, behind the Totney’s, I remember a wasteland,
puncturing my hand on nails and rushing the blood home to Mom,

always on call for accidents at the family cooperage next door,
ready to soothe, dab out the dirt and bandage wounds.

When the men had gone home, I sneaked up the yard into the works
to make pies with wood and shavings, sitting under the circular saw.

© Heather Wastie

One poem leads to another

Sometimes I see a poem and it reminds me of one of my own. This has happened twice recently with the same poet, Polly Robinson. The first time, I thought of posting an old poem of mine but when I looked at it, I felt it needed an edit. So I embarked on that and struggled, wondering whether I could still capture the atmosphere (of teenage infatuation – erm, a long time ago!)

Today I read a new post by Polly and the poem it reminded me of is below. I wrote it a very long time ago and still like it.

a winter’s night meeting

scarved gloved
hasty greeting
thickly coated
secret meeting

breathless voices
dark night
resounding laughter
snowball fight
german army
attack retreat
hand grenade
quick defeat
sweating bodies
pounding breasts
muffled phrases
clenching fists
falling bodies
shrieking ice
sudden scuffle
watering eyes
solemn faces
silent stares
someone sniffing

rubbing hands
stomping feet
silent snowfall
empty street

crunching paths
clinging air
shuffling feet
silver hair
short farewells
slamming doors
runny noses
chattering jaws
steaming broth
crackling heat
thawing hands
tingling feet

warm blankets
cosy bed
drooping eyelids
sleep content

© Heather Wastie

Happy New Year and thanks

Here’s a big thank you to everyone who has followed my blog, commented on or shared my posts in 2014. Your interest in and support of my work is much appreciated. This is for you:

New Year’s Eve

A day like any other
but we put it in a box –
It’s Wednesday … it’s your birthday …
it’s the day you change your socks.

The thirty-first before the first,
the last day of a year,
an arbitrary numbering
Gregorians hold dear.

Tomorrow is tomorrow
by any other name
with happiness and sorrow
and chances, just the same.

When we say it’s New Year’s Day
it has a hopeful ring;
the old year is behind us
though it doesn’t change a thing.

Every day’s a new day;
all yesterdays have gone.
Each day’s an opportunity
for us to act upon.

© Heather Wastie

Wishing you happiness in 2015!