Silent practice

My nephew sent me a message this morning from a library in Malaysia. It’s a hilarious description of the noise going on around him, and he sent it as material for a poem. His message reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago, after visiting the old Birmingham Library where it was quiet apart from one person, who was oblivious to the noise he was making. Here it is:

Silent practice

The electronic piper
clicks tunes in the music library,
unaware that his melodies
are rattling around
the reference section.

No-one complains
or moves away. Instead
we secretly listen in,
not letting on
that his headphones
have a serious leak.

After a while, a pause,
a holding of breath
then a single tut
as the clatter chanter begins again,
conjuring images of beetles
in kilts and cross-laced shoes.

© Heather Wastie

Success in Carers UK Competition

I have written several poems and songs inspired by people with dementia and those who care for them. I’m delighted to say that one of my poems has just been awarded second prize in the poetry section of the 2016 Carers UK writing competition and has been published in the anthology I belong here. Here’s what the judge, Cheryl Moskowitz, had to say about it:

‘Holding on’ by Heather Wastie is a poem I liked instantly on first reading and one in which I continued to find new meaning and power on each subsequent reading. This is a moving portrait in the voice of a grown up child who must exercise the kind of watchfulness and steely patience in looking after their mother as might be needed to keep a wayward toddler in check. She will plummet to the floor/ to pick up a fleck of fluff, / dart into the road / to pull up a weed.

And yet the mother in this poem has sentient moments in which she dislikes herself and we find ourselves in utter sympathy with the disorder she creates as well as the one who has to learn to cope with it.

img_0744

Until I Saw Your Foot again

Recently, an artist friend of mine who, like me, uses Twitter to advertise his work, complained in a tweet that the number of interactions he received was too low. There’s lots of advice available on how to get noticed on Twitter, but my first thought was this: more people notice you than interact with you.

This leads nicely into my latest story of a poem I published in 1997 which has been interacting with people across the world ever since. I only know about these interactions when I do an internet search, or when someone contacts me to ask permission to reproduce the poem. I know full well that Until I Saw Your Foot has been shared without my name attached to it, and this annoys me, though I’m delighted that people enjoy it enough to want to pass it on. (In fact I’m waiting for the day someone comes up to me and says, “Hey I know this great poem ….” gleefully brandishing my own work.) 

From time to time, an email appears out of the blue from someone asking permission to share the poem in some way. (Bravo to those people!) In December I was contacted by a wind player in Norway who wanted to reproduce my poem on a website. I said yes, that would be fine, as long as he acknowledged me as author, and please could he tell me how he found out about the poem. (I always ask.) His response led me to a Norwegian conductor by the name of Helge Haukås who I immediately emailed. Here’s his reply:

So you excist! What a big pleasure..

I was complaining to the players of the Nordic Wind Orchestra, Iceland 1999, because so many was tapping their feet during playing. I said, as a conductor I wanted to be the pulse maker in the room.. or something like that.

One of the horn-players, I only remember his first name Kjartan, from Iceland, said he knew a poem about this and mailed it to me. This must be five computers ago so I cannot find the original mail.

But I so much wanted to recite this poem spontaneously that I immediately learned it by heart and still knows it.

Next time I recite it I will happily enough be able to share with my audience who the author is!

Helge Haukås

The moral to this story is …. your creativity is working for you, even when you’re off doing something completely different, and it’s always worth putting stuff out there – you never know who might be watching, or even memorising your work!

Dad was a fan of The Archers

Who knew that when Archers actor Sunny Ormonde performs her one-woman show, she likes to include work from poets living near the venue? I didn’t know, until she contacted me by email, asking if she could read one of my poems in Bewdley on October 13th. We chatted on the phone so I could find out what kind of piece she was looking for and it was clear that she wanted humour. It was also clear that she’s a really nice person. During the course of the conversation I told her about my Dad’s ‘addiction’ to The Archers, and it wasn’t long afterwards that I began working on a new poem on that very subject. Sunny was delighted with it and, though I sent her alternatives to choose from, she decided to include Dad was a fan of The Archers in her show, and arranged for me to have 2 complimentary tickets.

As we arrived at Bewdley Baptist Church, my mother and I passed ‘Sold Out’ signs and were guided to central front row seats. Although I haven’t listened to The Archers since the days when I lived at home, I enjoyed every minute of the show, which was entertaining, inspiring, hilarious and, at times, moving. It was packed with poetry, including limericks, extracts from Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and of course, my Archers poem. Sunny had asked me how to pronounce my name so I sent her this poem which she also read out:

Heather Wastie rhymes with Tasty not with Nasty,
Heather Wastie rhymes with Pasty not with Pastie,
not with Frosty, not with Asti,
rhymes with Hasty, Heather Wastie!

I love the way she ended her show with a gentle and moving extract from Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine. Throughout the performance she had dipped in and out of her Archers character, Lilian Bellamy, with ease. I was mentally taking notes about ways of moving in and out of character in my own shows.

Afterwards Sunny obviously enjoyed meeting and chatting to people and it was a pleasure to work with such a warm, friendly woman. There were discussions about the possibility of us collaborating again in the future. It did seem to work rather well.

img_0585The show was part of Bewdley Festival 2016. The Director, Dave Collins, contacted me after the event saying “…. the audience loved your poem. Several have asked if it will be available on-line or in a forthcoming book”. I had already decided to blog about the event, sharing the poem, so here it is. Thanks, Sunny, for inspiring me to write it:

Dad was a fan of the Archers

Every weekday evening,
His radio at his side,
He’d monopolise the toilet
From just before 7.05.

His friends knew not to phone him
Till after twenty past seven
And those who called at quarter past
Were usually given

A reason not quite truthful
For why he wasn’t free.
Dad was a fan of The Archers,
A treat after his tea.

And if we drove to see a show,
A concert or a play
We had to leave by five past seven
And whisper all the way

And when I heard the theme tune
I’d sing it way off key
On purpose just to tease him.
He took it manfully.

Sometimes he had to miss it
And catch the omnibus.
This everyday story of country folk
Didn’t appeal to us.

In the days of Walter Gabriel,
He loved his evening treat.
Dad was a fan of The Archers;
It made his week complete.

© Heather Wastie
October 2016

Squeeze Me, BBC Local Poets commission

This poem was commissioned by BBC Local Radio for National Poetry Day 2016. The brief was for 40 poets across England and the Channel Islands to write from the point of view of a landmark or object associated with the area their BBC Local Radio station covers. For me it was Herefordshire and Worcestershire. You should be able to work out what it’s about, though you may not guess exactly what I’m referring to at the end. I’ve added a note at the bottom of the page so you can see if you guessed correctly!

Squeeze me

Close your eyes,
take me in your hand
and squeeze me.

Am I
the sweet smooth-skinned Sandlin Duchess,
the blushing May Queen,
the mysterious Scotch Bridget, worth keeping,
or Gwendolen, appealing, with a hint of wine?

Am I Dick’s Favourite?
Am I
your favourite?
The apple of your eye?

Feel how small I am,
small but robust,
quality not quantity;
my breeding dictates my destiny,
bittersweet.

Lizzy, Vicky, Gilly,
Amanda, Jane …
when I have matured,
when I have spent time
with Hilda, Lucy, Dora, Jessie,
Hereford, Worcester, Wilfred, Raven,
Darby, Joan …

you will have forgotten my name
but you will thank me
and bless me, dancing and singing,
as you drink from the Wassail cup.

© Heather Wastie
September 2016

bbc-heref-worcs-npd-2016-pic

I performed the poem on BBC Hereford & Worcester yesterday, National Poetry Day. To hear my interview and poem, go to around 1:22 of Tammy’s show. I am also just about to post a recording of the poem on Soundcloud


There are 3 sets of names in this poem (in order):

  • eating apple varieties ‘deemed to have originated in Worcestershire’

  • bittersweet cider apples grown in John Worle’s cider apple tree nursery in Herefordshire

  • names given by Westons Cider (Ledbury) to their oak fermenting vats

Poetry workshops Thurs October 20th

I’m in the process of writing a song cycle – both words and music – to help bring to life the history of these wonderful Weavers Cottages, currently being restored in Kidderminster. http://www.weaverscottages.info/

weavers-cottagesIt’s a bit of a race to see which are finished first, the songs or the cottages! The songs are all about the people – the workers, their families, the Masters – and the activities which went on in and around the cottages. Now there’s an opportunity for you to become involved and write something yourself. See below.

 

A Taste of Words poetry workshop

On Thursday, October 20th, come along to explore and develop your own poetry writing skills with Heather Wastie, the Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015/16.

Two FREE workshops will run, from 10.30-12.30 and 1.15 to 3.15 pm, suitable for all abilities. They will draw inspiration for your ideas from Kidderminster’s wonderful heritage, including current research from the Weavers Cottages project. At the end of the sessions, participants will be encouraged to work on a piece for inclusion in the final Weavers Cottages open day and celebration events later in the year.

The venue is The Gatsby Emporium, Unit 3 Carlton House, Oxford St, Kidderminster DY10 1BB in the centre of Kidderminster.

Places are free but limited. To book please contact Sue Pope on: 07875 377243 or email: merrienoyse@btinternet.com

Download the poster: http://www.weaverscottages.info/media-releases/Poetry-Taster-poster-Oct-20.pdf