Poem: School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education

Have you heard of the Emergency Poet? She is “the world’s first and only mobile poetic first aid service”, the brilliant idea of poet Deborah Alma. My poetry has been prescribed by her in the past. Here’s a link to her website http://emergencypoet.com/. She often puts out a call for pieces on a particular subject, and her most recent request was an unusual one …. poems for Nicky Morgan. I sent this one to her last week and she has been pestering me to blog it ever since. It was written just before the election and I performed it at a Politics-themed Mouth and Music (http://www.mouthandmusic.co.uk/) in March. So here it is!

School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education

Now listen to me children,
your future’s in our hands
and we have all the answers,
though it’s hard to understand.

So we’ve put it in a poem
and drawn some pictures too,
to help you choose your subjects
for the job that’s best for you.

We’ve put it in a poem
to have a bit of fun!
It’s not an occupation
we’d suggest to anyone!

No! Poetry’s not a proper job;
our tax data will show
that the “true worth” of a poet
is very very low.

Our figures on school leavers
will show you won’t be wealthy
if you become a poet
and that’s not very healthy.

You need to have an income,
you must put money first,
and it isn’t very clever
to play with silly verse.

Now are there any questions?
Oh come on, don’t be shy.
Has the cat got all your tongues?
You there, what’s that you say?

You think I’m talking rot
because if what I say is true
then why are you learning poems
in Key Stage 1 and 2?

And did the poets not got paid?
Did they do it for free
to help your education?
And you think a poet would be far more interesting than me?

Well done! I see you’ve learned to rhyme
and make your stanzas scan!
But there’s something wrong with your final verse.
Do fix that, if you can.

© Heather Wastie
2015 Worcestershire Poet Laureate

Carrying the evening home

This could be a poem or a song. I don’t know yet. I wrote it after going to the launch of an exhibition by Elena Thomas at ArtSpace in Birdcage Walk, Dudley, a place I used to know well. There was underwear hanging from ceilings and Elena’s songs were poignant and beautiful ….. Intrigued? Do visit her website http://www.elenathomas.co.uk/

Carrying the evening home

The boarded up
The shout out loud
The delicate stitch
The gentle crowd

The gawping dance
The gaping cry
The fear of fear
The walk on by

Carrying the evening home
Carrying the feelings home

The open door
The bleeding sound
The sensitive ear
The in-for-a-pound

The whitened wall
The underneath
The birdcage walk
The sung relief

Carrying the evening home
Carrying the feelings home

The arm in arm
The dead beat bar
The cast of one
The shop front door

The empty town
The lost bazaar
The what we had
The who we are

Carrying the evening home
Carrying the feelings home

© Heather Wastie
July 2015

County’s Poet Laureate ‘waffles’ on the podium

It’s true, I did waffle. Perhaps using that word in a press interview wasn’t a great idea, but it made me laugh afterwards. And yes, I’ve milked it for all it’s worth and refer to it in the last line of my poem below which I hope you enjoy. The article doesn’t mention Worcestershire LitFest so here’s a link to their website http://worcslitfest.co.uk/. Here’s to the next twelve months!

Poet laureate’s promise

For a whole year
is poetically mine!

I could strut sonnets in Stourport
Hand out haikus in Hartlebury
Tinker with triolets in Tenbury Wells
Swan through Kidderminster kicking kennings
Conjure couplets in Cookley
Polish pantoums in Pershore
Dig up doggerel in Droitwich
Blurt out blank verse in Bewdley
and bawl ballads in Bromsgrove
Exclaim elegies in Evesham
Forage for free verse in Fairfield
Offer odes in Ombersley
Recite rondeaux in Redditch
Initiate idylls in Inkberrow
Lurk with limericks in Lickey …

My stanzas could spring up anywhere;
there’ll be a poetic kerfuffle.
And one thing I promise the Worcestershire folk:
my poems will never be waffle.

© Heather Wastie
June 2015

Seasonal affectation

As the summer solstice draws near, here’s a poem, born of confusion, which I wrote this time last year.

Seasonal affectation

June July August
September October November
December January February
March April May

Meteorological seasons
follow the Gregorian calendar.

Astronomical seasons
follow equinoxes and solstices.

In meteorological terms,
summer begins on June the first.
An expert weather forecaster knows this
whereas non-experts,
meteorologically speaking,
speak astronomically.

Astronomical summer begins
on June the twentieth
or is it the twenty first?
I need to know!

Actual summer begins when it feels like it,
ends when it ends
and some years, well,
it just doesn’t …
feel like it.

Both astronomical and meteorological seasons
contain other seasons:

The silly season, for example,
which occurs when other seasons

Or the football season which,
regardless of the calendar in use,
ends on the last day of one season
and begins on the first day of the next.

Astronomical seasons
are about three weeks behind
meteorological seasons,
so weather forecasters are campaigning
to have the astronomical seasons
brought forward by three weeks
to make their forecasts more accurate.

Actually I was a bit astronomical with the truth there.
But I hope to promote the meteoric rise
of meteorological seasons
as a subject for casual conversation
in preference to merely talking about the weather.

© Heather Wastie

Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015!

Success!! I am the 2015 Worcestershire Poet Laureate!!

The competition was tough. The other 5 finalists were very impressive – Suz Winspear, Nina Lewis, Tony Shadforth, Damon Lord and Betti Moretti.  

Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis gave particularly strong performances and thoroughly deserved to be 2nd and 3rd respectively.   

It was quite a journey for us all, from writing our applications together with anonymous submission of 2 poems, to interview as longlisted poets, to performance of our poems last Friday evening at the Guildhall, Worcester. The event marked the beginning of the Worcestershire Literary Festival. There’s lots more going on! Have a look at their website  http://worcslitfest.co.uk.

My first appearance as Laureate was at an Asparawriting Festival event in Evesham on Saturday http://asparawritingfestival.co.uk. I love this photo of myself with outgoing Laureate, Fergus McGonigal and Asparawriting Festival organiser Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, both of whose work I admire greatly.   

By complete contrast, my second gig was in a marquee at Hopfest, Bewdley http://www.hopfest.co.uk in an event organised by fellow finalist, Betti Moretti. 

My next appearance is “Rubber Swordplay” at St Swithin’s, Worcester tomorrow night and I’ll also be performing at Speakeasy on Thursday. See http://worcslitfest.co.uk for further details!

Touching history

Earlier this year I was commissioned to write a poem to celebrate the work of the West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust. I will be performing the new poem this coming Thursday evening 11th June in Redditch as part of an event at Gorcott Hall.

Trustee Philip Adams, who is organising the event, commissioned the poem when he read this piece about my childhood in Cradley Heath. https://weavingyarns1.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/childhood-snaps/ He felt that my family connections with the Trust would enable me to include some personal reflections as well as highlight the importance of conservation “in this throw-away world”. Although I have never been involved with the Trust myself, other than visiting some beautiful buildings, I witnessed its workings from the outside through my Dad who was Chairman for many years. My Mother remained a member after Dad passed away and my brother is Project Director. Years back, my brother's two children 'commissioned' me to write a poem about dust after they had taken part in one of the many work parties! The poem is in my book The Page-Turner’s Dilemma. Philip Adams and I are distantly related too, and I know he feels, as I do, that buildings connect us to people in a way nothing else can.

IMG_0275This gate, for instance, was made by my Dad when he was at school. It served as our factory gate (we owned a cooperage in Cradley Heath) until it was demolished in the 1960s and ended up attached to this chain shop in Bannister Street. I am so glad Dad told me about this before he died and I was able to capture it in a photo. The last time I was there, the building was up for sale and the gate had been replaced.

It's amazing where writing a blog can take you! Back now to the new piece, a tribute to this voluntary organisation, with a touch of humour. “I am sure everyone will be thrilled that you have really given a flavour of the Trust's work and history,” said Philip when he had read it. It's called Touching History and ends with these 4 lines:

Conservation in a throw-away world.
Social return, not financial return.
Helping the future lay hands on the past.
Leaving a legacy that will last.

WMHBT are involved with saving the Weavers' Cottages in Horsefair, Kidderminster. Fingers crossed, there will be some visible action soon! Here's their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WestMidlandsHistoricBuildingsTrustwmhbt

As regular readers will now, I'm on the shortlist for the position of Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015. The appointment will be made this Friday 12th June! See http://wastiesspace.co.uk/Wasties_Space/DIARY.html to find out where else I'll be performing this weekend.