More guest poets

I am delighted to be able to share the work of guest poets Kathy Gee Jenny Hope, both of whom live in Worcestershire. Their poems appear below. On the Your Stories page you will also find “Sounds of the Fifties” by Eric Harvey which came via Facebook (many thanks, Eric) and there is now a new page dedicated to poems written by the young people who have attended my workshops. Many thanks to Kidderminster and District Youth Trust for supporting the young people.

Kathy came to two of my workshops. Her first three poems here were written in response to Museum events designed to inspire us – Reel Stories (a film) and Meet Melvyn (a talk by Melvyn Thompson which I described in my last blog).

Midlands Terracotta

A tripod stills the picture,
little girls in pinafores and lace,
their brothers cocky, each
in orange segment cap.
It must be Sunday, Ma and Pa
not working at our gate.

Around our terraced doorways,
maidens twine acanthus leaves,
their flowing hair in ribbons.
Terracotta bays are framed
by olive branches, swags
of persimmons and sunflowers.

He asked us if we would.
Of course, we said, we’d pose
for him. We’ve never been
to Umbria, know nothing
of Renaissance art, but we
are just as proud as them.

© Kathy Gee, 2013

The Tying of Knots

The complicated twists
of finger and of thumb
made perfect knots:
those non slip weavers knots
of Persian ingenuity.

The wood and metal
French machines would
prove as slow as twenty
women’s fingers, didn’t
prove a money spinner,
didn’t last for long.

And all the while,
back in the mountain
pastures of Irak,
the children, sisters, wives
kept knotting wool
in thirteen colours,
using nomad patterns
that were all they knew.

© Kathy Gee, 2013

Repeat Motif

We choose our pattern,
thread our paths together
tie the knot

until unbidden ‘nots’
come creeping: knots
of boredom in the stomach,
not as close as we should be,
the knotted and unknotted
legs and folded arms
of gathered tension.

Tongues un-tied, our nots
repeat, reply, become
those non-slip knots that slip
where yes is no,
a may, may not. We tie,
hitch, twist, lash, tangle,
snarl: can we, cannot?

We chose our pattern,
knotting and weaving,
untying and leaving.

© Kathy Gee, 2013

We discussed my poem “Persian Design” (see blog 21st May) at one of the workshops and it reminded Kathy of a poem she wrote a few years ago and which appears below together with a description of how she came to write it.

“Like many poems this one is invented from several sources. I bargained for the Dosemealti rug in eastern Turkey in c1990. The merchant told me the story of how they went up into the mountains every Spring to buy from the nomadic tribes who laid their wares out in the fields. He also explained the symbolism of the nomadic life – the leaf, camel’s footprint, the five prayers of Islam and the scorpion that saved Mohammed’s life. The woman who died was another story – I found her, and will always remember her slippers. And the poem was a workshop exercise asking us to create a narrative out of something in our living room.”

Turkish Carpet

I find you on the Dosemealti,
crimson slippers parallel
and flat behind your slender feet.
I reach to touch your hand, so cold
upon the knotted rug. Remember

that you climbed a mountain pass
with handsome men from Istanbul,
how flowers speared the melting snow
where tapestries of tribal rugs
were spread for sale on alpine pasture.

You stretched your fingers as you told
of nomad women’s callused hands,
of watching from a low stone wall
as girls explained the mountain’s symbols.
Old men haggled in the shade.

Their spiders did not catch your fall,
the scorpion that saved Mohammed
never stretched your hands to safety.
Rest upon the camel’s footprint,
journey over. Turkish red.

© Kathy Gee

Kathy also mentioned a poem by Jenny Hope when we got onto the subject of dyeing. I’m grateful to both Kathy and Jenny for letting me share their work. Finally, here is Jenny’s poem and her description of how she came to write it.

“I came to write the Merchant’s House as part of a Worcestershire Poetry Stanza collaborative project in conjunction with Avoncroft Museum, and organised by Kathy Gee.

I’ve always been drawn to the Merchant’s House, it’s my favourite building at the museum and the collaborative project gave me the perfect reason to both find out more about it, and to write a poem inspired by the building.  I did a little research and discovered it probably was the house of a dyeing/fabric merchant, this was actually quite difficult to research, and I could find very little information on the history of the house.

Once I found it was possibly the home of a dyeing merchant, I then researched Medieval dyeing methods and found the following which although relates to leather as opposed to actual fabric, some of the colours would have worked on fabric.  I have dyed fabrics with onion skins (brown) and nettles (green).

It was the Medieval wording of the actual methods which did much to inspire the poem and I wanted to write the poem from a female point of view, a young girl servant in the home of the Merchant who both has a fascination for her master and his work, and yet still sees him for what he is, and uses the colours to her own way, and how despite his use of her, is still unbroken.”

The Merchant’s House

My Master’s house holds colour.
Within winter’s flaxen skies

the sun hidden, he bids me
touch those sudden bolts of red,

subdued at first, then spilt.
At night the Sleep of Plants

protect their budded young.
There are many faces to green

though each is weak in light.
Ripened men take buckthorn

shade anointed flesh.  Lush.
And the sap damp to the ears.

Washed and washed again,
Walwort’s stolen blue fabric

seethed in water, left out to dry.
My firmament unstitched.

I watch for the seam of light
beneath wood.  My Master comes

with my sky-skinned elder-black,
starred where the dye’s uncaught.

© Jenny Hope
Worcestershire Stanza

Knotting frames and hand spinning

This afternoon I performed a selection of Weaving Yarns poems and songs at a local residential care home where I met a Setter, a Weaver and a Picker (who started out during the war working on munitions in a carpet factory when she first left school). It was very rewarding seeing the responses to my performance, and the knowledge I have built up over the past year or so enabled me to have meaningful conversations with carpet industry experts!

When I first visited the Museum Archive well over a year ago, I came across a photo which intrigued me. It was a long line of girls seated at a very wide hand loom. I didn’t know exactly what I was for a long time until on June 6th I went to one of the regular “Meet Melvyn” events to hear Melvyn Thompson talking about hand knotting.

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Part way through his talk, the photo in question appeared on the screen and it all made sense! It’s a Brintons 40 foot loom for hand-knotted carpets (second photo below). The talk was fascinating, and at my workshop following it, I started a poem. The finished piece is below.

Oriental Knot40ft loom

Knotting frames
for Melvyn Thompson who solved the mystery

There’s a line
from Turkey to Kidderminster
girl after girl after girl

tucking tiny fingers
between the warp threads
posed and squashed on solid planks

buckled legs preserved in knots per inch
following a pattern
to last a lifetime

© Heather Wastie
June 2013

During another of my workshops, I watched Elizabeth sitting at her wheel and spinning. Sadly I didn’t take a photo of her.

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I listened to what she had to say and wrote a poem for her:

Hand Spinning
for Elizabeth Gelhard

Lazy Kate wraps wool around a bobbin
sitting in the garden chatting to a friend.
Spool to kate to spool to niddy noddy.
Pull it, run your finger, don’t think about your feet.

Take the whole day to fill up a bobbin
clockwise, anticlockwise, spin it twice.
Spool to kate to spool to niddy noddy,
Pull it, run your finger, don’t think about your feet.

She washed the wool, carded it and rolled it,
hung it out to dry, now it’s soft in her hands.
Spool to kate to spool to niddy noddy,
Pull it, run your finger, don’t think about your feet.

An act of meditation loved by Queen Victoria.
Niddy noddy maidens, mother of all.
Spool to kate to spool to niddy noddy,
Pull it, run your finger, don’t think about your feet.

© Heather Wastie
June 2013

Lazy kate, bobbin, spool, maidens – parts of a spinning wheel
Niddy noddy – a skein maker

Many of my Weaving Yarns poems and songs can be heard in performances as part of Kidderminster Arts Festival, on Friday and Saturday August 16th and 17th. Details will be on my website very soon!

The day the weaving stopped

Since my last blog a week ago, I have run 3 workshops, 2 with adults and one with both young people and adults. I was very pleased with the writing which came out of these workshops and will share some of it here and in future blogs.

A few weeks ago I interviewed Bernie Orme who worked as a weaver in Stour Vale Mill (the Museum building) for 46 years. He now demonstrates the Wilton Jacquard loom on a regular basis (both power looms run for a short time on Tuesdays and Saturdays at midday) and is hoping to do at least 4 years as a volunteer to complete his 50!


Of all the stories he told me, the one which stood out was how he felt on the day he walked into work and saw two or three hundred men walking towards him because they had been made redundant without warning. On Sunday I was in the Museum and saw flights from the carpets lying on the floor beneath his loom.


I wrote this:

The day the weaving stopped
for Bernie

There are flights on the floor,
remnants from a loom that filled the air
with noise and colour.

I had friends in this shed,
weavers who laboured in freezing cold
or stifling heat too hot to work.

I’ll take a broom and sweep
clean away the skill, the sweat,
the tears in grown men’s eyes.

© Heather Wastie
June 2013

On Thursday evenings 4.00-6.00 there’s a workshop for young people aged 13-18. Last Thursday we talked about Kidderminster as it was, how it is now and how we might like it to be in the future. We wrote this poem as a group, describing aspirations for our town in the year 2020.

Kidderminster 2020

Kidderminster seen
to be a little more green.
Places to chill
when you’ve got time to kill

Make me feel happy,
full of glee.
Wish there were a lot more
shops to see.

A place to buy clothes
I can afford
in shops that leave me
a little less bored.

Keep the old buildings.
Live music on the street.
Somewhere to eat
and tap your feet.

Lots of smiling faces
and lots of cool places.
Walking from the station,
providing inspiration!

Written by Lucy Locke, Ben Bennett, Mike Brooke, Zoe Fulloway, Pam Hayward, Rory Hayward, Karl Tuffy, Abigail Wareham & Heather Wastie
June 2013

with thanks to staff of Kidderminster & District Youth Trust for valuable support

Peg-boarding and “Tying the Knot”

Last night my project was featured on Radio Wildfire, a streaming radio station which has included my work many times. It’s an excellent organisation promoting spoken word at This morning I was delighted to receive a response to the broadcast from Charles and Jean Talbot of the Carpet Museum Trust, saying “It was very moving to hear the stories that we have all been determined for so long to celebrate by creating the museum.”  It is thanks to the Talbots along with other determined volunteers that the Museum opened last October after 30 years of hard work!

On Thursday morning I’m running a writing workshop which will respond to a talk by Melvyn Thompson, one of the band of determined volunteers mentioned above! He’s a mine of information and a very entertaining speaker. It’s not too late to book for the workshop which starts with Melvyn’s talk at 11.00 and finishes at 1.30. By way of a taster, here’s a 10 minute video which begins with Melvyn talking about how he came to work in the carpet industry before moving on to a song I wrote about a weaver who married a picker, all filmed in the Museum of Carpet by White Raven Films.

There’s another writing workshop on Sunday too which will begin with a tour of the Museum. Further details can be found on the Workshops page of this website.

Here is one of the poems which was broadcast on Radio Wildfire last night.

New designs – a secret job (Peg-boarding)
for Mollie Smart

Four ladies
doing secret work
up in the loft
up above the weaving sheds
with two young lads
to fetch and carry

Two young lads
with two heavy satchels
quite a walk
from Park Wharf to New Road
at the bottom of The Butts
up the stairs
up to the loft
up above the weaving sheds

No-one disturbed them
all very quiet
secret work
keep it to yourself

Four ladies
each with a board
full of holes
a board at the side
a pattern in front
a ruler ‘cross the bottom

working sideways
one hand holds a hook
the other round the back
feels the yarns
yarn on bobbins
pull the colours through
and every time
they fill up a row
they move the ruler up
move and copy
till they get to the top
pull the colours through
till the board is full

then the two young lads
take it away
and shear it off

Two young lads
with two heavy satchels
go down from the loft
up above the weaving sheds
down the stairs
quite a walk
from Park Wharf to New Road

If Head Office say
“We don’t like the colour”
one of the ladies pulls it out
and sews in another

They never know
what’s coming in
from day to day

an interesting job
a lovely existence
secret work
keep it to yourself

© Heather Wastie
February 2013