Nicky Morgan most popular? Really?

Yes, my poem School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education was my most viewed post of 2015. Here’s the full Top Ten which includes waffles, gherkins, whisky, salmon, promises, childhood memories and lots of references to being Worcestershire Poet Laureate. It’s good to look back on my year of blogs, though I’m having a break at the moment, building up strength for 2016 when I have some lovely projects and events to look forward to. I’ll be Poet Laureate until the middle of June and there are lots of poems waiting to be written.

Thanks very much for following me in what has been my busiest year to date. Do follow the links below to read my Top Ten and alter the statistics ….

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

  2. County’s Poet Laureate waffles on the podium

  3. International Mother Language Day

  4. Childhood snaps

  5. Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015

  6. A poem about the gherkin

  7. Being a Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day

  8. The Kelpies, Whisky Angels & a salmon ladder

  9. Burns, Tam O’Shanter & Crambo-jingle

  10. Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015

Festive Fare

My Christmas poem was inspired by an article in last Saturday’s Independent Magazine by Oscar Quine entitled Festive Fare, an A to Z of what we might consume at this time of the year, including a few surprises. I used the list and some of the explanations to create an A to Z of my own. The only item I changed was XO Chicken which I have no idea how to pronounce!

I love finding poetry in other people’s writing. My favourite words of Oscar’s are ‘squidgy and luminous’ when referring to jellied fruits and my favourite line for playfully twisting the words I found is the one about roasties. The lobster line was … er … tough.

I hope you enjoy it and I’d like to think some of you might share it along with some food and drink over the festive period. I sent it to Oscar who was good enough to write back: “Thank you so much for your fantastic poem. I passed it around the team and you have put a smile on all of our faces just in time for Christmas. Personally, I’m very pleased that you felt inspired by my piece!” Thanks Oscar!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you so much for reading my blog over the past year.

Festive Fare
inspired by an article by Oscar Quine in The Independent Magazine 12.12.2015

A is for Asti, Italian Spumante
B is for Brussels sprouts – hear the kids moan
C is for cheese that we’re always too full for
D is for date with a stick and a stone

E is for eggnog – “a noggin of egg grog”
F is for fish when abstaining from meat
G is for gl
ühwein served hot, it’s delicious
H is for humbug (I don’t mean a sweet)

I is for Irish Cream, laden with calories
J is for jellied fruits, squidgy and luminous
K is for KFC, choice for the Japanese
L is for lobster, not very voluminous!

M is for mince pies brought back by crusaders
N is for nutroast for veggies, and cheap
O is for oysters, luxurious blighters
P is for pigs in their blankets asleep

Q is for Queen’s speech delivered at 3 o’clock
R is for roasties by Edward the King
S is for snowball – a drink, so don’t throw it
T is for turkey – leg, white meat or wing

U is for unwanted guests past their welcome
V is for vermouth for cocktails galore
W is for whisk(e)y – it’s Scotch or it’s Irish
X is for Xmas – what this poem’s for!

Y is for yule log with marzipan snowmen,
rocks made of nuts, and a sugary frost
Z is for sleeping when dinner is over
before you wake up and work out what it cost!

© Heather Wastie
December 2015

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Farewell, you concrete blot of brutalist architecture,
eight floors of dodgy escalators, low ceilings,
threadbare carpets and little natural daylight.

As the gatekeepers, the guardians of knowledge
leave their posts for ever, the Prince of Darkness*
believing he has finally claimed his prize,
the place where books are incinerated, not kept
has sent his death-eaters to hover and claw at the windows

when suddenly, up the Victorian spiral staircase,
circling up through the archive, up into the vortex rises …
not flames, but 40 years of human dust – up, up and away!

© Heather Wastie


Written June 29th 2013 in response to this article:

Now the demolition is actually taking place …

Carpet factory memories

During my time as Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet, I ran some writing workshops. Margaret Green came to one of these workshops and talked about her memories of life in Kidderminster when she was a young girl. I wrote a poem using what she had told me. When I asked her for permission to publish the poem on my blog, she sent me the piece below which describes vividly what it was like for her as a young girl working in a carpet factory at the height of the industry. She wrote it after visiting the Museum with a group of poets who meet in Bewdley – the Bewdley Bards. My poem for Margaret appears first.

Sitting on the step
for Margaret Green

I’m sitting on the step,
my step,
the one with the cigarette burns,
cold because the sun never reaches it

I shuffle my dress
to cover the backs of my legs
and hug my knees

This morning
I woke to the call of Brintons Bull
and pulled on yesterday’s clothes

and now I’m sitting on my step
waiting by the factory doorway
waiting for the weavers
to give me sweets

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

Visit to the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster
by Margaret E Green (McCormick)
July 2015

Nostalgia sweeps over me, as I recall my first day at work, in Brintons Carpet factory. I was so young, at fifteen, but I soon fitted in to factory life; I was no longer a schoolgirl, but I was proud that I “worked!”

Memories came to me, remembering unfamiliar places to a young girl; the noise of the weaving looms, frightening at first; later on, I could easily identify the different sounds in the weaving sheds.

I smiled, thinking of the fun I had, and the young men, creelers, that I quickly became friendly with. The jokes that they played upon me. I was put in a basket, which was used to carry bobbins up the side of the loom, but they put me in one of them, and hoisted me up the loom, then left me, laughing at a safe distance.

I remember two young creelers, holding me in a sitting position in a chair, then painting my legs with size, the latex liquid, used on the backing of carpets. Of course, in the fifties, we were wearing stockings and suspenders; when I arrived back home from work that evening, I had to peel my stockings off my legs, painful, but funny.

Brintons was opposite the fire station; when the siren sounded, we all stopped what we were doing, and watched the retained firemen, who worked at Brintons, race along the side of the river Stour, which ran through the centre of the factory. It felt very exciting to me, to see the men running; well, I was only fifteen years old.

I experienced nostalgia again, when touching the carpets, feeling the yarn and remembering some of the patterns of carpets. Reliving the days when I had progressed to the mending department, then on to be a qualified carpet picker; remembering the sore fingers, from the large needle with which we mended the missing shots in the carpets. We all worked at a fast pace; piece work meant the more carpets we repaired, the greater the pay packet. I worked hard, and earned good money by the time I was only sixteen years of age. The best job was the picking and I enjoyed the company of friends. I still had fun, even though I wasn’t in and out of the sheds any more, talking with the young men, and wandering about the factory, sometimes where I shouldn’t be wandering!

Happy days, good memories, of my first job, in Brintons carpet factory.

Temperance Meeting, Gin Lane

I was booked by the inventive Kate Cox, Clik Clik Collective Producer, to be part of an installation and walkabout in Worcester city centre at the end of November. A striking feature in Worcester Victorian Fair, the installation celebrated the darker side of Victorian Britain in an alleyway with debauched inhabitants, cast out of society due to their unsavoury behaviour! My response to the brief was to hold a mock temperance meeting with this motto:Temperance handout

I researched temperance songs and speeches and put together an interactive programme lasting about an hour and enjoyed seeing how people reacted. Several people entered the spirit of it (haha) and joined in with the singing and play acting. One bloke pretended (well I think he was pretending!) to have a go at nicking my gin bottle which I assured everyone had been filled with water: “I have poured away the vile liquid this bottle once contained and replaced it with cool, clear water!” For, as the song goes:

There’s nothing so good for the youthful blood,
Or sweet as the sparkling water.

I invited people to sign the pledge and lots of people did, though ironically the pledge got soaked on the second day when there was a heavy rain shower. I had mixed feelings about the fact that an 8 year old signed after I showed her family the authentic signature of a 7 year old:

The Pledge comments list

It was very rewarding putting this show together and I’d love to do it again, so I’m looking out for opportunities. Do contact me if you’re interested or have any suggestions for venues or organisations that may be up for it. I’m working on a version which doesn’t need piano, though it would be great to have one.

Working for Clik Clik Collective gives me the opportunity to come up with new ideas and try them out. Producer Kate Cox is pictured below. I love what she does; there’s a feeling of authenticity and humour in this work, which is always high quality, and you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer group of people.

Kate by Dave Grubb

Kate Cox in Gin Lane by Dave Grubb

Weaving Yarns book launched!

This post is all about the fact that Weaving Yarns, poems, songs and real life stories from the carpet industry, is now available to buy! Here is a link for online purchases from Black Pear Press who have been excellent to work with and have produced a first class item which I’m proud to hold in my hand, read from and generally wave in the air at people.  You can also buy copies in the Museum of Carpet shop and from me of course!

Weaving Yarns front cover  12237954_873135339460734_9065783628317440527_o(1)

(More photos, taken by Tony Judge from Black Pear Press, appear below.)

I am indebted to the following performers who helped me put together an evening’s entertainment of poetry and music, performing their own work as well as mine: Sarah Tamar, Kathy Gee, Mike Alma, Polly Robinson and Kate Wragg. Many thanks to you all for your wonderful work.

I will let the comments of others describe the evening and the book.

It was a wonderful night, good luck with book sales so pleased with my copy terrific poetry and great photos.
Elizabeth Gelhard

Congratulations on your book launch. I thought it was a great evening and the book is something to be really proud of – you’ve connected with many people on many levels and I’m sure they will treasure this.
Caroline Jester

Well done to Heather and fabulous supporting cast. A very enjoyable evening, look forward to reading the book.
Ian Passey

Thank you for a lovely walk down memory lane! Well done Heather Wastie and all involved this evening it’s been lovely.

Thank you Heather Wastie and everyone who took part tonight it was a very enjoyable evening of poems songs and memories.

Smashing night
Maggie Doyle

Really fantastic
Melanie Biggs

Thank you all for a fabulous evening.
Nicky Griffiths

Thanks Heather, that was a lovely evening.
Mike Alma

Great night!
Sarah Tamar

What a splendid evening it was–a joy to be part of it
Polly Robinson

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Wild Man Dances

On 27th October I travelled into Birmingham for a lunchtime concert of music for 2 pianos performed by Andrew West and Ronald Woodley at the Adrian Boult Hall. My reason for going was because my good friend Liz Johnson, a composer based in Malvern, invited me to hear the premiere of her piece Wild Man Dances. Liz was delighted to see me and said that of course I would be writing a poem about it, wouldn’t I? The thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but I listened intently to her exciting piece, watched the performers and took in the spectacle of two shiny black grand pianos wrapped around each other so that the pianists faced each other, each with the silent accompaniment of a page-turner ….

I love the piano. It’s a wonderful instrument to play and to listen to. My third collection of poetry, The Page-Turner’s Dilemma, has a cartoon of a grand piano on the cover with a sweating page-turner suspended mid air, hovering over the head of the pianist. The title poem is written from the point of view of the page-turner worrying about all the things that can go wrong and is based on personal experience as pianist, page-turner and concert-goer. You can see the cover and an extract from that poem on my website

But I digress. My Wild Man Dances poem does not feature page-turners. On the train on the way home, I began by jotting down words and images suggested by what I had seen and heard. The poem I ended up writing is nothing like anything I would have written without the stimulus of Liz’s brilliant piece which will be up on YouTube at some stage so I’m looking forward to hearing it again, though you really can’t beat a live performance. Liz has posted my poem on her website with a link to my site. I have also posted it below. Do go to Liz’s site and listen to some of her other pieces And I recommend writing using other artforms to inspire different ways of writing.

Wild man dances
for Liz Johnson

Cell walls sweat,
drip mercury,
muscles twitch,
throb against blood

a flash mob of corpuscles
hammers on lungs,
polished black boots
stamp on the heart

tendons and ligaments
check like chains,
nerve endings clench
a furious flamenco

strictly self-contained,
rib cage rattling,
inside each measured man
a wild one dances

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

Rugby … or Poetry?

As we near the climax of the Rugby World Cup, I have at last found time to blog about Poets in Touch, a performance I organised in the fanzone in the town of Rugby on September 29th. Having performed in Rugby a few times in the past, I was delighted to be asked to do this and the evening couldn’t have gone any better than it did.

Poets in Touch flyer

Joining me on stage were: Tony Walsh, aka Longfella, who has been called “one of the UK’s most renowned performance poets”, poet, performer, squeezebox and harmonica player, Dave Reeves, and 7 members of local group Rugby Writers. In order to inspire the local writers (and me!) to write about their town, we went on a town tour together. I had already visited the Webb Ellis Museum and also, as I have a strong interest in writing about canals, the nearby Hillmorton Locks on the Oxford Canal.

Inside the Webb Ellis Museum

Inside the Webb Ellis Museum

One of the Hillmorton flight of locks with Canalchef Cafe in distance

One of the Hillmorton flight of locks with Canalchef Cafe in distance

Canalchef Cafe with Lesley & Ian Lauder

Canalchef Cafe owners Lesley & Ian Lauder

Lesley Lauder in the Canalchef Cafe was exceedingly helpful when I quizzed her about the history of the locks. The cafe is a mini-museum! I went away and wrote a poem/song which combined historical facts about the locks with some of the stories about local canal people.

Before I was invited to stage the Poets in Touch event, I knew very little about the sport of rugby, but I did some research and wrote 3 new pieces, one about Richard Lindon who made rugby balls, one about Jonny Wilkinson and the one copied below. I watched a lot of rugby on TV, quizzed my husband, who used to teach PE at Lawrence Sheriff School, listened to rugby commentators on the radio and even discussed it in our local pub! (I can hardly believe that myself!) It occurred to me that there were similarities between a rugby match and performances which involve a collection of poets ….. so I wrote the poem below by way of introduction to the evening. I would like to credit Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (can you spot the quote?), world cup commentators and Tony Murphy in the pub who are all quoted here:

Rugby … or Poetry?

The match is about to begin

A TV camera pans across the line of players
rising and dipping as it goes

Whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

It’s all about territory,
and the secret of all victory lies
in the organisation of the non obvious

Bulldozers, bullocks
or lithe and tall,
from lean and lanky
to small and speedy

whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

Ding dong, head bang,
maul, ruck, scrummage, slam
kept on the pitch

From minnows
to headline makers

whatever size or shape you are
there’s a place on the park

and everyone listens
to the short guy with a whistle
and obeys.

© Heather Wastie
September 2015

Well the local writers really delivered the goods! Tony, Dave and I each presented our own distinctive style of writing and performance, and we had a sizeable audience too. A couple of weeks after the event, I received a poem from Andrew Cowan, another local writer, who was in the audience. His ‘edited highlights’ sum up the evening nicely!

Poets in Touch

Gargoyle like
he gushes out Jabberwock
bellow pumping
via leathern cheeks
via lolling tongue
via writhing lips
the beast is born

Simon Grenville performing Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Simon Grenville performing Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

In blue dungarees
lock handcrank, headscarf
the retro vision of
idle canal womanhood
and the spirit of
nineteen forty

Heather Wastie performing Idle Women and Judies

Heather Wastie performing Idle Women and Judies

The reverend vicar
reflects on
a youthful sin
transformed through time
to sire a worldwide game

Nick Marsh, also known as The Reverend William Webb Ellis performing "I Tripped Over Toby and ran with the ball"

Nick Marsh, alias The Reverend William Webb Ellis performing “I Tripped Over Toby and ran with the ball”

Tony the Longfella
bawdies us through
office lech party time
and long term uxorious touch
to the deep meaning
of Christmas night

Tony Walsh

Tony Walsh

Brought to stage
those instruments, that music
the costumes
best of all
each matched to their microphone

Andrew Cowan
30th September 2015

Dave Reeves performing his piece about ghostly Rugby

Dave Reeves performing his piece about ghostly Rugby