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

They’re fiddling with the clocks again

I’ll keep posting and sharing this poem till they stop!

Mean time

It is the custom of this land
to fiddle with the hour hand,
to move it back, which makes us curse,
to move it forth, and that’s much worse!

It puts us at sixes and sevenses
and unsettles all our elevenses.

I’ve got a message for the Queen:
Such indecisiveness is mean,
we like our ticks, we love our tocks,
we want protection for our clocks!

You’d hear lots of clapping and cheering,
if Time Lords would stop interfering!

© Heather Wastie

Weaving Yarns book launch, Wednesday 11th November

Weaving Yarns is a unique infectious cocktail of assorted snippets and stories about the carpet industry and the folk who helped to make Kidderminster the carpet town.”
(Melvyn Thompson, Historian to the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster).

Black Pear Press is delighted to announce the launch of Weaving Yarns, a new collection of poetry, songs and stories from Worcestershire Poet Laureate Heather Wastie (Published by Black Pear Press, ISBN: 978-1-910322-18-5). Heather was Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet in 2013 and has interviewed many retired carpet factory employees whose stories are told in this book.

The collection traces the impact of the carpet trade on Kidderminster and its people:

In the carpet capital of the world,
Brian is studying the Stour,
today’s mix of colours
from a multitude of dyes.

(From ‘Tell-tale Colours’)

And draws parallels with the carpet industry in other parts of the world:

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

(From ‘Knotting Frames’)

Enjoy readings and music from Heather and friends, as she celebrates the publication of her book inspired by the rich history of Kidderminster’s carpet industry.

You are invited to join us at the Museum of Carpet, Stour Vale Mill, Green St, Kidderminster DY10 1AZ, 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start on Wednesday 11th November. The event is free to enter and should finish around 9pm.

“What could be better than this collection of poems for the expression of the emotions of townspeople who have witnessed the decay of their staple industry?”  (Nigel Gilbert, Writer and Historian)

The photographs and illustrations in Weaving Yarns are drawn from the extensive archive at the Museum of Carpet, and used with the generous permission of the Museum.

Further information is available from Black Pear Press:
01299 253258

Microsoft Word - Heather Wastie and Black Pear Pressv3 .docx

Chloe Clarke’s commissioned poem + NPD photos

The Worcestershire Young Poet Laureate, Chloe Clarke was commissioned by the Museum of Carpet to write a poem inspired by the museum. She performed it there on National Poetry Day at my Light and Shade event. I think it’s a lovely poem and the Museum Manager is really pleased with it. The piece will soon be shared on the Museum blog

Carpet People

They worked tirelessly
Every step on the pedal
Every pull every loosen and wind
Every percent of accuracy
Parts of themselves falling between the threads
Forming rosebuds of their work
circles of colour to be
secured, enclosed
They spread themselves over metres of house and home
Created masterpieces in 4 walls
To be laid down, walked on, ripped up and put away
When another shade, pattern or feel came into fashion
Sat, waiting, wanting to be chopped into a new kind of carpet, a rug, a doormat
To be in a new place
Or to have their handiwork glanced at for a final time
To you or me
carpet may seem something we never think about… until we’re asked to write a poem about it.
It’s something that we see constantly without a second thought.

But to those people
It was their livelihood
And when they were gone
When their names were lost in time
Faded, like the patterns they dyed
The colours that irritated their skin
it became a fossil of themselves
The only physical proof that they, they were here
That they were

And what a legacy they left
the sound of the machines are still beating in their blood lines
They kept soldiers warm after years of fighting their own battles in the cold
Fingerprints of their existence
Inked themselves over the whole town, country,
Even world
A museum of memories to encapsulate their years
A shrine to their blood sweat and tears.

I wonder if I will ever make anything someone will want to cover their house with
Whether I’ll make anything worth a spot in a gallery, a museum
Or a book worth awards
To be studied in future generations
Whether my name will fade, disappear
Or like a star
Still seen hundreds of years after I have gone
Maybe we will leave behind a home,
memories in our loved ones minds
Words that we said
Maybe we will always be just here (gesture to heart)
Maybe we will leave a possession passed from generation to generation
Like your great grandfathers pocket watch or your grandmothers wedding ring
Maybe we will leave a poem or some carpet, a mixtape or a family video
Things that we’ve spent hours perfecting.

What will be in someone’s garage, living room, back garden, pocket or heart,
As the only proof that we existed?

© Chloe Clarke
Commissioned by Museum of Carpet, Kidderminster, October 2015

Cutting from Slap Magazine

Cutting from Slap Magazine

A few of the other performers are represented in the photos below. To find out more about the event see my recent blog post

Cutting from Kidderminster Express & Star

Cutting from Kidderminster Express & Star


Brian Comber, competition finalist


Charley Barnes, shortlist public vote Winner


Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis

Suz Winspear and Nina Lewis


Being a Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day

Worcestershire LitFest & Fringe have just posted my latest blog which focuses on National Poetry Day. You can read it here

I would like to thanks St Barnabas School, Drakes Broughton for inviting me to their Poetry Challenge Day, Worcs LitFest for running the poetry competition, the Museum of Carpet for hosting the evening event and everyone who performed at it. One of the performers was Nina Lewis who has blogged about it here

As promised, here is the poem I wrote on National Poetry Day in response to a request from St Barnabas School:

Being a poet

I look
I might see a giant silver horse’s head in a field!
I look closely
I might see an ant carrying a peanut

I listen
I might hear some unusual words, like crambo-jingle
I listen hard
I might hear a wonderful story
I listen hard
because it’s not hard to listen

I love
I love to look
I love to listen
I love to listen to people
using words
telling stories

I love to tell stories
some real, some made up
I love to laugh
I love funny words
I love to rhyme
like when I wrote about a parrot and a carrot
though poems don’t have to rhyme

To be a poet
all you need is to
look, listen and love

oh, and write it down
or say it out loud:
what you see
what you hear
and what you love
so others can
see it, hear it and love it too.

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

written for a visit to St Barnabas School, Drakes Broughton on National Poetry Day

Happy National Poetry Day

This year’s NPD theme is Light. As well as presenting Light and Shade at the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster tonight, I’ll also be visiting St Barnabas School, Drakes Broughton for their Poetry Challenge Day. This poem is for them and for you.

The day the sun fell 

One day the sun
fell from the sky
and shattered on the ice
of my pond.

I ran to pick up
the pieces but
they were far too hot to hold
and began to burn holes in my lawn.

The shards glowed.
What should I do?
The whole world
was depending on me.

Sudden movement,
a blackbird ran from the darkness,
grabbed the fragments in his beak
and flung them

up, way up
one by one
until the sun
was whole again.

The sun winked
at the blackbird.
The blackbird winked
at me.

I squinted into
the beautiful light
and breathed a sigh
of relief.

© Heather Wastie 

Gallery 202 Featured Artist

I’m very pleased to be the Gallery 202 Featured Artist for October. Their invitation gave me the chance to create an overview of my work through 10 specific pieces and I’m delighted with how it looks!featuredartist/c1rbz

One of the pieces up there is Halloween Nightmare which I wrote and recorded years ago. It gets several airings at this time every year and people often tell me how much they enjoy hearing it again. On Monday evening 8.00-10.00 Radio Wildfire will be streaming a Halloween special and since my name is on the playlist, I’m assuming my exaggerated tale of doorstep horrors will be included there too  There is a poem of mine, Iron Men, currently playing in the Radio Wildfire Loop as part of a surprising mix of words and music.

Finally here’s a plug for my event in Kidderminster next week. One of the tasks undertaken by The Worcestershire Poet Laureate is to put on an event on National Poetry Day so, in collaboration with Worcestershire LitFest and the Museum of Carpet, I will be presenting Light and Shade, Thursday 8th October, featuring a number of talented Worcestershire poets.

NPD Light & Shade event poster