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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
confrontations
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

She
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
plus
best of all
poets
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

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