Silent practice

My nephew sent me a message this morning from a library in Malaysia. It’s a hilarious description of the noise going on around him, and he sent it as material for a poem. His message reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago, after visiting the old Birmingham Library where it was quiet apart from one person, who was oblivious to the noise he was making. Here it is:

Silent practice

The electronic piper
clicks tunes in the music library,
unaware that his melodies
are rattling around
the reference section.

No-one complains
or moves away. Instead
we secretly listen in,
not letting on
that his headphones
have a serious leak.

After a while, a pause,
a holding of breath
then a single tut
as the clatter chanter begins again,
conjuring images of beetles
in kilts and cross-laced shoes.

© Heather Wastie

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Success in Carers UK Competition

I have written several poems and songs inspired by people with dementia and those who care for them. I’m delighted to say that one of my poems has just been awarded second prize in the poetry section of the 2016 Carers UK writing competition and has been published in the anthology I belong here. Here’s what the judge, Cheryl Moskowitz, had to say about it:

‘Holding on’ by Heather Wastie is a poem I liked instantly on first reading and one in which I continued to find new meaning and power on each subsequent reading. This is a moving portrait in the voice of a grown up child who must exercise the kind of watchfulness and steely patience in looking after their mother as might be needed to keep a wayward toddler in check. She will plummet to the floor/ to pick up a fleck of fluff, / dart into the road / to pull up a weed.

And yet the mother in this poem has sentient moments in which she dislikes herself and we find ourselves in utter sympathy with the disorder she creates as well as the one who has to learn to cope with it.

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Until I Saw Your Foot again

Recently, an artist friend of mine who, like me, uses Twitter to advertise his work, complained in a tweet that the number of interactions he received was too low. There’s lots of advice available on how to get noticed on Twitter, but my first thought was this: more people notice you than interact with you.

This leads nicely into my latest story of a poem I published in 1997 which has been interacting with people across the world ever since. I only know about these interactions when I do an internet search, or when someone contacts me to ask permission to reproduce the poem. I know full well that Until I Saw Your Foot has been shared without my name attached to it, and this annoys me, though I’m delighted that people enjoy it enough to want to pass it on. (In fact I’m waiting for the day someone comes up to me and says, “Hey I know this great poem ….” gleefully brandishing my own work.) 

From time to time, an email appears out of the blue from someone asking permission to share the poem in some way. (Bravo to those people!) In December I was contacted by a wind player in Norway who wanted to reproduce my poem on a website. I said yes, that would be fine, as long as he acknowledged me as author, and please could he tell me how he found out about the poem. (I always ask.) His response led me to a Norwegian conductor by the name of Helge Haukås who I immediately emailed. Here’s his reply:

So you excist! What a big pleasure..

I was complaining to the players of the Nordic Wind Orchestra, Iceland 1999, because so many was tapping their feet during playing. I said, as a conductor I wanted to be the pulse maker in the room.. or something like that.

One of the horn-players, I only remember his first name Kjartan, from Iceland, said he knew a poem about this and mailed it to me. This must be five computers ago so I cannot find the original mail.

But I so much wanted to recite this poem spontaneously that I immediately learned it by heart and still knows it.

Next time I recite it I will happily enough be able to share with my audience who the author is!

Helge Haukås

The moral to this story is …. your creativity is working for you, even when you’re off doing something completely different, and it’s always worth putting stuff out there – you never know who might be watching, or even memorising your work!