Being a Poet Laureate

Ever since the seventeenth century, the UK has had a Poet Laureate, and until 2009 the position was always held by a man. Although women had been considered, none were chosen. In the late nineteenth century, Christina Rossetti missed out when it was decided that, rather than appoint a woman, there would be no laureate at all. In 2009, (now Dame) Carol Ann Duffy was appointed. She said at the outset that her main reason for accepting the role was because they hadn’t had a woman. (1)

Some UK cities have their own Poet Laureate – Birmingham currently has Matt Windle – and some counties do too. Gloucestershire has one (Brenda Read-Brown), Staffordshire does (Emily Rose Galvin) and Worcestershire has had one since 2011. The current Worcestershire PL, appointed in June, is Betti Moretti. There are also several Young PLs:  Worcestershire’s is Rachel Evans and Birmingham’s is Nyanda Foday. So, as you can see, women are doing pretty well on the laureate front now.

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Receiving my award from Maggie Doyle, Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus

In Worcestershire the post lasts for just one year, and I was honoured to represent the county in 2015/16. Are you a poet, wondering if you could be a laureate one day? Have you ever wondered what a poet laureate actually does? The short answer to the second question is that it depends a lot on the person. But if you would like to find out how it worked for me, then now’s your chance!

On 15th September Black Pear Press will launch my latest poetry collection, Don’t Oil The HingesA year as Worcestershire Poet Laureate. The poems fit into three main categories: those directly relating to the county, some of the many I wrote during this very special year, and some which featured in my blog during that period. The book is also a diary of edited extracts from my blog, plus other snippets to give an insight into my life as a writer and performer.

The PL role tends to be an honorary position. Throughout my year, as always, I worked hard to maximise opportunities to earn a living from being a poet and musician. Poetry book sales will never be anywhere near enough to live on, but they certainly help. So please do help me (and the publisher) by buying a copy! If you can’t make the launch, when I will read extracts from the book and welcome several guest performers (see my previous blog for exactly who and where), you can pre-order copies online from Black Pear Press.

I needed an endorsement for the back cover, so I asked The Archers actor, Sunny Ormonde (who performs one of my poems as part of her excellent one-woman show) and this is what she wrote:

“Needing a poem about local life for my show at Bewdley Festival I discovered Heather’s wonderfully funny poems on line. Immediately smitten, I contacted her and was over the moon when she kindly offered to write a special poem for the show and Dad was a fan of The Archers was born. Nothing could have been more perfect – it was a huge hit and continues to be so.

Don’t Oil The Hinges is a delightful collection of poems – a pot pourri of Worcestershire life and experiences. Joyful, funny, touching, informative and vibrant. Heather is one of the finest poets around.”
(1) Carol Ann Duffy becomes first female poet laureate – Alison Flood, The Guardian, May 2009 https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/may/01/carol-ann-duffy-poet-laureate

Don’t Oil The Hinges

My seventh poetry collection will be launched in September!

Don’t Oil The Hinges is a celebration of my year as Worcestershire Poet Laureate — a collection of poems and insights into 2015-2016. On Saturday 15th September the book will be launched at an evening of poetry and song with guests, Kate Saffin — writer and actor; Sarah Tamar — poet; Sunny Ormonde — actor, and Dave Sutherland — singer-songwriter. There may be another special guest too. The venue is Park’s Cafe, 4 Victoria Square, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire WR9 8DS. I chose it because of its hinges.

My first batch was delivered to my door yesterday by Tony Judge from Black Pear Press who had a hand in the cover design — literally. Talented singer-songwriter and artist Jess Silk produced the artwork and Tony added that final touch by writing the text with his finger, and the whole thing, I think, has a homely feel about it.

DOTH Front cover image

I hope you will be keen to open that door and find out what’s behind it. Here’s a sneak preview:

Wipe your feet

Shag pile, tufted,
high pile, long pile,
loop pile, got a pile!
Wipe your feet!

Don’t bring your muck in here,
our carpet’s cream.
Slippers all lined up,
pick your size.

No foam backing here,
grip gripper underlay,
offcuts in the loft
gathering dust.

Shag pile, tufted,
high pile, long pile,
loop pile, got a pile!
Wipe your feet!

(extract)

You can pre-order your copy from Black Pear Press, price £6.00 + p&p.

If you can, do come to the launch. It’s free to attend and we’re going to have fun!

The Muck and Shovel Brigade

Next Thursday, 15th March, the book of poems I have been working on for The Ring will be launched in Worcester. This has been a labour of love, taking me back to my first experiences of canals when I got to know Max Sinclair, whose photographs accompany my writing.

The Muck and Shovel Brigade cover

Max and his wife Jocelyn had six children, some of whom I remember. Sadly, since Max passed away a few years ago, I wasn’t able to interview him but his eldest son, Ian, helped with my research into Max’s life. I simply adore this photo of Ian with his three older sisters and the family owned boat, Vesta. Look closely at what they’re standing on.

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Amongst his father’s papers, Ian came across a poem which is not attributed to an author. It’s possible Max wrote it himself. I’ve copied it below.

THE DYING WITCH

From Droitwich down to Bevere,
the old canal sleeps silently,
for nothing but a scar remains,
as nature reclaims, hard won gains.

Foul pitch black water, cloaked in green,
lies stagnant, peaceful, and serene,
moorhens nest in the creeping reeds,
cracked bricks and mortar hang with weeds,

With here and there a fallen tree,
obstructing paths that used to be,
lock gates that crumble and decay,
iron gears and handles rust away.

So different now, for years, gone by
would echo to the bargee’s cry,
and huge black laden barges glide,
with Salwarpe weaving at their side.

Now men’s endeavours seem in vain,
to resurrect the Witch again,
For time, erosion, and decay
have stole the Witches life away.

How quickly eighty years have flown,
now phantom barges creak and groan,
and ghosts of horses labour still,
past Bill’s, and Porter’s, water mill.

Anon

Bill’s Mill refers to Mildenham Mill – see Mills and Windmills by Max Sinclair

To find out more about wych barges, you may like to read Katy Beinart’s blog. Katy is one of the other artists working on the Ring project.

I am indebted to Margaret Rowley (Previous Chair of Droitwich Canals Trust, Wychavon District Councillor and Chairman of Droitwich Waterways (Pamela May) Trust) for the time she spent going through Max’s photos with me. At our first meeting she told me that as well as the many volunteers who worked on the canal restoration, several inmates from Hewell Grand Open Prison were involved. On the whole, the scheme to involve prisoners was very successful, but there was one incident which Margaret told me about. Denis Pike told me the same story but with a slightly different ending. This poem didn’t make it into the book:

A prisoner, or so they say,
was working on the cut one day.
What was his crime? I did not ask.
He was a brickie, and his task
was helping to repair a wall.
Now be it true, or be it tall,
the story goes he took a train
and, so I’m told, flew off to Spain.

© Heather Wastie
August 2017

I will end with a couple of photos. There are so many things we take for granted. For example …

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Who made the diamond template for the number on this lock gate (Hawford Top Lock)? It could have been Alistair Main who still works as a Canal & River Trust volunteer.

And finally, I would like to thank Bill Lambert for providing this one, taken at Ladywood Lock in July 2009.

IMG_0762 Ladywood Lock July 2009

 

 

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. http://blackpear.net/authors-and-books/heather-wastie/  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.
Rachel

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

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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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: tony@blackpear.net
01299 253258

Microsoft Word - Heather Wastie and Black Pear Pressv3 .docx

Performance for Rugby World Cup, Tuesday 29th September

I have some exciting events coming up which you may be interested to hear about.

Next Tuesday evening, I’m MC at a prestigious event for the Rugby World Cup, in the Rugby Village fanzone. I’ll be doing 20 minutes of poetry with some music and introducing two other featured poets, Tony Walsh aka Longfella and Dave Reeves (who bellows), plus 6 local writers.

Poets in Touch flyer

See http://www.enjoyrugby.co.uk/enjoyrugby/events/event/30/poets_in_touch for further details.

One of my duties as The Worcestershire Poet Laureate is to put on an event for National Poetry Day, Thursday October 8th. So I’m presenting “Light and Shade” at the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster, jointly promoted by Worcestershire LitFest http://worcslitfest.co.uk/ and the Museum http://museumofcarpet.org

NPD Light & Shade event poster

On Wednesday November 11th, my book Weaving Yarns is being launched, published by Black Pear Press. This is also at the Museum of Carpet, Stour Vale Mill, Green Street, Kidderminster DY10 1AZ.

Lots to be excited about!