Brexit means Brexit, a poem

Have you heard of the Emergency Poet? Deborah Alma is ‘the world’s first and only mobile poetic first aid service. A mix of the serious, the therapeutic and the theatrical, the Emergency Poet offers consultations inside her ambulance and prescribes poems as cures.’

I’ve supplied her with a few poems for her prescriptions in the past, having responded to call-outs for themed pieces. Her latest request was for Brexit or NHS poems for an event this coming weekend in Shrewsbury. Coincidentally, I wrote a Brexit poem only last week, incensed by the plough-on-regardless attitude of our PM, so I sent it off immediately. She said it was perfect – I mean the EP, of course, not the PM. There would be absolutely no point sending it to the latter.

So if you’re at the NHS / Healthcare Day in Shrewsbury on Saturday, do look out for the Emergency Poet and if you receive a copy of my poem, let me know.

And I give my permission for public chanting, wherever you are.

Brexit means Brexit

Red white and blue Brexit
Stamp hiss and boo Brexit
Hole in my shoe Brexit
Big pile of poo Brexit
Wading in glue Brexit
No getting through Brexit
We’re black and blue Brexit
Back of the queue Brexit
Haven’t a clue Brexit
Sinking canoe Brexit
Flush down the loo Brexit
So sick of you Brexit
Brexit means Brexit
A tightening screw

Heather Wastie
17.11.18

Suitcase Stories: Grandma’s little box

I started work on a new project yesterday. Organised by Arts Uplift under the title Suitcase Stories, it’s an 18 month reminiscence and music project for people living with dementia and their carers in the Wyre Forest, Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wychavon districts running from November 2018 to March 2020.

Yesterday we held a taster session in Redditch, singing familiar songs and looking at objects from a suitcase containing all sorts of things to trigger memories as a starting point for conversation and songwriting. Here are some lines I wrote using what one of the participants told me:

Grandma’s little slipper-shaped box

I’d never seen her take it before,
so it came as quite a shock
the day I saw my grandma
open up her little box,

pinch out the yellow powder
and push it up her nose
then try to hide her fingers
behind the dominoes.

Her handkerchiefs were horrible –
stained by that yellow stuff
but the little box was beautiful,
filled with grandma’s snuff.

© Heather Wastie

Here is a link to more information about the project. There are places available, should you know of anyone who may be interested, and there’s a mentoring opportunity for music students too.

Tonight I’ll be performing in Malvern with four other Worcestershire Poets Laureate. Happy National Poetry Day! 

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.

IMG_1631

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!

Final push for The Idle Women

If you would like to see the show I have been touring with Kate Saffin since the end of April, there are just 3 more opportunities – two at The Rising Sun, Berkhamsted (Monday & Tuesday) and one at The Pirate Castle, Camden (Saturday) – the last time we will perform the show in London. This will also be the last chance to see historic narrow boat Tench which has been with us all the way. After the tour, owner Alex will whisk her away and get back to her own solo adventures!

We have had very appreciative audiences, rave reviews and have been featured in national press so we’re delighted, if a trifle tired as we have done quite a few lock miles over the past 15 weeks too! Do come and support us at one of our final shows if you can.

Here’s one of my ‘found’ poems from the show which is also in the book we have produced to accompany the tour:

A horse on the path

Early in the morning
a horse on the path

the ring of shoes on cobblestones
the swish of a bow, a shout

the whip of a line, the soft flap
as it drops on the cabin top

another whip, another shout
lock gate thud, rattle of paddle

through cabin doors nudged ajar
we stir to grey outlines
on a slack-black star-stippled sky

© Heather Wastie

using words found in The Amateur Boatwomen Canal Boating 1941-1945 by Eily Gayford

Saturday’s performance will be our 50th since we launched the tour in April and the journey has been incredible. See www.alarumtheatre.co.uk and our Facebook page for more.

Once the tour is over I will be taking a well earned break!

#TheIdleWomen Recreating the Journey

My collaboration with writer, Kate Saffin, has gone from strength to strength since we first met, just a year ago! Our show Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways is about to embark on a major Arts Council funded tour, travelling by canal, recreating the journey worked by women trainees during WW2.

IWWW 2017 e-flyer

To read an article about us in the quirkily named online magazine, The Floater, click HERE or to go to the Alarum Theatre website click HERE.

Loom in the loft (finally)

Yesterday was the culmination of a wonderful collaboration between many different people to restore and celebrate the Weavers’ Cottages in Kidderminster and turn them into homes again. I was commissioned by Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust to write a song cycle about the cottages. A few months back, I met the Site Manager & others working on site during an inspiring tour of the cottages when the buildings were taking shape. I subsequently watched 360-degree films of the interior made by James McDonald who also inspired me. Site Manager Andy told me yesterday that the poem I wrote and recorded in response to all this had had quite an effect on him. He came up to me after one of two performances of the songs (plus evocative poems and stories written by people who came to my writing workshop) and said how much he had enjoyed them. I will treasure the special connections like this which I have made through this project. It was also very moving to see Roger at the loom in the loft – the final time we would ever see a hand loom being used there. 

The title of this post refers to the first line of the chorus of one of the songs:

Loom in the loft / Silk on the loom / Wool in the shuttle / Give the shuttle room

Performing with me were Sue Pope (Project Organiser) on ukulele and poets Margaret E Green and Sharon Cartwright. 

For further details about the cottages, which will be for sale very shortly, see http://www.weaverscottages.info/