Words are not enough

In the spirit of NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) here’s a poem written and posted the same day:

Words and stuff

Words are not enough, look
expressionless bare without
an excess of exes
crowds of emoticons
colons stolen by brackets
exclamation!!
the last surviving punctuation?

we are bored with words
nuances bullied
by shiny shouty
stuff

© Heather Wastie
3rd April 2017

Nationwide exposure

You may have seen the series of Nationwide Building Society tv ads which has been running for a while now, featuring poets performing their own work. Well now it’s my turn. I was one of several poets contacted by The Poetry Takeaway and commissioned to write poems fitting a brief to do with mums and sons. I was asked to write 2 poems, one lasting 30 seconds and the other just 10 seconds and film them on my phone. Of the poems written, mine were chosen to be filmed by VCCP to be used on tv and in cinemas if all went well. So ….

I travelled down to London by train from Kidderminster then got in a taxi to Bexley Heath, a bit of a nightmare journey as it coincided with the tube strike. Then I spent a day in a vast allotment recording my poems over and over again, outside at first, then in a car when the weather turned. In the morning it got pretty chilly sitting around between takes but there was a lovely chap who draped a sleeping bag over me whenever there was a long enough break, and I was plied with hot drinks all day. The director and film crew were a real pleasure to work with and the owner of the plot we used came and had a look. She asked me for an autograph for her son, which was nice, and apt.

That was in January. Now, at the end of March, the ad is actually going live. A couple of weeks ago I went down to London again to record the longer poem for radio, and it will be in print too. I have been paid for every stage of this project, and also for a day writing poems on demand at Nationwide’s conference for all their employees, at the NEC. Some of the employees wrote poems of their own saying how much they enjoyed their work. I very much enjoyed mine too, and this collaboration between poets and a building society, brokered by The Poetry Takeaway, is doing a great job of bringing a variety of poetry into people’s homes and raising the profile of poetry and poets.

Here’s a link to my 30 second poem https://youtu.be/z7q9zmc4hjY?list=PLF9206AD222A37AA8

#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.

In the Silent Section

In January I mentioned on my blog (see Silent Practice ) that my nephew had sent me material for a poem  Actually it was more of a vivid rant! Here’s the piece I wrote using his words.

In the Silent Section
for Matt 

I am in the silent section
and I’m very very stressed;
there’s a girl walked in with headphones;
she’s an irritating pest.

She is ‘whispering’ the lyrics
thinking no-one else can hear
and she’s not the only person
making noises in my ear.

There are two guys sat behind me
clearly DO NOT understand
if they chat they are NOT silent!
Now it’s getting out of hand.

There’s a guy who’s begging sympathy
across the ‘silent’ room;
he is snorting and he’s sniffling
and I’m going to kill him soon.

There’s a bag left on the table
(‘table hoarding’ drives me mad)
with a phone in and it’s RINGING!
JUSTIN BEIBER!!! Add to that

the bloke who’s up a ladder
fiddling with a faulty light
chatting on his walkie talkie,
it strikes me he’s not that bright.

We are in the Silent Section!
As my ears begin to bleed,
I scream out in sheer frustration
It’s a library! Can’t you read???!!

© Heather Wastie

Torrey Canyon and loss

Just over 2 years ago I had a conversation with musician Sam Underwood http://www.mrunderwood.co.uk/. We talked about disasters, both public and personal, and I wrote the piece below for him, using words found in a news report about the 1967 Torrey Canyon disaster. Click here to read the report

As well as thinking about the devastation caused by this tragic event, I also had in mind the effects of losing someone close to you, more specifically what it’s like knowing you are about to lose someone close to you. I think that’s probably what inspired the title.

Not long after writing this, I did some recording for Sam who encouraged me to sing as low in my register and as slowly as possible. A very cathartic experience.

An everyday thing that changed the world
for Sam Underwood

March 1967. Torrey Canyon has run aground,
hit Pollard’s Rock in the Seven Stones reef,
a supertanker, snagged on rocks, breaking up,
bleeding its cargo of oil into the sea.

Troops patrol the coastline, standing by
as the giant oil slick heads towards beaches.
The oil could cover the whole of the coast
for a year.

Tens of thousands of tons of oil,
a slick 35 miles long and 20 miles wide,
sludge a foot deep,
the biggest problem of its kind
ever faced by any nation.

Bombs rain down on Torrey Canyon
but the stricken tanker refuses to sink
to the bottom of the sea.

Holiday makers gather on cliffs.
The towering column of flames and smoke
is seen a hundred miles away.

70 miles of Cornish beaches seriously contaminated,
tens of thousands of seabirds killed;
the heavy use of detergent more damaging to marine life
than the oil.

This is the worst environmental disaster to date.
This is the costliest shipping disaster ever.
The slick can only be dispersed by favourable weather.

© Heather Wastie

 

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/

Stereotypes

I’m nearing the end of a project with Birmingham Poet Laureate, Matt Windle (‘Poet with Punch’) working with NEETs (young people Not in Education Employment or Training) from Nova Training, Kidderminster. The project was initiated by the Museum of Carpet with funding from The Clore Duffield Foundation

Today we did some evaluation with the group which took us back to the first session, in November 2016, when the young people were asked to say what they thought about Matt and I, based on our appearance and what they knew about poets. I had fun writing the poem below which describes what they said about me. Here I am wearing the same top I had on that day:

zebra-photo

Stereotypes

I’m a poet
a know-it-all nose-in-the-air kind of person
like Shakespeare, it’s quite clear
I should have a beard and make notes
with the quill of a feather,
but wait just a minute,
I’m Heather.

You think
that you’ve seen me in Sainsbury’s,
my arm pushing produce from right to left,
or I could be the woman who shuffles
the stock in a charity shop,
but stop!

I’m a zebra,
a horse dressed in stripes
and I’m crossing the road
between two different
stereotypes.

© Heather Wastie
November 2016

And what did they say about Matt? That he ought to be bald.