#BostinNews Al Barz

When I commissioned Al Barz for the Creative Black Country #BostinNews project I knew he’d come up with something special. Given the theme of Water & writing about Walsall, Al created a poem & video which tells a story created from local history which is very relevant to today. I love his armchair storytelling! There’s a link to the poem at the bottom of this post. Here’s what Al said about the commission:

For Spoke, my monthly poetry entertainment event at Brownhills Community Centre, Martin Hughes has been creating A5 flyers for me and delivering them to my house with a little cartoon of himself on a Post-It. “I’d love to see what more he can do”, I thought.

Sandfields is a historically important part of the Black Country heritage that only came about because of a pandemic. I signed up for its newsletter from David Moore of Lichfield Waterworks Trust a few years ago. They have saved it from being lost forever and I’ve been amazed at the huge amount of restoration work carried out by their team of dedicated volunteers.

When Heather Wastie approached me to be involved in Bostin’ News, I could see an exciting way of bringing possibilities together. A poem from me, cartoons from Martin, and all based on the tremendous achievement of Walsall’s life-saving water supply at Sandfields.

During coronavirus isolation we were unable to have our regular event, so I created SpokeScreen, a poetry video composed of clips from eight local poets in lockdown and a book launch by a Black Country author. The skills developed for that have helped enormously towards editing together “Rising From A Pandemic”, a video combining poetry, cartoons, archive photographs and heritage. Bostin’ News indeed!

Cartoon by Martin Hughes

Follow the link for poem, video and photographs: Rising From A Pandemic – Written & read by Al Barz (Bright Fork Poetry Media)

#BostinNews Alex Vann

Not long after lockdown started at the end of March I applied to become a content editor for a Creative Black Country project called Bostin News. Together with three other editors, alongside producing our own pieces of work, we were also able to commission other creatives from across the Black Country. This blog is the first of several in which I will share links to the work produced.

I commissioned three other artists working in different disciplines, and created two pieces myself. We each responded to our chosen theme of ‘Water’, thinking also of Black Country locations.

Alex Vann is a singer/songwriter and visual artist based in Wolverhampton. Real Arts Workshops run a weekly arts session with residents of Mossley estate, near Bloxwich, Walsall (online during Covid). Alex worked with the group to write a poem about a visit to Sneyd Reservoir, set it to music and created a video incorporating art by the group. To find out more about how this beautiful song was created and to watch the video, click HERE.

As an unexpected bonus, the group entered their poem ‘The Bliss of Solitude – Ode To Sneyd’ into the Mossley residents’ newsletter poetry competition. They were over the moon to win a £20 Amazon voucher for their entry. The voucher has been used to purchase art materials for the group so they can get busy creating more artwork!

Thoughts for the time it takes to wait

Thoughts for the time it takes to wait

Time is a bountiful woman,
giving you space in great quantities.

Avoid snatching.
No need to steal – it’s all yours.
Only take as much as you can carry in one go.

Her gifts have no shape until you take them
and make them your own.

What she offers is not limitless
but there is always enough
for your needs and desires.

Step into the space she holds and      be.

She has given you a home
which is as beautiful
as you choose
to make it.

© Heather Wastie
May 2005

Water droplets in brown

Scrubbing the step

My mother remarked to me the other day that she used to wash down the pavement outside our terraced house in the Black Country. This will have been in the 1950s / early 60s. She told me that one of the neighbours sneered at her and asked why she was doing it. Our front room (which we rarely used of course) looked out onto the pavement and, in those days, women prided themselves in having a well-scrubbed step and a clean pavement outside their houses.

The conversation reminded me of a found poem I wrote in April 2011 after visiting the Wellcome Collection ‘Dirt’ exhibition. Now that, thankfully, climate change, and looking after our beautiful planet, are being taken more seriously, it also seemed a good time to share that poem.

Scrubbing the step – cleanliness or godliness

We are generators of dirt
even to our ultimate disintegration.
Our waste is evidence of our
advance on earth.
We diligently clean our homes
and turn our backs
on the gigantic
dust heaps, letting the
scavengers risk disease.
Gravity pulls us into dirt.
You and I are earth.

© Heather Wastie

You and I are earth

Cornered

You and a friend get onto a train. There’s a woman sitting in a window seat. The two seats opposite her and the one next to her are all free. Which two seats would you and your friend occupy?

Cornered

Two UKIP-ers on a train
Boring bullets through my brain
Slippery smiles and slimy voices
Talk of politics and choices
Breathe across me, steal my air
No consideration there
At Farage I’ve had enough
Want to tell them where to get off

One says he backed into a wall
Hasn’t repaired his car at all
Carriage empties, yet they smother
We’ve been deserted’ says the other
One beside me, one ahead
Stifled by their stinking spread
Squeezing past them. ‘Getting off?’
Yes. I’m leaving. End. Full stop.

© Heather Wastie
September 2018

Black coffee and onions

My husband is going to a funeral today. Ron was a dearly loved teacher who I only met a couple of times, but he made an instant impression on me and I wrote a poem about him. Or at least I started it. It’s a snapshot of a brief visit to Ron’s house when I warmed to him straight away as he joked about making black coffee. But that poem was never finished. Looking at it again reminded me of a piece I did complete, after visiting another lovely elderly man called Geoff. I only popped in to leave something for his wife but the encounter stayed with me.

Onions
for Geoff

As I arrived he apologised
that the house smelled of onions.

He vanished then reappeared,
proudly holding a freezer bag
packed with his morning’s work.

The wife can’t do it for crying, he said,
So I chop them up while she’s away.

© Heather Wastie
June 2010

Roll Up! Roll Up! Roll Down! Roll Down!

Last Friday was the final show of #TheIdleWomen Summer tour — another water-borne adventure! To see some highlights, do visit the Alarum Theatre Facebook page.

“Roll Up! Roll Up! Roll Down! Roll Down!” *
During the tour Kate Saffin and I were interviewed by Sony-award winning David Bramwell for Waterfront, a monthly podcast from the Canal & River Trust, dedicated to the stories, people and heritage around England and Wales’ historic waterways. Here’s the link to listen. It lasts 16 minutes and includes one of my poems and an extract from one of my songs.

* Our potential audience were above us on a slight hill.

Living Waterways Awards
We’re absolutely delighted that the Alarum Theatre 2017 tour The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey is one of the finalists in the Living Waterways Awards. The winners are announced on 20th September. Fingers crossed!

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A photo I took when we were on the beautiful Chesterfield Canal

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Kate took this one at the bottom of the spectacular Bingley Five Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

 

A poem for World Poetry Day

Navvies in Salwarpe Cutting

Fifty years of debris, wet mud, dead trees and silt,
a mine of old bottles, lobbed from the bridge.

Small in the world of cranes,
Priestman Cub and Priestman Wolf will be halted
for Bromsgrove Fitches, too plain,
the hope of a rare Worcester Spreckley intact.

According to Dave, there are three kinds of silt:
Slurp, which goes a long long way;
Wobble, less wet; and Crumble. What you need
is a little bit of slurp and the right amount of wobble
for the silt to roll like lava out of the skip and down the bank,
below the makeshift railway, narrow gauge tracks,
the pop pop of diesel loco.

Mommy Mommy, there are men in our dustbin!
The navvies’ cartoon, a carnival slogan.

Look at them now in the channel
and there where the drag lines and buckets can’t go,
under the bridge hole, standing in mud that’s five feet deep,
digging it out by hand.

© Heather Wastie

From The Muck and Shovel Brigade, published March 2018, available to view at selected venues and online here https://theringart.org.uk/projects/droitwich-canal-restoration/

On Wednesday 4th April at 2pm I will be performing the whole collection in a free event at The Railway Inn, Kidderminster Road, Droitwich. Click here for details.

 

 

 

My plate

Here’s a poem I wrote in 1993. I was reminded of it by Helen who, like me, is exceedingly busy. Since my mother reads my blog (Hi Mom!), I will explain that the child is an amalgam of me and a boy called Tom whose dad will probably also read this ….

My plate  

Scene of many a tortuous battle.
Odds against me from the start.
The adversary –
A battery of broad beans.

Negotiations abandoned.
Under attack from the air.

Enemy circling to reload.
Bring on the bread sauce.
Smother the opposition.

*****************

Nothing’s really changed.
Still got a lot on my plate.
Still trying to hide my broad beans
Under the bread sauce.

Heather Wastie

from The Page-Turner’s Dilemma, available from Lapal Publications

(It’s much cheaper to buy direct from me – bring your copy to one of my gigs and I’ll refund the difference.)