To Celebrate IWD I asked you to send your poetry recommendations, inspirations and influences to us. You can read that post here.
Whilst I was compiling your insights a sudden thought struck me and I contacted Maggie Doyle – WPL 2013/14 & Poet Laureate Emeritus, Heather Wastie – WPL 2015/16 and Suz Winspear WPL 2016/17 to ask for an exclusive contribution for IWD.
I am the 7th WPL and the 4th woman to take on the role. I was delighted that the former WPLs wanted to be involved and so here, I present:
Gifts us some of her influential women and a poem.
Influential women who got you into writing or supported this path for you.
I didn’t enjoy poetry at school and for most of my adult life it was something I never thought about. However, I have always loved language and the magic words provide. Their softness, harshness, cheerfulness and enthusiasm, mingled with their honesty and, on occasions, sadness produces emotions which I do think about.
I was very fortunate to meet (in my early days of poetry writing), the lovely Charlie Jordan. Best known as a BBC DJ for more years than she cares to remember, Charlie was so supportive in helping me find self-belief in my writing. She, herself, is an extremely accomplished writer and poet, and has an elegance when she performs her work. Beautifully crafted and sensitively written her work is a joy. We formed an easy friendship which later also included two very talented writer/poets Laura Yates and Lorna Meehan. Extending her support to the three of us and seeing a uniqueness in each of us, Charlie created the Decadent Poetry Divas. We don’t perform as much as we would like to –one of our last “outings” was at the Ledbury Festival 2013! – but our friendship through writing has bolstered each of us when the need arises. We almost dovetail together now and our writing gets more enjoyable and stronger each time we meet. They may not be the most influential women on the planet but to me they are fellow poets and writers, friends and are truly inspirational.
I come from saints’ names; Margaret-Mary, Bernadette
A brother a decade away
Second hand prams; wooden toys
Tin cans and string linked to the boy next door
Fingers on lips, hands on heads Unlocked doors
I come from nuns teaching Latin; liberty bodices and hockey sticks
Vocational encounters with boys from the local Grammar
Mary Quant and scooters, parties in the day
Listen with Mother, Jack Jackson and Round the Horn
I come from safe streets where children no longer play
Corner shops where chip and pin were unknown
Houses full of laughter now filled with faceless people
Free love, the pill, the consequences
I come from security to insecurity
© Maggie Doyle
Maggie has been writing poetry for seventeen years and is the Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus, and was Poet in Residence at Avoncroft Museum. She loves rhyme and her poems are mostly funny and light-hearted. However, poignancy and social issues sometimes creep in.
She is one third of the Decadent Poetry Divas, three ladies who say how they see the world (from their various decades) through female eyes. Although not having her own collection, her work has been featured in anthologies.
She runs a monthly spoken word event, Licensed to Rhyme, and has a monthly slot on BBC local radio. She has had a commission from the National Trust, but generally gets involved at a more local level with the community at large, through workshops and performance poetry.
Gifts us an audio poem inspired by a neonatal nurse. Written 2011, inspired by Jenny Cadwallader-Hunt
© John Pugh
Poet, singer/songwriter, keyboard/accordion player and facilitator. Heather is well known for her interpretations of oral history. In 2013 she was Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet, turning people’s memories into poems, monologues and songs which she now performs. This work was published in November 2015 by Black Pear Press under the title Weaving Yarns. In 2017 she was commissioned by Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust to compose a children’s song cycle, Loom in the Loft, to celebrate the restoration of the Weavers’ Cottages in Kidderminster.
She has strong links with the history of canals. In summer 2016 she began touring a double bill of theatre, poetry and song, Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways, with writer and actor Kate Saffin (Alarum Theatre). In 2017 the company was awarded Arts Council funding to support a 15 week 50 show tour between April and August.
In 2017 she was commissioned to write and perform poems for the popular Nationwide Building Society ad campaign, Voices Nationwide. She is currently working on a commission for The Ring project in Droitwich, Worcestershire.
Gifts us brand new poems.
In last night’s storm we lost our apple tree.
It churned the earth with broken roots
and crushed the roses as it fell.
We never knew the name of the variety –
early, sweet, picked and crunched-on fresh,
cores discarded in the hedge,
a casual and accepted harvest,
a sturdy corner of our garden lives.
Only now we think we should have found a book,
looked it up, researched the apple type,
anchored it with a name.
We should have shown it the respect
that it deserved.
No harvests to be gathered in next year,
just dying wood, heavy on the soil –
too late to speak appreciation now.
© Suz Winspear
You reach a foreign airport late at night
a white, clean desolate place
of chrome and shiny floors,
no people to be seen.
Disconcerted by the signs
almost understandable in another tongue,
you collect the only suitcase on the carousel.
Then, trusting and passive,
you let a drive you don’t know take you
somewhere, in a taxi,
along dark roads beyond the airport’s glow,
nothing discernible, just night.
Once or twice some headlights pass
illuminating scoops of tarmac,
The landscape that you pass is unrevealed.
You’re left, unsettled, by the unfamiliar billboards
among shuttered houses looking oddly-shaped,
everything a little out-of-place,
recognisable, but still
you know how far from home you really are.
© Suz Winspear
Just a Place
Just a place we passed through
on the way to somewhere else.
I saw the village sign,
a pretty name, I thought –
Houses, broken windows,
empty field with ungrazed grass
and hedges overgrown,
a barn without a roof.
A man stood hunched in heavy clothes,
standing at a rusted gate,
waiting – I thought he must be waiting.
He turned away. I did not see his face.
The car drove on; I looked back twice.
The first time, he was standing there.
The second, he was gone.
© Suz Winspear
© Adrian Butt
Suz Winspear was appointed as the Poet in Residence at the Museum of Royal Worcester in 2016 the same year she became Worcestershire Poet Laureate.
Suz writes and performs poetry and gothic tales. She lives in a disused church and her day job is in a Victorian museum. Her first poetry collection, I do not need a New Obsession, was published in 2013.
Her latest collection ‘The Awkward People’ is published by Black Pear Press and is available here.
Poetry from Suz Winspear, Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2016-17—poems with many different moods and subjects, strange, dark, disquieting, some of it is humorous.
From Worcester’s late-night population to a 1940s hair-salon, by way of squid, eccentric coach-travellers, folk-horror, peculiar pubs, steampunk, dysfunctional families, eyeballs, certain malign examples of urban vegetation, and a transgender Velociraptor. . .
© Black Pear Press
And as the current Worcestershire Poet Laureate, here is my offering for IWD.
My poem inspired by Maya Angelou following her death in 2014. Read at a tribute evening organised by Shakti Women, Birmingham August 2014.