A Tribute to Heather, read at Tongues & Grooves on Sunday 31 January 2010 by Maggie Sawkins.
Unfinished Poems for a Friend
(in memory of Heather Hart 1962 – 22 December 2009)
Word is saving Heather Hart.
Heather Hart, who could not be saved:
a name on a file, saved to virtual memory,
a memory stick, a removable device.
I sit at my desk rushing her poems
in time for Monday’s funeral –
all the sun and moon of her words
ushered into the pages of a flimsy book.
Save to read, read and save:
In Memory of Heather Hart,
who would not be saved,
who sailed mid-winter into the wind
in a little voice-box-boat of her own making.
Save As: Unfinished Poems for a Friend.
I admired Heather Hart. She was one of those people it was always good to bump into. And as a person with a severe and enduring mental illness, she kept herself pretty much together. She enjoyed a glass wine and smoked roll ups – but she knew when to stop. She looked after herself, she wrote poems, (many about her cat), she attended workshops to improve her craft, and read in public. In 2006, along with other Tongues&Grooves regulars, Heather was chosen to read with John Hegley at our concert in the New Theatre Royal.
Heather was also a private person. Some time ago I read a semi-comic poem at Tongues&Grooves based on my experience of caring for someone with mental illness. Heather listened. A couple of days later she turned up at my door armed with copies of the MIND magazine – she thought I needed to understand more about the world of the mentally ill, and then she opened up about her own breakdown. She told me how, after she had finished her geology degree, her world had begun to fall apart.
I was able to share with her my side of the story: about how difficult it can be to care for someone so drastically affected by mental illness, how poetry can offer a form of release. She listened and she understood. As we said goodbye she gave me one of her wonderful smiles and a hug.
The last time I saw Heather was at Pauline Hawkesworth’s book launch last March. Afterwards we came to The Florence and sat at the table in the corner with some friends. Heather was great company and it was refreshing to hear her interrupt any pompous conversation by telling the odd joke.
In October Heather came to see Mick Perryment in his shop in Portsmouth. She told him she had moved to the Isle of Wight with her cat, Tabitha; they had settled in well and the cat enjoyed watching the world go by from the garden wall. Shortly afterwards, we learnt that Tabitha had died from old age. She had been the love of Heather’s life. We can only guess, though of course we won’t ever know, that it was Heather’s last wish to join her.
Three poems by Heather.
At a head-stroke
you sail along sound waves
throat-ravelling to some
rainbow’s end in your
We calibrate vibrations
in Hertz. At 25 – 50
the frequency of purrs:
the same tremor of mending
for muscle, bone, tendon –
for relief of pain.
Come, travel again.
In the constellation of Scopios
A great paw print
Marks the giant sky.
This is the ‘cat’s paw nebula’
Where, hot with youth, the stars
Grow. Who can know how high
Tabitha leaps in her dreams,
Or where she casts shadows
Of her soft feet?
Cross the equator
(I’m told) and it
spins in the opposite direction.
Tabitha would love
a trip south
to observe this
She will need me to