JANIE Hextall and Barbara McNaught love washing.

Sheets and shirts, trousers and towels – they don’t mind what it is, as long as it is fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Their other mutual love is poetry, having met six years ago at a poetry reading group in the Cotswolds.

Now they have melded their twin passions into an anthology called Washing Lines, which will be launched at the Woodstock Literary Festival on September 17.

Janie, who lives near Chipping Norton, said: “We discovered that we shared this obsession with washing when I was hosting the poetry group. I had to choose a topic and I chose laundry.

“We both prefer travelling by train because from trains you can see washing lines in back gardens; we both have albums full of photographs of washing lines from all over the world.”

They had both collected poems about washing, and they started emailing each other each time they discovered a new one.

“We realised that it was a mammoth subject. These were not just housewives writing twee verse – they were wonderfully powerful poems, by men as well as women.”

Barbara, from Lechlade, had also been collecting wood engravings, which they have used to illustrate the book.

“Once you start looking, you discover washing lines everywhere. You see them in adverts and on television. Artists use them all the time, in many different ways."

“We talked about putting together an anthology because we wanted to share the poems.”

It took three years to produce the book, which includes poems from Homer to Pablo Neruda, as well as modern heavyweights Seamus Heaney and Gillian Clarke, plus folk songs Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron.

The Woodstock Bookshop, where Janie works part-time, is sponsoring the launch on Saturday, September 17, at 6pm at Woodstock Methodist Church, when Gillian Clarke, the National Poet for Wales and chair of the judges for the 2011 TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, will read from Washing Lines and from her own work as part of the Woodstock Literary Festival.

Tickets from Oxford Playhouse, the Feathers Hotel and the box office on 01865 305305. www.woodstock literaryfestival. com.