WPF headliner Andrew McMillan wins the Guardian First Book Award

Book cover for Physical by Andrew McMillanWe are pleased and proud that Andrew McMillan has won the prestigious Guardian First Book Award for his collection, Physical.

Andrew will be joining us at WPF2016 where he will be headlining on Saturday 23 April with Don Paterson. Andrew and Don are both shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Prize, won last year by Jonathan Edwards, who is also appearing at WPF2016. Andrew will also be leading a creative writing workshop on the Sunday, on the theme ‘Time does not bring relief’. This will be Andrew’s third time at the festival. He says:

“Every time I’m blown away by the scope, ambition and depth of programming on offer from a relatively small place – for the weekend of the festival Wenlock feels like the centre of the world and ties in well to other events happening in the region, such as the regular poetry nights in Shrewsbury – it’s always a delight and a joy to be there.”

Festival Founder Anna Dreda says:

“I am pleased and proud that the Guardian have awarded Andrew their prestigious First Book Award, and they have got it exactly right. It’s a wonderful confluence of poetry moments: Andrew’s book is important, lyrical, muscular and accessible. It’s a joy to read.

Thanks in great part to our Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, Founding Patron of Wenlock Poetry Festival, many more people are seeking out poetry, either on the page, or at readings and festivals, than has been the case for many, many years. Acceptance and inclusion of the many sexualities we embrace freely, publicly, legally and joyfully in this country is greater now that it has ever been. Andrew’s poetry speaks to all these issues, and the Guardian has recognised and rewarded that.

Since first hearing Andrew read the incredibly moving poem ‘Urination’ at Wenlock Poetry Festival in 2013, and subsequently read from the long sequence ‘Protest of the Physical’ in a café in Shrewsbury in 2014, this moment has been written in the stars.”

Tickets for WPF2016, including those for Andrew’s headline event and workshop, will go on sale in January 2016, with a two-week priority booking period for Friends of Wenlock Poetry Festival. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates.

Sonnet of the Week: Expansion

Often in political poems I’m adopting the voices of those to whom I’m most strongly opposed. This was written before I’d read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, but that experience has reinforced my view even more strongly. It really is the climate v. capitalism.

Paul Francis.


OK, so there’s a problem. Let me guess. Our larger trawl nets, with the smaller hole, mean fish stocks take a dive. The new hotels displace the fishermen, spread toxic mess along the coastline. Plus, the deal smells of exploitation; the utilities we took to cancel debt mean we control it all. The locals haven’t got a prayer. You see? I know this stuff. I do. I care. I’m also paid to check realities – the highest profit and the lowest tax form my horizon. They’re my bottom line. This is a hiccup. Give it six months, max. Get me another planet. We’ll be fine.

Sonnet of the Week: Pattern of Failure

It’s a central theme of my book Writing for Blockheads that there isn’t a clear border between success and failure. Jack Nicklaus, one of the most successful golfers of all time, said, “This game is mainly about failure.” Dr. Johnson, early in the career which established him as one of the most versatile writers of all time, might well have said the same.

Paul Francis.


Pattern of Failure

Sonnet of the Week: Terror Alert

Many people look at Shakespeare and expect sonnets to be about love. I look at Milton and Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, and know that they can be about almost anything. So here’s some current politics, with a dash of topical history.

Paul Francis.


Ok, it’s not ideal. Only a third of voters chose to have this government. Four million crosses get just one MP and loads of votes don’t count. This Parliament is still the best we have. When we get word of plots to undermine democracy we have to act. We need these special powers to keep you safe, to find the ticking bomb. We check a suspect’s story, get the names of contacts. He invariably talks. This latest terrorist held out for hours but in the end his plot went up in flames. You needn’t know the details, where he’s from. Foreign, of course. I think his name was Fawkes.