Sonnet of the Week: Aspects of Earth

One of the pleasures of living in Much Wenlock is that there are many footpaths which lead straight out of the town. You can keep walking the same paths regularly without any sense of boredom, because the changing seasons continually change the appearance of each path.

Paul Francis.

It’s solid ground. The stuff beneath our feet we take for granted, packed in winter’s hold, its surface unaffected by the beat of boots that head for home: hard, barren, cold,  a ghostly pallor. That’s not death, but sleep. Time to get up. Spring light, a shower, drive those tiny stems, like nails; they clutch and creep skywards, between the clods. The land’s alive. Gold glowing corn, a lurid slash of rape invade the shaded subtleties of green as sun and rain fashion the soil’s shape from mud to powder, rock to plasticine. Shifting position, keen to re-arrange her make-up, Mother smiles. She likes a change.




Sonnet of the Week: Tracking Sylvia Plath

I wrote this after reading Sylvia Plath’s journals, which is a long, tough but fascinating experience. I was also trying to vary how I used the sonnet form, using rhythms which concealed the underlying pattern of the iambic line (that ti-tum ti-tum beat).

Paul Francis.

I’ve got to know her well, I think. At first it was the writer’s passion that we shared, this patient rite of waiting, fearing the worst,  hugging the arrogance of what we’d dared.  I learned her language. Jealousy. Desire  like naked cables in the underground  invited trespass. Bare, potential fire  in ordered lines, explosions neatly bound.  I tracked her, in her passionate pursuit  of taunt and challenge; felt the disbelief  of first betrayal, watched love disappear.  Follow the evidence, retrace the route,  till, in the deep dank tunnel of her grief  she faces me: What are you doing here?




A school visit with Sparky Mark

In the run up to the Festival, our Children and Young People’s Team has been busy taking some poetry magic into local schools. One of their recent events was held at Holy Trinity School in Priorslee, in conjunction with Redhill Primary School, where sixty children were entertained by poet Mark Niel, aka Sparky Mark.

Sonnet of the Week: Rite of Passage

This comes from my latest booklet of poems, Us and Them: the war in error. Terrorist jihadis have carried out appalling atrocities, but that means we have to be clear in our thinking about how we respond. How and why teenagers become radicalised is not simple.

Paul Francis.

Press conference. Popping flashbulbs, fierce and bright. Her doll, pajamas. Family on the rack. “Just come back, baby, and we’ll make it right.” She’s not their baby, and she won’t be back. There’s no chance she’ll be fighting for the cause;  sisters in arms are not what soldiers need. They want a squaw to carry out the chores – food, washing, sex. Whether we warn or plead it makes no odds. She’s going anyway. Exotic there trumps mundane, blinkered here; swap childish, trivial then for urgent now. She might regret it. Not for us to say. Or, she might not. We watch her disappear bewildered by her transformation. How?




Sonnet of the Week: Passenger

This is a poem about a person on a bus, written for a competition which wanted poems to go inside a bus. It draws on a letter from Monica Jones to Philip Larkin, cunningly selected because Andrew Motion (Larkin’s biographer) was judging the competition. It came nowhere.

Paul Francis.

She’s sitting at the back. Inside her head she runs that clip, him stooping as they kissed.  She’s staring out at autumn drifting past, bright sunlight on the leaves, a glorious show of possibility which will not last.   He’d shrugged. I always said I was no good (so that’s OK, because I got in first).  Bad, that he always had to analyse;  worse, that he had affairs because he could but then the schoolboy lying  –  that’s the worst. He doesn’t deserve her. She would tell him so but can’t. When they’re together tears will rise  to flood her face  and leave the words unsaid. This is her stop. One thing she hasn’t missed.




Sonnet of the Week: Italian Chapel

I wrote this on holiday in the Orkneys. The chapel is amazing, a triumph of talent and will in extremely unpromising circumstances – prisoners of war, thousands of miles from home, producing wonderful work from the most basic materials.

Paul Francis.


Domenico, a prisoner of war, confronts the grey, grows flowers in the yard. Cement around barbed wire, shining white, matches the bright St. George inside his head. They need a chapel. Two huts, end to end and piles of priceless scrap. He’s not alone; he builds this team, whose craftsmen make and mend through chancel, rood-screen, nave. Their cunning art makes plasterboard a dado, carved in stone. He copies the Madonna from a card he’s carried through the war – must get it right. When all his friends go back in ‘44 he stays. The job’s not done. Later, he said Lamb Holm retained a portion of his heart.