Exciting News from WPF

The Trustees of the Wenlock Poetry Festival are delighted to announce that a special event is to take place on Sunday 6 May 2018. The occasion will mark the successes of the Festival thus far and give a picture of plans that we have going forward. Central to the day will be a special celebration of the dedication of the Festival’s founder, Anna Dreda, to Much Wenlock as “a perfect place for poetry”.

The programme will feature the ever-popular poetry busk (at Priory Hall from 2-5pm) and an evening performance with poets Paul Henry, Jo Bell and Philip Gross (at The Edge at 7pm).

Please put this date in your diary! Full details will be available here (and elsewhere) very soon. In the interim, we’ll be sharing the great community work that WPF has been doing behind the scenes via our blog and social media channels.

Desert Island Poems

By popular request, here is the list of some of the poems chosen by our guests at the Desert Island Poems sessions hosted by Fiona Talkington this year:

Saturday 23 April 2016

10.30 Daljit Nagra
WH Auden – Spain
Carolyn Forché – The Colonel
Seamus Heaney – A sofa in the forties

12.00 Matt Windle
Buddy Walefield – Convenience Stores
Buddy Wakefield – The Information man
GK Chesterton – The Donkey

14.00 Jonathan Edwards
Dylan Thomas – Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night
Also mentioned:
Charles Simic – Popular Mechanics
Deryn Rees-Jones – Lovesong to Captain James T. Kirk
Alan Gillis – Down through Dark and Emptying Streets

16.00 Jenny Swann
Keats – Ode on a Grecian Urn
Wendy Cope – Another Unfortunate Choice
Shakespeare – Sonnet 12 (‘When I do count the clock….’)
Adrienne Rich – Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

Sunday 24 April 2016

10.30 Open mic session
Audience choice included:
Housman – A Shropshire Lad
TS Eliot – Four Quartets
Hans Børli – Writing Poetry

12.00 Pauline Prior-Pitt
Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken
Eaven Boland – Night Feed

14.00 Paul Henry
WS Graham – Loch Thom
Louis MacNeice – Meeting Point

15.00 Andrew Fusek-Peters
Gerard Manley Hopkins – The Windhover
Adrian Henri – Song for a beautiful girl petrol pump attendant

Sonnet of the Week: Petrarch Sonnet

At the end, I go back to the beginning. Petrarch is where our sonnet story starts, and I’ve always been fascinated by the technical development, the different ways in which over time numerous poets have shaped their sonnets. I’m looking forward to discussing that at Saturday morning’s workshop.

Paul Francis



Sonnet of the Week: Coming Home

A key poem for me, because it was the first time I got national recognition for a sonnet. I’d won two local competitions, but in 2000 this poem came first in the OUSS The Sonnet at the Millennium competition, out of more than eight hundred entries. The poem was stimulated by a Don McCullin photograph of a shell-shocked soldier.

Paul Francis


Sonnet of the Week: Surveillance

In 2010 Guernsey ran a competition for “poems on the buses.” This poem, designed to be displayed and read on a bus, came third. It also started my intimate poetic relationship with  Guernsey, where I’ve been placed third, second and second in three consecutive competitions (each with different judges).

Paul Francis.


Surveillance Don’t turn around. The woman in the seat behind is known to keep eccentric pets – watch out for iguanas . Don’t repeat this, but her husband’s run up massive debts through gambling. No, I told you not to stare. Natural to feel curiosity about your fellow passengers, but there is where it ends. Top level secrecy must be maintained. The girl who’s just got on might be a terrorist, but we can’t say. Pretend you’re reading till the threat has gone. You wonder how we know all this is true. Don’t worry. That bus going the other way has got a poem on it. About you.


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.