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.

Sonnet of the Week: The Witch’s Defence

This was written following a Border Poets visit to Mitchell’s Fold, a stone circle near the Welsh border. As usual, I’ve pinched the myth told about the circle’s origin, to provide the story for my poem.

Paul Francis.


You’ve come to gloat, up here on Stapeley Hill, where I’m encircled by a ring of stone. So now you’re here, you gaze, and get your fill of all that’s left of me, the evil crone. What’s wrong with what I did? I used my head. The milk came out, so I produced a sieve  and put the bucket underneath. They said I used deceit; I say, initiative.  It was unlucky that the lightning came. The cow saw what was up, and ran away,  which rapidly cut off the milk supply.  The angry locals, keen to place the blame,  became a hunting pack in search of prey.  That’s me. Bury the witch, and don’t ask why.

Sonnet of the Week: Autumn Leaves

Every autumn, the radio programme PM contacts Alan Power, garden manager at Stourhead, Wiltshire, and he talks about the autumn leaves. It’s better than television. For once, I thought I understood the science of what was going on.

Paul Francis.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness di-dum, di-dum, di-dum…the old routine. Poets dip pens in mournful wistfulness,  and mourn the brown as aging of the green  like greying hair, a natural decay… That’s wrong. It’s stocking up, not growing old. They shove the toxins, push the waste away out to their fingertips, before the cold moves in. They suck the sugars, chlorophyll,  into the wood, insurance for the freeze,  leaving behind the orange, yellow, red  in blazing leaves. These calculating trees  preserve essentials, fight for life, and kill  the brilliant plumage that must soon be shed.

Jasmine Denholm announced as new Assistant Trainee Producer for Wenlock Poetry Festival

Jasmine Denholm with festival founder Anna DredaThe Wenlock Poetry Festival Board of Trustees is delighted to take National Poetry Day to announce that Jasmine Denholm will take up the post of Assistant Trainee Producer with responsibility for Children and Young People as well as Social Media from January 2016.

Jasmine is currently completing her apprenticeship at independent bookshop Wenlock Books, and on Saturday 10 October is presenting a day-long celebratory party of all things book-related as part of the national Books Are My Bag campaign which aims to promotes high street bookselling. Invited guests include authors, poets and publishers and the bookshop is using the day to showcase the many different reading groups they run. As well as working at Wenlock Books, Jasmine is a keen blogger at

Jasmine will bring her skills to bear on making sure the Children and Young People’s strand of the Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016 will be exciting, friendly, challenging and, above all, fun. Jasmine says: ‘I’m really proud to have been asked to take on this role and I can’t wait to work with local schools to make this year’s festival as inclusive for children, teenagers and families as possible. It’s going to be lots of fun!”

Anna Dreda, Festival founder and owner of Wenlock Books says, “I am so pleased that Jasmine has agreed to take up this position. WPF2016 is keen to nurture and develop Jasmine’s talent while making sure that the children and young people who attend the festival get a fabulous experience of poetry that will inspire them to read, write and enjoy poetry throughout their lives.”

Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016 will take place from 22 – 24 April.

Sonnet of the Week: Renoir at Moulin Huet

This is the poem that won a prize at the 2015 Guernsey Poems on the Move competition – the third time this has happened. I wrote it on my second visit to Guernsey, when I was collecting the second prize. For me, it is that kind of place – full of sights, ideas and little stories, as well as a pleasure to be in. It helps that the sun shines all the time.

Paul Francis.


Not Normandy this time. Guernsey is near but warmer, with a golden August glow; a mix of greens on granite greys that fall incisive, slanting in the turquoise sea.  He finds this bay and stalks it like a deer. Quick glimpses, as each twist along the track unearths his prey, allows his sights to wheel on to a different line, a fresh attack.  He loves the giggling girls, the way they squeal galloping into waves, no hint of shame, young creatures in the wild running free. One month, and fifteen canvases. Some haul. He drags his bulging bag of captured game back to the kitchen of his studio. 

Sonnet of the Week: Watershed

I’ll be sharing a sonnet a week, but though I’m prolific I won’t guarantee that they’ll all be hot off the press. This one was too good to miss. Corbyn’s victory has stunned the media, who have predictably resorted to cynicism as a default response. I don’t know where this will end either, but it is different and it’s definitely worth a look.

Paul Francis.


Watershed  for Jeremy Corbyn   We’re celebrating. Rooney’s fiftieth goal, our longest reigning monarch - and JC has won the leadership, against all odds. It’s not the seond coming, but it’s news. OK, it won’t go smoothly. Knives are out – the Tories; Blairites who can’t stand to lose. The media, oozing cynicism, doubt that this will last. How can a rebel cope?  By changing how the crazy game is played. By listening, not claiming sole control of policy, not bowing to the gods of city finance, cuts, austerity. For once, we’ll have someone who’s not afraid to speak his mind, and that will give us hope.   

Meet Paul Francis, our Poet in Residence for 2016

Poet in Residence banner

We’re thrilled to announce that Paul Francis has been appointed as Poet in Residence for the Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016. A national prize-winning poet and the current Wenlock Poetry Festival Slam champion, Paul lives in Much Wenlock and has been an active and hard-working supporter of the festival since its inception. You can read more about him and his work on our Poet in Residence page.

Furthermore, Paul is a big fan of the sonnet and, over the years, has written more than three hundred of them. As the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death coincides with the first day of WPF 2016, we have chosen the sonnet as one of the threads that will be woven throughout this year’s programme. To whet our appetites, Paul will be providing a sonnet each week in the run up to the festival. Enjoy!