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.



Children’s Programme

Our Children and Young People Team have been hard at work preparing a wonderful weekend of free events for our younger visitors in the new Children’s Marquee. Check out the programme here!



Sonnet of the Week: Respite

My mum was a huge fan of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Like him, she managed the neat trick of dying on her birthday. The day before, I was sat beside her hospital bed, writing this. That may well have looked a bit strange to others, but I’m sure she’d have understood.

Paul Francis.





Sonnet of the Week: Elgar, con spirito

This poem is powered by the contrast between a stuffy old Englishman and an energetic young Venezuelan musician. It was stimulated by a stunning TV documentary which included them both.

Paul Francis.




Sonnet of the Week: Looking for Jem

Valentine’s coming up, so I need a romantic sonnet…Not, you may have noticed, a regular feature of the repertoire. This one features an imaginary relationship in the past, and arose from a visit to the chapel at Bettws-y-Crwyn.

Paul Francis.






Sonnet of the Week: Me and My Mate

You’ve probably not met the world of schoolgirls’ toilets in a sonnet before, but maybe something sounds familiar. I wrote this a dozen years ago for a school anthology, which wanted parodies of famous poems. It’s based on Shakespeare’s sonnet 138: “When my love swears that she is made of truth…”

Paul Francis.






Sonnet of the Week: Spellbound

I’m delighted to be poet in residence for this year’s Wenlock Poetry Festival, and also to be following Jean Atkin, who’s a good friend as well as an excellent poet. This was written for her during her typically energetic spell as poet in residence at Acton Scott. You can hear us both read at 7.30 pm this Saturday, at Wenlock Pottery.

Paul Francis.






Sonnet of the Week: Occupation

Observant readers will have picked up that not many of my sonnets are personal. Here’s one that is, written about my grand-daughter, though she never saw it at the time. It was over a dozen years ago, when she was a toddler. She’s now a teenager, and as tall as I am.

Paul Francis.






Sonnet of the Week: Wanker

I wrote this in 2008. It never won any prizes, but it’s one my favourites among my own sonnets. It works on two levels, tracing abusive relationships – a man bullying a woman, and a banker talking to a taxpayer. Some people think sonnets are soft and flowery, but they can also be topical and tough.

Paul Francis.