Marilyn Francis*

MEET UPS :January, February,  June Words & Images, August, September

PROJECT: My main project will be to discover a project, though I’m mostly thinking that I would like to make 2017 the year I finally crack those prestigious poetry magazines and get many poems published. Of course, that’s what I said last year, and the year before, and mostly failed.

QUOTE: Sam Beckett’s well-worn, but true.‘Ever tried. Ever failed. Try again. Fail better’

PARALLEL PROJECT : I also plan to work on getting some poems together for a pamphlet, or collection. I did have a collection, red silk slippers, published in 2009, but that was 2009. I’ve learned more about poetry (both reading and writing) since then. And I certainly hope to learn even more from being part of the 2017 project.

QUOTE: this from Merlin, via TH White, sums up what I feel about learning, and the current state of the world – especially the bit about ‘evil lunatics’.

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” T.H. White, The Once and Future King


September – Project 2017 update

How can it be September already? The projects outlined by me at the first meeting in January began with a heady, optimistic start of year enthusiasm, but have not really kept up the momentum. I am continuing with my main project which was to write something about Art Galleries, Gallery visitors, their responses to the works on show – really an attempt to distil the whole gallery/museum vibe. The sound of feet on polished floors, the hushed, echoey sound of voices, the peculiar, particular smell of galleries and museums. Not fusty or musty at all, but something quite specific, if difficult to pin down. Probably impossible, but I keep trying. I do have doubts about whether this is a something that might be interesting to anyone other than me, but I plod on. I’ve quite a few poems on the theme(s), some of which I brought to the earlier meetings as well as ideas in my head and notes in my notebook.

And that’s it. I am going on with things even if it’s at a tortoise pace.

I made some submissions to magazines and competitions, mostly without success. Still, there’s few months left in this year …

Have really enjoyed the meet-ups. After signing up for three in January I ended up attending almost every one (including the Words and Images day at BRSLI).  Any back-sliding from my original intention is down to idleness, and the usual life things that get in the way.

Stalbridge Street

First experiment with Words & Images : March 2017


At the start of the January meet-up I had only the vaguest notion what my project would be. In fact, it wasn’t until I was asked to tell the group what my plans for the year were that it came to me. Something that I’d had in the back of my mind for a while was to write about my experience as a volunteer at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. I’ve been a volunteer there for several years so have had ample opportunity to observe both the artworks and the people who come to look. I particularly wanted to avoid direct involvement with specific pieces of work, and concentrate more on the Art Gallery experience, and my take on visitor’s reactions to particular works and the gallery in general. Of course, this ‘experience’ is not confined to the Victoria Art Gallery. It’s (probably) a universal feeling about Museums and galleries, as places of ‘worship’ and somewhere to get out of the rain.

So then, how to avoid a strictly ekphrastic response, and still make it interesting/relevant? I haven’t found a satisfactory answer yet. At the moment I’ve got four ‘finished’ poems, two of which were commented on at the February meet-up. Those comments were really valuable, and I’ve made a couple of small amendments in the light of them. The problem, for me, is how many poems this concept might stretch to before it becomes boring and unsustainable. Would there ever be a good-enough quantity to make a whole pamphlet-worth? Something for me to ponder and work on. I have a few more ideas and sketched-out pieces in my notebook.

The two meet-ups have been excellent. I’ve really enjoyed hearing about everyone’s projects, and getting to know so many talented and like-minded people is invaluable and inspiring.  Must try to get on a waiting-list or two, my next booked one isn’t until September!

3 comments on “Marilyn Francis*

  1. What a potent black and white photo, Marilyn. It carries strong meaning. I enjoyed the words on it too though I might have moved them away from the small girl perhaps almost to enclose her. What do you think? Where are you going with this?


  2. marilynfrancis7 says:

    Thank you, Sarah. Not sure where I’m going with this. I was experimenting after seeing your work in February. I will have a play around with the text, as you suggest.


  3. I like the idea of using visitors’ responses to a particular artwork as the basis for a poem. Look forward to meeting you on Saturday.


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