Boxed Set- Paul Francis

Paul Francis
Paul is a retired teacher from Much Wenlock with a growing list of published credits. An accomplished and regular performer on the Midlands and Borders poetry circuit, his writing, and subject matter, is eclectic and diverse. Cross- fertilisation between cinema, television, novels and music is routine and well established. Surprisingly, poetry has been slow to reflect the artistic impact of film, and film has only just started to notice poetry for artistic inspiration (Beowulf). Thus, Paul has chosen shrewdly to explore poetic territory with a rich seam of potential which has hitherto been barely explored.

Any such enterprise poses two immediate problems. Firstly, which films to choose? Secondly, how to present work about films which the reader may not have seen, or been aware. Wisely, the choices are mainstream and accessible – Eastwood, Polanski and Jodie Foster, Cockleshell heroes, African Queen and Sopranos. The poems themselves are drawn not only from the original works, but also from commentaries, biographies and gossip contained in the eponymous “Boxed Sets”.

Half of the collection is devoted to Sopranos Snapshots in sonnet and sestina. That discipline of form is a clever device as it forces the author quite consciously to move from one discipline to another. Sestinas are fiendishly difficult to execute well, in Tony Soprano, the author pulls off that feat in some style. The word repetition is perfect for an extended series as is the sense of inevitability and fate that befalls the characters.

Brief Encounter was the poem which struck me as being the most fully realised. A poem with a title which has transcended its original place, and a platform image which is embedded in cinematic history as a classic, risks falling flat in such august surroundings, but it soars. It is seen through the eyes of a female cinema goer:

“She smells the smoky laughs of men
Who scorn romance, but she believes
She is allowed to dream..”

Not only does it speak of the emotions of the protagonist, it also sums up the authors’ desire to dream which he shares so demonstrably in all the poems.

Boxed Set , the poem, appears as a poetic epilogue after the Sopranos Snapshots sequence and is both backwards and forward looking in its position, which is neat. On the one hand it rails elegiacally:

“Those were the days. A huge, obedient crowd
Feasts on that screen. They just can’t get enough
Sighing as one,..”

On the other, in the present day:

“So I stay home alone. It’s not a crime
To settle down and lock the door.
I scroll the menu. I shall take my time,
Consider all the options, keep control
Break off ,maybe, for context, background stuff;
Choose what I want to watch, then watch some more.”

And in turn, so the reader will want to read some more, scroll the menu, and take their time. This collection is immensely satisfying and I suspect demands a sequel, so substantial is the material upon which to draw.

Boxed Set is available from Liberty Books, Much Wenlock TF13 6JQ priced £3.

Gary Longden

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