The NI poet based in England brings fond memories of home into her work
Frances Thompson was born in Belfast in 1944. She attended Queen's University, Belfast, and taught in Northern Ireland, North Africa and London, before settling in Devon, where her daughter and son were born, and where she still lives, with Bob.
As well as teaching and lecturing, Thompson has been involved with equal opportunity issues, particularly those of race and gender. In 1997 she took early retirement in order to write. Since then her poetry has been widely published in anthologies and journals.
Thompson completed an MA in Creative Writing at Exeter University in 2003, with a Distinction and a School Commendation, and is a regular reviewer for Sam Smith's Journal.
Thompson’s work has appeared in many publications and she has been invited to read at events in the UK, Ireland, and North America.
Her poetry collection, as yet unpublished, has the working title Feather in the Ground. It draws on childhood memories of Ulster, tempered with adult experiences and concerns, using myth and a little humour. In addition, Thompson has printed her work in seven booklets, which are available to buy at her readings.
Enjoy some of her poems below.
Lough Neagh ll
In a bedlam of birds and breezes
I found a flat stone by the Lough.
My hands went in, refracted,
paling, and my arms to the elbow.
The hospital windows flashed,
but the Lough was blind, and gathered,
thick-flecked, on me,
building a causeway to the sky,
to yet more Ireland. My hands
were fins, working as if
a creature could outwit water, or
will reorder the world.
'Lough Neagh ll' appeared in Irish Pages Spring/Summer 2003, Linenhall Library, Belfast.
Child of the Manse
It’s funny how we Corkeys always seem
Somehow to inhabit the country manses
Of our childhood and our parents’ childhood.
Glendermott’s been refashioned, rediscovered
In Culnady, Finvoy, Castlederg, Dundrod,
Town houses in Belfast, and London suburbs,
In Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Killaig and Kelvin,
And far townlands in Maine and Carolina.
Those of us who think we’ve kicked the habit
Will find our furniture arranged just so;
Or, entering the house after a spell away,
Catch Saturday-night solemnity in the hallway.
'Child of the Manse' appeared in issue 3 of THE SHOp, Skeagh, Schull, Co Cork, Ireland.
Lying Around in Summer Quads
like we used to as students,
in the days when you could flop
on the grass and talk about Spain,
about Vietnam, about Che,
like the young people
we no longer are. Here
by the pillar, out of the sun, we accept
the chill welcome of stone.
would try to make fools of us,
but we hold to certain notions
as hard as we did then; harder,
now that access to the grass
Thus, we meet in the cloister
under the clock whose hands point
just the same way as they did when
we were students, lying around
in summer quads.
Travelling, I am at home. Trees, precocious children,
pirouette their roundness for me, and the hills
click past each other like a clever Victorian toy.
It started with the station cafe latte.
Now, comfortable at my window, I am free
to connect with other times at home . . . .
an Air India waiting hall, myself pared down,
tuned to the heat, my bookmark a boarding card,
and all my worldly goods at my right hand,
or buying a Guardian at Belfast Airport,
the goodbyes said, knowing that soon
Lough Neagh, Strangford, the Mournes
will tilt below me, swinging round and away,
and I'll be home sweet home again for an hour,
till touchdown, baggage-claim.