Local writer explores a new chapter for Dudley housing estate
A former student from the University of Wolverhampton is delving further into Black Country roots in his new book which is due to be published by Wild Pressed Books on 18 May.
Rob Francis, who lives in Dudley, completed his PhD in Creative Writing in the School of Humanities and now teaches Creative and Professional Writing at the University.
His new book, The Wrenna, is about the Wren’s Nest, a housing estate in Dudley built around a national Nature Reserve which is one of the most notable geological locations in the UK. The book explores the ways the sense of place and spirit of place impact on people and community.
What readers get in The Wrenna is the recollections of an unnamed narrator as he returns to the streets that raised him, seeing them changed, lacking, cold and more dangerous than ever.
Rob said: “The Wrenna is a novella that focuses on a small estate in Dudley (Wren's Nest - my home for six years) and with particular attention to what happens when our homes face upheaval and threat.
“The Wrenna is a misunderstood place, and one with a bad reputation. Despite its past troubles with violence and antisocial behaviour, in my experience it's a place that prides itself on a sense of community, on solidarity and family. My work attempts to capture that atmosphere in its light and shade.
“All of the streets on the estate are named after flowers, trees and bushes, and this seemed to be a really lovely link with the way families, memories, friendships and ways of being spread out and root themselves to locales. The poetic aspect this is heightened by plant folklore, which weaves its way into the different scenes of the novella and adds that important element of menace to the story and its setting.
“I also think Wren's Nest is a fascinating and quintessentially Black Country space that deserves more attention. Part of the UNESCO Black Country Geopark, it's where the Dudley Bug was pulled from the ground, and houses amazing geological wonders. This is then layered with the site’s industrial heritage - mine shafts, caverns and bell pits. And yet, it's a protected nature reserve full of lush flora and fauna. All of this, sat in the middle of a Dudley Council Estate. This web of place-identity was too rich to ignore.”
Novelist, Russ Litten, said: "R. M. Francis weaves his intricate craft in the margins between rural and urban life, connecting the two with a poet’s eye. The Wrenna is tender and brutal. Francis cares about his characters, and so will you."
Rob has written five poetry chapbooks, Transitions (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2015), Orpheus (Lapwing Publications, 2016), Corvus' Burnt-Wing Love Balm and Cure-All (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2018), Lamella, (Original Plus, 2019) and Fieldnotes from a Deep Topography of Dudley (Wild Pressed Books). His debut novel, Bella, was published by Wild Pressed Books in March 2020. His poetry collection, Subsidence, was published in December 2020 with Smokestack Books.
In 2019 he was the David Bradshaw Writer in Residence at the University of Oxford and is currently Poet in Residence for the Black Country Geological Society.
An online launch for the book is taking place through Artsfest Online on 20 May. Free tickets can be booked here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-wrenna-book-launch-tickets-151526695425
The book is available to buy here https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-wrenna/r-m-francis//9781916377431 in UK bookstores through the Wild Pressed Books - http://www.wildpressedbooks.com/bookshop.html
Anyone interested in studying at the University of Wolverhampton, should register for one of the forthcoming Virtual Open Days.
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