**LONGLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2019**
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE CATHOLIC HERALD BOOK AWARDS 2019**
A life of St Francis in verse
Throughout her career Ann Wroe has constantly confounded expectations, following her own unique path. Now, in Francis, she turns to verse to tell the life of St Francis of Assissi. This is a sequence only Ann Wroe could write, combining a troubadour’s musicality with full grasp of the moment, and a luminous sense of Francis as both myth and man, across history and culture, in nature and community. It is a remarkable and immensely beautiful book.
St Francis was one of the most compelling spirits the world has seen. He was also a poet, a musician and a dancer. His world was coloured by troubadour lays, brightened by birdsong, ordered by the bells and chants of the Church and transfigured by the angel-lyres he heard about him. For Ann Wroe, this seems a good reason to write his life in songs. It is also an excuse to record, in songs, the many ways his presence and his music still linger round us. They surprise us in chance encounters in city streets; they waylay us amid the humdrum banalities of working life; they persist in the beauties of nature. Great spirits never leave us. They echo on and on.
The most beautiful book I have read in a long time.
This passionate series of engagements with the life of St Francis will stay in my mind for a very long time – I hope forever… This is a poet with a distinctive voice, a command of form and a lightness of touch matched by a depth of heart… Wroe so triumphantly [exercises the imagination] in poem after poem.
[Ann Wroe] turned her formidable gifts to the saint of Assisi in Francis: A Life In Songs. It has a remarkable structure… (of which I am sure the saint himself would approve). It is a book which, written by one individual, manages many voices, and is almost choral in its glory.
In our secular age, the book seems literarily heretical – triumphantly unfashionable. But do not imagine it to be conventionally devout. It does what poetry is meant to do, and seldom does: it takes you to another place while making you reflect on what it is to be here… Even as a non-believer, you want to hold on to this writing, as if to a book of prayer.
A superb verse biography of St Francis, by the queen of the unexpected life-in-brief… This is a book to press into the hands of anyone who has decided they have given up on “difficult modern poetry”. It’s so quietly traditional, so unashamedly lovely, that it seems almost radical… [Wroe] recalls John Clare in her close attentiveness to the natural world and the way she conveys a sense of spontaneous joy.