Matthew Francis' first collection Blizzard, published by Faber and Faber, was shortlisted for Best First Collection in the Forward Poetry Prize and won the Southern Arts Literature Prize.
This project brought a poet in to work with the local community at New Forest. Events included workshops at Fawley Refinery Hythe, the New Forest Museum and visitors centre at Lyndhurst: the Holistic Farm Minstead; under an oak tree near Minstead, at the Artsway Gallery Sway, Forest Arts New Milton, the Hythe and Waterside Arts Festival readings. Inspiration also came from night walking and deer hunting, early morning mushroom forays, as well as walks and talks in the heart of the forest.
To say that the whole event was a success does not really do justice to how enjoyable everything was. Matthew Francis was professional in discharging his responsibilities under the project. His empathy with the New Forest and his ability to encourage writing from every kind of writer ensured the success of the venture.
Michael Mackmin, the editor of The Rialto, made a telling observation in his magazine when he recognised that the New Forest Poetry Society supported poetry at the grass roots. This project helped us to ground the New Forest as a Poetry place, populated with some exceptional writers and developing some new talent. At the same time we managed to spread the good word.
12 regular local poets at workshops; parties of children who visited Fawley Refinery and produced work with Matthew Francis. Local writers who sent in their poems for consideration for the forthcoming anthology and those who attended the various readings at Forest Arts.
Poems generated by the project have been printed in The Rialto and South and more are planned to be published in other magazines.
The New Forest Poetry Society has taken on the project with its successful award from the Millennium Festivities Awards For all Poetry 2000 programme, which will put poetry into pubs,clubs, schools, libraries and businesses throughout 2000.
The anthology is already generating enormous interest from the local media.
Plus, all those who took part had a great deal of fun.