Last year at the age of 95, a man who had been a well known and popular figure in the area for his talent as a poet, Head of English at Orwell School and as an accomplished jazz singer on the amateur circuit, died and was buried. But due to the pandemic and covid restrictions like many others his funeral was a limited affair.
Now Felixstowe Cafe Poets & Two Sisters Arts Centre have got together to produce a tribute to his life and work with an evening celebrating his talent as a poet and memories of him as a mentor and friend.
The evening will include recorded readings by Frank himself, an ‘in conversation’ look back on his life and influence, hosted by Suzanne Hawkes, and local poets reading both Frank’s poetry and their own inspired by his work.
Thursday 15th July 7.30pm at Two Sisters Arts Centre, Trimley St Mary
Tickets are only £5 and can be obtained from www.ticketsource.co.uk/two-sisters-arts-centre or from the Box Office on 01394 279613.
Frank Wood wasn’t born in this part of the world , but after serving in the merchant Navy as a radio operator during the war – he re-trained as a teacher, settled in Suffolk and made it his home.
Many will know him from his time as Head of English at Orwell School on the old Maidstone Road site. But he was also a very accomplished poet who was Chair of Suffolk Poetry Society for a number of years, as well as being a very talented jazz singer and amateur dramatic enthusiast.
Frank was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1925. He was a Radio Officer in the Merchant Navy during the war and after working in local government for ten years, trained to become a teacher, retiring as Head of English at Orwell High School, Felixstowe in 1984.
As a poet he was much accomplished, reading his work on local radio in Lancashire and Suffolk, at universities, colleges, village halls, churches and pubs. He appeared in numerous publications, including Encounter, Ambit, Acumen, Orbis, South, The Countryman and The Independent. He came first in the Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition in 1985 and ’89 and won prizes in several others. His pamphlet, Racing the Stable Clock, was published by Happenstance Press in November 2012.
He started the Preston Poetry Workshop with poet Jim Burns in 1970 and was joint founder of Ipswich Poetry Workshop in 1974. Influences were Walt Whitman, T S Eliot, Louis McNeice, W H Auden and Peter Porter, but it was reading Philip Larkin’s second collection, The Less Deceived, in 1957 that led him to think that he might one day be able to write poetry.
Frank enjoyed theatre and was an active member of FADOS, getting involved as stagehand, actor and producer. He also enjoyed most kinds of music and was frequently seen and heard performing popular ballads and singing with an a cappella group, Quintessential, in Felixstowe and most parts of Suffolk. In 2006, he made a CD of ballads and jazz standards with musician, Bill Stoddart. He has always been a keen walker and mountaineer and remains an inveterate church-crawler and country house affectionardo.
Widowed, he is survived by his son Nick, two granddaughters and his great friend with whom he spent the latter part of his life, Margo Wood.
LETTER FROM HOME
Everything is house-shape this end.
Well, practically everything:
the dishes dry more slowly,
and newspapers sprawl on the chairs,
but in between phone calls from your friends
I’ve made the Hoover my own.
You’ve been gone five days,
and there’s a strange absence of dust
as if the rooms are trying to mimic
that sterile theatre
where you hold centre stage.
I could say things are going smoothly
but I stumble over thoughts of pain,
your own exclusive pain.
At night, my pulse
sounds more importunate
than pounding engines of ships
that pass along the inshore channel,
but the silence of the kitchen
pervades the house,
and the emptiness of the bed
reaches inside me.
Copyright © 2018 Frank Wood