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The Model Shop

We’ve lived in a lot of previous lives
Falling in love, new ways to flourish,
The discipline of Empire and the polished court.
This time, small folk in packets, freeze- dried trees,
A bag of bus-stops, instant ivy
The smell of toyshop varnish.
No-one recalls the agreed way of hope,
How we put the landscape together,
The cardboard hills and ready-made rubble
Into its slow explosion.
For those with the whole day off,
God repeats himself in the flat-pack doll’s house,
The rubber furniture and plastic piano
Hushed of all arpeggios,
Rules for remembering the future.

F J Williams The Model Shop (2011)


ISBN 978-1-906742-35-5


A strong, original voice…so real and vivid…very clever and profound.
Patricia McCarthy, Agenda

F.J.Williams has a good eye on social life and where poetry might lie.
David Caddy, Tears in the Fence

Some lovely things here. Superb observations.
Robert Minhinnick, Poetry Wales

Here is the power of fluency and striking phrase.
Pennine Platform

In The Model Shop, F.J. Williams entices us in with his miscellanea of poetic curios, flat-packed dialectics of commercial culture that spring from the page like polemical pop-ups. Never knowingly under-told, Williams’ satirical curatorship of materialist society and its manufactured distractions captures startlingly the mal de moderne of perpetual department stores. These consumer encomiums prod at our glazed eyes with magical re-brandings — for Williams is a conjurer, plucking poetry from the paper hat of capitalism. Had David Nobbs’ neurasthenic Reginald Perrin turned to poetry to alleviate his pin-striped crisis, he might have penned such shop-floor epiphanies as these; imaginative responses to distinctly unimaginative capitalist apparatus.

In this hinterland of besieged creativity and incisive wit, Williams cultivates a salvation cult of retail-nostalgia, evangelising the relics of Woolworths: ‘...we’ve followed the wrong god out of church// The music of doo-wop coaxing time back/ ...the smell of peppermint ...// Happy to stand in the striplights and be counted’; or travelling back to a ricketier past before the oligarchy of cars: ‘the bones of laughter among the broken engines/ and dead headlamps of the two-bob tram’. Brand names germinate like memes; magazine racks glare transcendently: ‘We come to Parker’s Guide to Cars// Balancing sportscars on our fingertips/ We touch the two forevers...’ Mortality’s sting has softened here; it massages the nerves with the respite of a lit cigarette in a sea of waving lighters; everything must go, even us, with or without smoke, and perversely one never feels more alive than when singeing one’s chances of longevity: ‘...here you stand with
crinkly ash trays,// your brain map all aglow/ to find among the smoking room body, mind and soul’.

Williams’ poems illuminate the porous shadows of the supermarket shelves, revealing a captivating range of unadvertised narratives.


F.J.Williams was born in Liverpool in 1951 and studied English at Durham, with postgraduate work at Manchester and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. He has followed the profession of teaching and worked in schools, colleges and a prison where he taught adult literacy. The experience was the stimulus for his first collection Reading Lesson in the Lifers’ Wing (Peterloo, 2009).

He has also been Director of the Bridge Arts centre in Widnes and held a NATE teaching fellowship at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He lectured in English at University College Chester and contributed his research on Algesiras Greimas and Bronislaw Malinowski to the Key Thinkers in Linguistics and Philosophy and Language (Edinburgh University Press).

He has won prizes in national competitions and been broadcast on radio and television. The Model Shop derives from his experience of living in the urban environment of the North West of England where he works as a writer and reviewer.

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