Thursday, 27 March 2014

CB1: Ann Drysdale and Caroline Gilfillan

I must have passed the Cambridge Royal Hotel over 10,000 times to and from work, but I've never gone in. All that changed on 27/3/2014 when CB1's poetry evening was there as a one-off. If I don't go to poetry events, poetry events will come to me. From my seat at the venue I photographed my workplace just beyond the hotel's carpark, the reflected chandelier adding some class to a dreary block of offices.

CB1 consistently presents a broad range of poets - some university-based, some from further afield. About 40 people usually attend. Ann Drysdale (from Wales) and Caroline Gilfillan are both seasoned, impressive performers. I'd not come across Caroline Gilfillan before. She mostly read from her poetic biography of the Samuel Pepys, who lived in interesting times (and was a Cambridge student). She also read a "mirror poem" (the first and last line the same, and so on).

I've read 2 books by Ann Drysdale and I read some poems of hers on the Eratosphere forums, so I knew what to expect - humane; never a dull moment. I learnt both from the content and the delivery. She's equally adept at comic, thoughtful and sad pieces, with entertaining inter-poem talk. She read poems about spreading her husband's ashes from various types of containers (tobacco tins, camera film tubes) in Paris, etc, which were all the more moving for having an edge of humour. Her prose introduction to her piece about babies' dummies was a work in its own right. I prefer her poetry to much of Wendy Cope's later works, partly perhaps because of its more open and conciliatory attitude to death.

As a bonus, Mary McLean from the poetry group I attend contributed to the Open Mic session.

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