Cambridge Literary Festival Special Offer

See our links page for 2-for-1 poetry event tickets (4th-6th April) at the Cambridge Literary Festival.

Programme for 2014

CB1 Poetry continues at The Boathouse but moving to the fourth Thursday of the month, and we have a fantastic programme lined up for 2014:

Thursday 23rd January 2014 -- Emma Danes, Rebecca Watts and Adam Crothers plus open mic floor spots -- The Boathouse, 8.15pm, £5/£4

Thursday 27th February 2014 -- Sarah Howe and Fran Lock plus open mic floor spots -- The Boathouse, 8pm, £5/£4

Thursday 27th March 2014 -- Ann Drysdale and Caroline Gilfillan plus open mic floor spots -- Royal Cambridge Hotel, 8pm, £5/£4

Thursday 24th April 2014 -- Caroline Bird, Julith Jedamus and Tara Bergin plus open mic floor spots -- The Boathouse, 8pm, £5/£4

Thursday 22nd May 2014 -- Emily Berry plus open mic floor spots -- The Boathouse, 8pm, £5/£4

Thursday 27th March -- Ann Drysdale and Caroline Gilfillan

PLEASE NOTE for March we have a one-off change of venue, to The Senate Room at the Royal Cambridge Hotel (click here for a location map), where at the usual time of 8pm (doors from 7.30) there will be brilliant readings from acclaimed poets Ann Drysdale and Caroline Gilfillan. The Senate Room is on the ground floor of the hotel, right next to the bar. There is on-street parking around Brookside and Trumpington Street, which is free of charge after 6.30pm.

Ann Drysdale was a journalist in Yorkshire for many years, writing one of the longest-running by-line columns in the provincial press. She now lives in the highest terrace of a mining town in South Wales.

'Ann Drysdale has a way of adding wit to form that turns the poem on the page from a squib to an arc-welder. Don't underestimate her apparent smooth urbanity. This is the work of a real upsetter.' Peter Finch

She has won many prizes for her writing and is an accomplished and popular reader. She has written several poetry collections and non-fiction books: her fifth collection, Quaintness and Other Offences, is published by Cinnamon Press.

'Full of surprises, such wit and such tenderness too'  Adrian Mitchell

Caroline Gilfillan has written poetry all her life. Her collection, Pepys (a poetic biography of the diarist Samuel Pepys) was published by Hawthorn Press in November 2012. Yes (Hawthorn Press, 2010) won the award for the best poetry book in the East Anglian Book Awards. Her pamphlet Drowned in Overspill was published by Crocus Books in 2000.

'Language is salvaged, fabricated and relished, the poet herself seeming to "lift the skirts of English"' Moniza Alvi

Her work has appeared in magazines including Poetry News, The London Magazine and Mslexia. Meeting Mister Pepys, a performance piece drawing on her poetry, is currently on tour. She was brought up in a stuffy Sussex town but spent her formative years in east London writing, playing drums and singing in various bands.

'It’s as if the writer had entered deeply into a strange land and brought back precious fragments for us to contemplate' James Knox Whittet

Thursday 27th March, The Royal Cambridge Hotel, Open Mic floor spots, books for sale. Doors 7.30, readings 8pm. Tickets on the door only, £5/£4.


Three of us breathing; me and dog and cat.
Wakening to a faint and plaintive mew,
I hold my own breath, ascertaining that
The sound comes from one of the other two. 
I act upon an educated guess 
And lay a hand on cat, who quickly twists
Into a different pose of idleness
And settles, silent. But the sound persists
So dog it is, who wheezes in a dream
That has bestowed on him the gift of tongues
And things both are, and are not, what they seem.
I let the captive air out of my lungs
Three of us breathing, dog and cat and me; 
Companionable synchronicity.

Ann Drysdale


He scrambled on to the Thursday carrier at Cripplegate,
the horses shaking their bridles, snorting strings of warm phlegm.
A whip crack and a click from the driver’s tongue started the team
on the plod through Kingsland village and up the long rise
to the scuffed towns of Enfield and Ware, through ruts and bogs,
sucks and splashes, along a Roman road the auxilia built
while centurions yelled orders and shivered, knee-deep in mud,
homesick for a sun that would lick them clean.
Beside his seat on the creaking coach, dabchicks
split the surface of pond after pond crowned in veils of gnats  
until, two days later, Sam reached the ditches of black soil fens
patrolled by swans.  At Huntingdon he slid down from his hard seat
and walked through gold-pennied water meadows to a house
overlooking the Ouse. In his grammar school the hot breath
of the forum blew through his hair, as Cicero defended
decrepit Rabirius, and Horace advised dawdlers to carpe diem. 
He was beaten if he gossiped or brawled in English: only
the stiff declensions and conjugations of Latin were allowed. 
That language grew in him like winter wheat.  It sprouted, seeded,
bore tough, floury grain that would sustain him year on year,
while in his diary he would lift the skirts of English, enjoying the salt
taste on his fingertips, its codes and curls drawn in slippery ink.

Caroline Gilfillan