June Reading

Unfortunately there is no CB1 Poetry reading in June. Refurbishment work at The Gonville continues; our next reading will be in the autumn.

Tuesday 26th May - Shara McCallum & Lesley Saunders

The last of our events away from home (see at the bottom of the page for venue and programme details) we're at the Judith E Wilson studio again with two fantastic poets. Visiting from the U.S. we are delighted to have Shara McCallum, who features on the Poetry Foundation website here, and from closer to home the brilliant Lesley Saunders.

Shara McCallum was born in Jamaica to Afro-Jamaican and Venezuelan parents and moved to the U.S. at the age of nine. She earned a B.A. from the University of Miami, an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. in Poetry and African American and Caribbean Literature from Binghamton University in New York. Her books of poetry include Song of Thieves (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), The Water Between Us (1999) and This Strange Land (2011).

'Intimate, serious, and beautifully crafted, these poems scrutinize the griefs and beauties of familial life and memorialize them with meticulous care.'  Chase Twichell

Her poems have been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and appeared in several journals, including The Antioch Review, Chelsea, The Iowa Review, and Verse. McCallum’s poems have been anthologized in The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology (ed. Michael Collier, 2000) and Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the Twenty-First Century. She is one of eight poets whose work is featured in New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthology edited by Kei Miller. She directs the Stadler Centre for Poetry and teaches at Bucknell University.

'The personal and the political converge in new ways in these finely crafted poems, and readers should be prepared for unexpected turns and genuine surprises.'  Lorna Goodison

Lesley Saunders has six published collections. Her latest collection, The Walls Have Angels, was published by Mulfran Press in autumn 2014. The poems were inspired by her residency at Acton Court, a hauntingly beautiful Tudor manor house and its summer visitors in 1535, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She has worked in collaboration with singer songwriters, photographers, artists and dancers. She has had residencies at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge and The Oxford Museum of the History of Science.

'She shares with fine poets like Jane Draycott and Charles Tomlinson an incredibly clear-eyed perception in language which is as musical as it is exact… Lesley Saunders is a very exciting and interesting writer who deserves your closer attention'  David Morley

She is an experienced editor and poetry mentor; and has also written several academic publications on the theme of poetry. She is an experienced performer of her work. She has vast experience as a researcher and educational adviser, including advising The Save the Children Fund on their educational programmes in Kosovo.

'Cloud Camera is the most intelligent and thrilling book of poetry I’ve seen in several years...'  Michael Hulse


The study of History is the study of Empire.
—Niall Ferguson

I cannot enter.
To enter that room, I would need to be a man who makes History, not a girl to whom History happened.
Mother to two daughters, I guard their lives with hope, a pinch of salt I throw over my shoulder.
To enter that room, I would need to wield a gun.
Here, I brandish weapons that serve an art my mother and grandmother knew: how to make of plantain and eggs a meal.
To enter that room, I would need to live in the past, to understand how power is amassed, eclipsing the sun.
Beneath my children's beds, I scatter grains of rice to keep duppy at bay.
To enter that room, I would need to live in the present: This election. This war.
Beneath my children's pillows, I place worry dolls to ensure their peaceful sleep.
To enter that room, I would need to bridge the distance between my door and what lies beyond.
Standing in my foyer at dusk, I ask the sea to fill the crevices of this house with its breath.
History is recounted by the dead, returned from their graves to walk in shriveled skins.
In our yard, I watch my daughters run with arms papering the wind.
History is recounted by children in nursery rhymes, beauty masking its own violence.
In my kitchen, I peel an orange, try to forget my thumb must wrest the pulp from its rind.
History is recounted in The Book of Explanations: AK-47 begat UZI, which begat M-16 ... and all the days of their lives were long.
Pausing at the sink, I think of how a pepper might be cut, blade handled so the knife becomes the fruit slit open, its seeds laid bare.
History is recounted in The Book of Beginnings: the storey of a people born of forgetting.
In our yard, I name the world for my children—praying mantis, robin's egg, maple leaf—words for lives they bring me in their palms.

To enter that room, I would need to look into the mirror of language, see in collateral damage the faces of the dead.
In our yard, I sow seeds, planting myself in this soil.
To enter that room, I would need to uncover the pattern of a life woven onto some master loom.
Here, I set the table, sweep the floor, make deals with the god of small things.
To enter that room, I would need to be armed with the right question: is History the start of evening or dawn returning the swallow to the sky?
Here, I light candles at nightfall, believe the match waits to be struck.

Shara McCallum


When they came to the place again, it was not itself,
the road had been camouflaged with bines: soft April
explosions of cress and hogweed and oxeye, a bunker
for muntjac and boar. Perhaps, as they said, the hare
had really leapt out of her breast, screaming as it went,
its huge flamey ears ablaze in the sun: London
razed, the emperor’s brazen head lolling in mud,
run hare run. But the field here’s too narrow, the road’s
heaving with iron and leather and sweat – the hare
zigzags in front of the eagle, wooden wheels trundle
hopelessly forward. (A hail of wild blossom shook
from the trees as the teeth of the harrow bit gold.)

Lesley Saunders

Three Events, Two Venues, One Spring (of Poetry).

So, our brief sabbatical from The Gonville continues. Below is the programme for the three events we have lined up and their six brilliant readers.

For full details on the new venues, including comprehensive directions, here is our venue information page.

Tuesday 24th March
Peter Robinson & André Mangeot
Murray Edwards College
at 8pm

Tuesday 28th April
Chrissy Williams & Anna Selby
Faculty of English, West Road
at 8pm

Tuesday 26th May
Shara McCallum & Lesley Saunders
Faculty of English, West Road
at 8pm

As always, doors open at 7.30 for an 8pm start to the readings; payment on the door only £5/£4 concessions; first come first served 2-minute open mic spots will be available (ask for the sign-up sheet on arriving) and there will be books by the guest readers for sale.