26th January 2016 - Caron Freeborn and Jonathan Totman

Caron Freeborn grew up in the working-class new town Basildon, in Essex. She went to Cambridge at 25, the first of her family to get a university education. After writing two novels - Three Blind Mice (Abacus, 2001) and Prohibitions (Abacus, 2004) - fiction, for reasons too private for prose, slipped quietly away. Three years ago, she finally stopped resisting writing poetry.

'There are so many truths you might take away from Caron Freeborn's extraordinary, ambitious poems, but I'll mention only these two: firstly, that Caron Freeborn loves language; secondly, that the language loves her back.'  Joanne Limburg

She has placed poems in magazines and anthologies; Georges Perec is my hero (Circaidy Gregory Press, 2015) is her first full collection. Currently, she is working on a project with photographer Steve Armitage, about Basildon.

'The many voices that inhabit the poems add up to a fierce, precise, cocky, compassionate, intelligent, observant, direct, and (largely) unsentimental work of art.'  Ian Patterson

Jonathan Totman lives in Ely and is the current Fenland Poet Laureate. His poems have appeared in various magazines and been placed in several competitions. Most recently he won 3rd prize in the 2015 McLellan Poetry Competition, judged by Simon Armitage.

Jonathan runs poetry nights in Cambridgeshire and co-edits a magazine for new writing, The Fenland Reed. His professional background is in clinical psychology and he recently started a new job as a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University. You can visit him online at www.jonathantotman.co.uk.


I always want to make a metaphor.  Read
the literal into touch; find a shore
against my ruin; bore my friends’ smart eyes
with blind psychotic need until they plead:
Give us the drill, lovely - Have a drink - Lie
among the washed-up dead - Shut it dear or
leave.  Ssh- You know I cast my net to catch 
a shoal of unlike things.  There.  That’s agreed.

My dad built boats and took us out to fish
for tiny souls and pinched-tight pinkish crabs
and rocks of many winkles, stuff like that
greenpopped seaweed you can eat.  Used to wish
Dad liked poetry, not just salted dabs.
Sometimes a sand flat is just that: sand, flat.   

Caron Freeborn


Was that you we heard in our half-sleep, 
a clamour of goose, some great unoiled contraption 
wheeling low above the Ouse? 

Was it you, caught in a tractor’s fog light, 
sliding through the barley, 
cracking, like ice under a tyre?

More scarecrow than phantom, 
more curio than legend, 
stuff of pamphlets and glass cases -

you are an eel-themed souvenir,
a black-and-white film 
playing to no one, on loop.

You are a pheasant on the road. 
A flurry of straw. A lorry skirting potholes 
on the Hundred Foot Bank. 

You are the bottle in a pair of scratched hands, 
a warm paper package in the Golden Land
fish bar, the thirteenth person 

in a four bedroom house. Do you call it yours, 
this man-made land? Industrial estate 
of the countryside, great soot-black allotment, 

stripped like a patient on an operating table,
sustained by tubes and wires. 
Sugar beet, Weetabix, oilseed rape.

When they drained the fens dry, 
did you sink into the peat 
or were you left, writhing in sludge? 

You are reed bunting, yellowhammer,
wigeon at sea in summer floods. 
You are water. You are watching, 

your face pressed to the glass
as the Bewick’s swans touch down,
taking in each landing like a loved one’s return.

Jonathan Totman

2015-2016 Venue

We have a new home for Autumn 2015-Spring 2016. Events will on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 8pm, upstairs at the lovely CB2 Bistro Café on Norfolk Street, where there is plenty of room for us to swing a poet or two, and a great bar/café downstairs where you can get all manner of drinks, cakes and savoury delights. Here is our venue information page. Now, we realise there is a slight possibility of confusion, so to be clear... we are still called CB1 Poetry, but we are at CB2 Café, not at our origin/namesake of CB1 Café on Mill Road. Good to get that off our chest...