Sunday Poem – Gerry Cambridge

There was a period last year, in the last couple of months when I started to feel a bit worn out and fed up of blogging every week.  I was really busy in October/November and it was a struggle to keep up my reading so that I had a poem each week.

Today, there is something comforting about settling down to write my blog again after all the madness of Christmas and New Year.  I’m pleased to be easing myself back into a routine again.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I have changed the format again – I tried out starting with the poem and talking directly about that, but it never felt quite right, so I’ve decided to go back to my old ways of wittering on first, before introducing the poem.

This week we have been decorating the living room and landing in our house.  The carpets, which have been there since the 1950’s have been taken up and we are having new ones fitted tomorrow.  Today has been quite stressful because we have a leak in a pipe, the boiler won’t ignite and the gas fire won’t ignite either, leaving us with no heating or hot water.  I am very glad I have a busy day tomorrow and am hoping to come back late tomorrow night, after my reading at the Puzzle Inn in Sowerby Bridge and it will all be fixed by the husband.

This might sound a little heartless, but today I sat for an hour with my finger over a hole in the pipe so the water didn’t gush out everywhere while he ran about trying to turn the water off and finding a temporary repair kit so I feel I have done my bit!

After the trauma of sitting with my finger over the hole in the pipe, like some character out of a fairy story, I retreated to my writing room and worked on my poems this afternoon.  I’m currently working on a pamphlet, which will hopefully be published late 2017.  I’ve sent the poems to the publisher so will see what they say – they haven’t seen any of them yet, so they could turn around and say they hate them.

The other thing that has happened this week, in between buying curtains for the living room (again, getting rid of the green suede 1950’s curtains was tremendously exciting) was I started writing a novel.  I am quite surprised myself because I’ve never wanted to write a novel before.  Actually, that’s not true.  I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but I’ve always convinced myself that I haven’t got a story that I want to tell, or anything interesting to say.  Anyway, I started thinking about the sort of novels I like reading, and my favourite ones are fantasy fiction, where the writer creates a whole other world.  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m not going to say anything about it because I don’t want to jinx it, but I will be updating you all with a word count each week, whether you want to know or not.

So I suppose that is one of my resolutions – I want to finish a first draft of my novel this year.  I have no idea if it will be any good or not, which is hard for me, but I think it will be a good discipline for me to have to believe in my own writing and to not be able to seek confirmation from other people all the time.

Tomorrow I’m the guest speaker at a luncheon club in Grange-Over-Sands.  Their usual speaker cancelled so they have me instead – as far as I know the group are not into poetry at all.  I get to have lunch with them first so I’m hoping to convince them that I’m normal in the course of having lunch and then win them over to poetry when they are all chilled out after having eaten too much.

From there, I’m going to find a cafe somewhere and sit and write all afternoon and then I’m reading at the Puzzle Hall Inn in Sowerby Bridge in the evening.  I’m really pleased that the venue was not affected by the recent floods, and hopefully there will be a good crowd of people turn up.

On Thursday I’m reading at the Red Shed in Wakefield – there are more details on the Readings and Workshops page on the blog but it would be lovely to see some of you there.

On Saturday I’ll be running the second of my monthly poetry workshops in Barrow in Furness – if you know any Cumbrian poets that might be interested, please pass on the details.  There are a couple of places left, and again you can find more information on the Readings and Workshops page.

So I have gradually wound my way around to the Sunday Poem which is by the wonderful Gerry Cambridge, who not only is a fantastic writer, but is also the editor of The Dark Horse.  Those of you who regularly read will know I’ve recently subscribed to the magazine and really enjoyed the first issue of my subscription.

I met Gerry in March 2015 at the StAnza poetry festival.  Gerry was running a stall and impressed me with his sales techniques – I think he managed to sell all of the copies of The Dark Horse magazine that he had with him, but I also bought a copy of Aves, which was published in 2007 by Essence Press.

I was sat at my writing desk a couple of mornings ago, watching a rather clever carrion crow trying to unhook the bird feeder and drop it onto the ground so that he could eat the bird food.  He, or one of his brethren had already managed it the day before.  When I turned to my rather overloaded ‘poetry books I’ve bought and haven’t read yet’ I noticed Gerry’s book and thought I would start with that.

It is a series of prose poems about different birds – observations and glimpses into the life of birds.  The left hand page in the book has the Latin name of each bird, and the right hand side has the prose poem that goes with it.  Not being an expert on the Latin names of birds I had to look them all up to make sure I was thinking of the right bird.  I do love obsessions though, and you can tell from reading the poems that Gerry is clearly obsessed/fascinated with watching birds – the passion is evident and comes through strongly in the writing.

One of the ideas that really stood out for me which is something that threads its way throughout the book was the idea of birds as thoughts.  The last poem, the title poem of the book Aves finishes ‘thoughts, with feathers on’ which I think is a lovely idea. In Troglodytes Troglodytes the poem finishes ‘And here’s the nest, in November, the empty/cave without a fire’ – again that idea of the birds being pure energy is a really compelling one.

In a way, I feel like I’m shortchanging you all, only posting one poem, as the poems taken together really build up momentum.  You’ve probably already guessed that I went for the poem about the carrion crow. You’ll see from this poem how vivid and energetic the language is – ‘a/black hunch at a skullburst rabbit on distant tarmac’.  This poem also has humour as well – and this is true of many of the other poems: ‘A room with a view: three hundred and/sixty degrees’ to describe the crows nest.  I also love that the nest is described as a ‘blatant noun in a high fork’.

You can order Aves from the London Review Bookshop for the mere sum of £7.  You can find out more about Gerry Cambridge at his website here.  His latest collection was Notes for Lighting a Fire, published in 2012, which you can buy from HappenStance

I hope you enjoy the poem, and thanks to Gerry Cambridge for allowing me to use it.

Corvus corone corone – Gerry Cambridge

Modernity’s favourite.  A pragmatic syllable.  No
troubadour disguising its urge for land with
a lyric tinkle.  Hack-beaked, scale-legged, sponge of
colours, with a blue, brillianteened sheen.  A synonym
for “gloat”.  Sacerdotally unsettling.  The nest of big
twigs, a blatant noun in a high fork, sometimes in
a roadside ash, easy to spot before the leaves’ green
sentences.  A room with a view: three hundred and
sixty degrees.  What vertical is that, for instance,
enlarging across the fields? And there is the mate, a
black hunch at a skullburst rabbit on distant tarmac,
tugging out lines of devastated guts.  Here, on this
April day of all-over cloud, grey but calm, four, a feel-
right number, under the contented high black breast
sunk in the deep cup lined with horsehair and the
wool of sheep, a salubrious cradle to rock bleak beaks.




5 comments on “Sunday Poem – Gerry Cambridge

  1. Hi Kim,

    Just catching up with emails, and I see you’re planning a novel… I teach novel writing, have done for a long while, at BIrkbeck and one to one, . I reckon I give pretty good feedback and support (previous students have got to Mslexia shortlist) So just a New Years putting ideas out there thought – if you care to do an exchange of critiquing, poems for chapters/plot outlines, etc, any time, then let me know! Love, Claire xx

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Hi Claire – thanks for this message. That would be amazing – and a brilliant idea. I don’t think I’m quite at the stage yet where I’m ready to swap it with anyone – but can I let you know when I get a bit further with it? Although I will be terrified as it could be really bad…I have no idea! It probably is going to be bad though as it is my first attempt 🙂

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