Poetry in Cambridge

A few Mondays ago, I got up very early: I had to catch a train from rainy York to chilly Cambridge. I was to be creative writing tutor John Drew’s co-tutor for a poetry study day at Darwin College,Cambridge.

Darwin College is one of the newer colleges, but still had the lovely peaceful atmosphere that Cambridge University colleges are known for. We were to have a three-course self-service lunch in the dining room, sitting at long oak tables, and attended by staff in smart suits.

Five OCA students attended, plus a journalist who recorded us throughout the day for his arts show on Radio Cambridge:


After breaking the ice by reading poems we’d brought along, we got off to a theatrical start to the day, when, in small groups, we discussed language, rhythm and voice while dramatising the poems of students Annie and Catherine.

After a short break John asked us to unscramble one of Rupert Brooke’s sonnets, encouraging us to look at enjambments, rhyme, imagery and sense.

Lunch followed, then a special guest, a PhD student studying Unesco World Heritage sites. We were very lucky to have him read the famous Chinese poem ‘Leaving Cambridge 1927’ in Chinese. After a short discussion of the differences between Chinese and English poetic elements, John provided us with his own word-for-word translation, and we worked on our own creative versions of the poem.

The final activity of the day reminded us that we were in the city in which Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath developed as poets. We looked at several different versions of an incident involving Ted and Sylvia, including a diary entry from Sylvia, a poem by Sylvia poem, and a poem by Ted. John encouraged us to write our own poetic response.

I hope the students, and Simon, enjoyed the lively and poetry-filled day.

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2 comments for “Poetry in Cambridge

  1. Joanna Ezekiel
    13 December 2012 at 12:12 pm

    The link to Simon’s radio show is here:http://cambridge105.fm/shows/arts-round-up/
    It will be on air at 11am on Saturday 15th December, and should appear as a podcast afterwards.

  2. Annie Maclean
    14 December 2012 at 11:59 am

    I attended this day. Mega thanks to both John and Joanna for a very enjoyable workshop which enlivened more creativity later! Beautiful to hear the Chinese poem read as intended… musical.
    please arrange more such workshops. very helpful.

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