Poets from 'city of sanctuary' launch timely anthology
A poetry group launched an anthology of its work on Saturday night – and one of the overriding themes of the book was the plight of refugees. It was the day after Holocaust Memorial Day, and also the day after US president Donald Trump announced his infamous barring of refugees from Syria, as well as putting up barriers against Muslim travellers from other countries.
Cloudburst III by Cambridge Pub Poets was launched on Saturday evening at the local Labour Party HQ by Cambridge’s MP, Daniel Zeichner, who, while applauding his own “city of sanctuary’s” welcoming of 100 refugees from Syria, condemned the British government for “doing everything it can to slow the process [of admitting refugees] as much as possible.” He added: “I just think this country is better than that.”
One of the most striking poems in the anthology is 'Silt Road’ by William Alderson, pictured above, which includes a wealth of details linking the Fens with the Romans and also the Silk Road of Samarkand. It also contains these lines: “The poor and refugees still flood, the stream of affluence is silting up, / and though they’ve raised the banks, the water rises still.”
Janet Wright’s ‘Travels: An African Odysseus’ compares tourists on Greek islands writing postcards home with an African migrant’s safe arrival on Europe’s shore after “a fearful, crowded, seasick voyage”, now selling his “timeless freight of contraband, / illegal toys and beaded trinkets”. Jacqueline Mulhallen pictures a little girl weeping at the Hungarian border, turned away by barbed wire, as “a long winter settles on Europe”.
‘Cos when he comes home he takes to his bed,
He has nothing to say except ‘I’ve got a bad head’,
And when he’s at home sudden noise makes him jump,
And the kids won’t go near him for fear of a thump,
I don’t care if he doesn’t come home,
I don’t care if he comes back dead.
MP Daniel Ziechner read ‘The Dinosaur’ by Colin Shaw, pictured below, a journalist and Anglican lay minister, who has been running Cambridge Pub Poets as a twice-yearly group for over 10 years. Now the Pub Poets meet quarterly, with William Alderson, a widely-published poet and letterpress printer, joining Colin as co-organiser, and also co-editor of this anthology.
The final two poems of the evening were read by William Alderson and Jacqueline Mulhallen, pictured below, about Jacqueline’s mother who has recently died at the age of 104. Their moving poems described the recent years when it had appeared that the moment of saying a final goodbye had come, only for this remarkable old lady to rally once more. William’s poem described how she “chocolate-caked her way to 99 and Christmas … and now she winds down, in her own time.” Jacqueline responded with “towards the end, she comes to what she really wants to say.”