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This report is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

Serious Poets Return to Cambridge Geoffrey Ward
The Cambridge Poetry Festival (born in 1973, and more or less flourishing until 1985, when conflicting aims among the organizers brought it to a standstill) is back. Sort of. 'The Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry', 12-14 April 1991, brought together 22 poets on the grounds (to quote the programme) 'that their work can be characterized as innovative, modernist or even avant-garde', the note of faint alarm continuing with the rider 'Serious poets'. The original Festival had foundered over a division of aims between those favouring a gathering of crowd-pulling and international names, and those with a more doctrinal commitment to the poetry of what is sometimes called The Cambridge School, broadly represented by Andrew Crozier's and Tim Longville's anthology A Various Art (Carcanet, 1987). Of the 17 poets sampled in that anthology, over half gave readings or talks at this year's event. Inevitably therefore the gathering of this particular poetic clan marked both the strength and the limitations of the weekend. A monastic air was emphasized by the venue for the afternoon readings, The Barn, in fact a church hall, complete with rattling windows, bracing temperature, and strangest of all, a large poster in a prominent position bearing the legend Bradford: A Surprising Place to Visit. By contrast the photographers' gallery chosen for the evening talks and readings, The Darkroom in Gwydir Street, is an ideal setting for small-scale performances, being (despite its name) well-lit with excellent acoustics. All the evening readings were packed out.

Serious poets were well ...


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