Long-standing CB1 regular Anne Berkeley interviews Angus Allman, who is new to the committee.
Welcome to CB1, Angus. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! Thanks for having me! You’re absolutely right; I work as a software engineer but studied German and Italian at university. I started coding as a hobby and, if I’m being honest, as a form of procrastination. After studying, I just sort of fell into this career, but I’ve been keen to keep my interest in languages and literature alive in my spare time. I’m actually starting a master’s in Literary Translation in September, which I’m very excited about!
How long have you lived in Cambridge?
I’m fairly new to the area, having only moved to Cambridge last April, so I’m still settling in around here.
What poem/poet/teacher first got you into poetry?
I think I’ve always liked poetry. The poems we studied in school were… fine, but the first poem which really captured my attention was To This Day by Shane Koyczan. I think I saw a video of it on Facebook one day, and, despite it not being particularly light, I felt the need to show it to everyone I could. I think it really broadened my idea of what poetry could be and what it could do.
I let it fall by the wayside for a while, but in my final year of University, I took a module on 19th and 20th Century Italian poetry, which reignited the joy I found in them.
How did you find out about CB1? Tell us about your first visit and your experience of the open mic.
I found CB1 through a poster on some railings in town. I’d been wanting a local poetry event in the town I’d moved from, so I felt like I had to attend! The first event I attended was at the Blue Moon last July. I insisted I wasn’t going to read but just went to listen. Ultimately, with the help of some Dutch courage, I ended up reading a short poem I’d written about a man who lives in a coffee cup and felt absolutely electric the entire journey home.
And what about your writing practice? Have you tried workshops in the past? Are you regularly sending stuff out for publication, or do you prefer social media
I’m terrible with routine, so as much as I’d love to say I write something every day, and I’m incredibly diligent with it, that would be a monstrous lie. The truth is that the notes app on my phone is full of quick notes I’ve jotted down as they’ve popped into my head. Once they’re there, I’ll do my best to take time to think about them (usually on a dog walk) and begin fleshing them out with more lines or vague directions I want the poem to go. Then the notes/poems will either sit there for eternity or make it into a fully-fledged poem.
I’ve taken part in a couple of workshops in the past and loved them. I found that being given some direction with writing, even if the prompt is just a specific form or to write a poem based on another piece of work, helps me produce something I’m happy with.
I’d love to put more poetry out into the world! I’m a massive critic of what I write, which makes it difficult, but I just need to get over myself and send it out to journals or post it online. I do enjoy reading work at open mics, though, so I’ll definitely be reading one or two pieces on the 6th of August.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just started reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which is by no means a little book. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of it, but I’m enjoying it so far. Poetry-wise, the most recent collection I’ve read is The Air Year by Caroline Bird. I found it challenging at times and could do with giving it a second pass, but I loved the insistence with which Bird writes and how tangible the images she uses are.
How do you see CB1 developing?
Firstly, I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it! I’m so pleased with the new venue and can’t wait for the first event. I’d like to use CB1 as a platform, not just for growing my and other poets’ confidence in performing but also to help shine a light on local talent on social media and to encourage as many people as possible in the town to write and share their work. The plan is to have a few open-mic evenings and then bring in the occasional guest poet to do readings and talk about their work.
CB1’s got so much potential. Down the road, the group could run workshops or host events in collaboration with other art groups in Cambridge. I’m very excited to see where this goes and how much difference we can make to the community.
Thank you, Angus! It is so good to have fresh eyes and young talent aboard! Your vision is true to the original ethos of CB1, which started as an opportunity for local people to find an audience and develop confidence in writing and performing their work. Expanding into social media as well as continuing live events will be an exciting development. We have been through many changes in nearly 30 years! You and your IT skills will be a terrific asset and I’m looking forward to seeing CB1 grow in new directions.