Caroline Gilfillan won the Suffolk Poetry Society’s George Crabbe Award in October 2012. Her poetry pamphlet, Yes (Hawthorn Press, 2010) won the East Anglian Book Award for the best poetry collection. Her first full poetry collection, Pepys was published by Hawthorn Press in November 2012. She’s written and, with The Pepys Players, is now performing Meeting Mister Pepys, a spoken-word piece featuring poems from her collection, diary extracts and songs of the period.
As a member of Inprint, a collaborative group of poets and artists, she’s worked on projects combining poetry and visual artwork. With Chronicle, she devises spoken word pieces drawing on the history of the Norfolk Paston Family.
Born in Sussex, she lived in London for some time, and is currently writing a book in conjunction with the photographer Andrew Scott, celebrating East London in the 1970s (a different beast to the blingy rebuilt city of today). She’s also a singer and musician, who leads singing workshops and performs with various bands.
Her poetry and fiction have been published in many magazines including The London Magazine, Poetry Review and Mslexia. For more information about her work, please visit her website www.carolinegilfillan.co.uk or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Samuel Pepys Travels to the Grammar School at Huntingdon
He scrambled on to the Thursday carrier at Cripplegate,
the horses shaking their bridles, snorting strings of warm phlegm.
A whip crack and a click from the driver’s tongue started the team
on the plod through Kingsland village and up the long rise
to the scuffed towns of Enfield and Ware, through ruts and bogs,
sucks and splashes, along a Roman road the auxilia built
while centurions yelled orders and shivered, knee-deep in mud,
homesick for a sun that would lick them clean.
Beside his seat on the creaking coach, dabchicks
split the surface of pond after pond crowned in veils of gnats
until, two days later, Sam reached the ditches of black soil fens
patrolled by swans. At Huntingdon he slid down from his hard seat
and walked through gold-pennied water meadows to a house
overlooking the Ouse. In his grammar school the hot breath
of the forum blew through his hair, as Cicero defended
decrepit Rabirius, and Horace advised dawdlers to carpe diem.
He was beaten if he gossiped or brawled in English: only
the stiff declensions and conjugations of Latin were allowed.
That language grew in him like winter wheat. It sprouted, seeded,
bore tough, floury grain that would sustain him year on year,
while in his diary he would lift the skirts of English, enjoying the salt
taste on his fingertips, its codes and curls drawn in slippery ink.
Copyright © 2013 Caroline Gilfillan