I'm part of the Irish diaspora, both my folks being Irish, though with Scottish connections; my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Strathearn. Cambridge is a Scottish Gaelic surname, originating from MacAmbrois, or 'Son of Ambrose'. I have lived in Scotland since 1972. Longtime interest in photography and natural history, especially birds, which often seem to fly into or out of my poems. I was brought up in a caravan and lived in one in Ayrshire between 1972 and 1997.
Got into the little magazine scene around 1991, when associated for a few years with Spectrum, a magazine founded by the poet Stuart A. Paterson; this also prompted my interest in modern desk top publishing, typesetting and design. Founded The Dark Horse in 1995.
Took up the diatonic harmonica — that infuriating, idiosyncratic instrument — in 1992. Now consider myself among Scotland's top 300 harmonica players, probably ranked around 299th.
My life changed in 1997 when I was appointed Brownsbank Fellow, a two year writing residency based at Hugh MacDiarmid's former home, Brownsbank Cottage, a two room but and ben with an added toilet and kitchen. For the first time I experienced being a writer in a socially responsible context, rather than as a gaberlunzie/outsider.
Each June between 1999 and 2001 I attended the West Chester Poetry Conference by invitation, consolidating for a time the Scottish-American nature of The Dark Horse. Met some terrific people and poets, including one of my favourite living US poets, X.J. Kennedy, and the distinguished editors of The Hudson Review, Frederick Morgan and Paula Deitz. Sat on panels talking about little magazines and about sonnets. On one occasion found myself standing in a lunch queue behind Richard Wilbur and in front of Anthony Hecht; turned to Hecht and said: "I've just realised I'm standing between two of the greatest American poets of the 20th century!"
"Well, you're standing behind one of them," shot back Hecht.
I left Brownsbank Cottage in 1999; spent a winter in Glasgow. Since 2000 have lived just outside the city. Have occasionally played music gigs for fun with musicians such as Findlay Napier while making my living as a freelance—writing, teaching, editing, workshopping, designing and typesetting.
Camera, SLR Camera, Practical Photography, Amateur Photographer, The Countryman, Animal Life and Animals (formerly house magazines of the RSPCA) and Wildlife (now BBC Wildlife) and others.
Reader's Digest, Scotland on Sunday, The Herald. Ten essays comprising a total of 34,000 words in the 3-volume Oxford Encyclopaedia of American Literature (2004), on: Anthony Hecht, Richard Wilbur, James Wright, Theodore Roethke, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Derek Walcott, Jones Very, John Crowe Ransom, Robinson Jeffers, and The [American] New Formalism. 12,000-word essays on Les Murray, Anthony Hecht, Ted Hughes, Wendy Cope, Iain Crichton Smith, Douglas Dunn, X. J. Kennedy, G.F. Dutton and Stewart Conn, published in the British Writers and American Writers series by Charles Scribners' Sons.
The Spectator; The Hudson Review; The Independent; Dream State: The New Scottish Poets (2nd edition), ed. by Donny O'Rourke; The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Scottish Poems, ed. by Douglas Dunn; A Book of Scottish Verse, ed. by Maurice Lindsay, etc.
Click on the thumbnail images below to see the photos at full size.
Gerry Cambridge, May 2009 at Moniack Mhor; photograph by Tanya White
Gerry Cambridge, September 2007; photograph by Nicola Murray
Gerry Cambridge jamming on harmonica with other musicians, Eigg-Mallaig ferry, 26 July 2007. Sketch by Nicola Murray
Gerry Cambridge at 21 (months)
The caravan in Ayrshire, circa 1988
The caravan's kitchen, circa 1988
The caravan's living room, looking on to the kitchen, circa 1988. In the middle distance is the table on which, some years later, the first five issues of The Dark Horse were typeset.
In MacDiarmid's room in Brownsbank Cottage, 1997, surrounded by MacDiarmid memorabilia. The cottage is also a registered museum
With X.J. Kennedy, West Chester, June 2000. Picture by Kevin
Playing harmonica to accompany my sonnet 'Adolescent Bodybuilders' on
a panel on sonnets and ballads at West Chester in June 2000. The other
participants are David Kaplan and Meg Schoerke. Picture by Kevin
April 2003 with the poet W. N. Herbert, outside the
door of the cottage MacDiarmid and his wife lived in between 1933 and
1942, at Symbister on Whalsay in Shetland
A page from my notebook, after watching bee eaters, Merops apiaster, during a residency in
the French Languedoc as part of Entente Cordiale in April 2004
Gerry Cambridge on Canna as part of a SpeyGrian project in July 2005, with Rum in the background. Picture by Petrea Cooney