Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 27 March 2018

  • Catullus 51 (original Latin)

    Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
    ille, si fas est, superare divos,
    qui sedens adversus identidem te
    spectat et audit
    dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
    eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
    Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
    vocis in ore,
    lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
    flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
    tintinant aures, gemina teguntur
    lumina nocte.
    Otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
    otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
    otium et reges prius et beatas
    perdidit urbes.


    Catullus 51: High Fantasy translation

    In the tavern, they sat near the fire, which created a companionate halo around the small company. Food was served, with ale and mead, and they started to feel merry, though tired and shaken by the terrors of the road. Snorri was elbow height to the rider in the green cloak, whose pitted face now seemed moon-like, lit by the elf woman who sat opposite, talking and smiling. Her laughter was like purses of silver poured out liberally and pocketed by that mortal. None of it was spent on the dwarf, who sat in shadow and twice looked at her and quickly turned away as he felt flames dart along his limbs. He tried once to speak, but his tongue was lead and he knew he could not speak and look at her still. His senses eclipsed, he heard only the pounding on the worn anvil of his heart. His eyes were shut in darkness, like the closing of the doors into the mountain. Confused by these new emotions, he applied himself with greater energy to the meal. Idleness, thought Snorri, taking great bites of the bread and roast meat in his trencher. Only idleness. The idle axe rusts and the lazy smith lets his fire go out.


    by Rowyda Amin


    Poetry news! We are delighted to say that one of our ignition
    press pamphlets, A Hurry of English by Mary Jean Chan, is the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice for Summer 2018! You can read more about the PBS selection here, and find details of all three ignitionpress pamphlets (by Mary Jean, Lily Blacksell, and Patrick James Errington) here. There are two further launches for the press in Edinburgh and St. Andrews on 11 and 12 April, where you can hear all three poets.

    On Saturday 14 April, ignitionpress editor and Oxford-based poet Alan Buckley will be leading a day-long workshop for the Poetry Centre entitled ‘First, are you our sort of person? – I, you, they and us’. It will explore how writing in the second and third person and first person plural can broaden our range as writers, and enable us to write more deeply into our own experience. Participants are invited to bring two of their existing poems to be worked on by themselves and others. Tickets are £45 (£40 for Brookes students and staff). To sign up, visit our website.

    Have you seen our poetry reading series schedule? We have five readings coming up – with Peter Raynard and Richard Skinner; Kei Miller; Sinéad Morrissey; Clare Pollard; and Richard Harrison – and you can book tickets here. 

    Finally, Sphinx Theatre will presents the award winning show ‘A Berlin Kabaret’, a vibrant presentation of lyrical anti-war songs, at the Old Fire Station, Oxford on 20 and 21 April. The show features previously undiscovered and newly translated poems by Bertolt Brechtand provocative new voices from Crisis Skylight writing workshops. You can find more information on the OFS website.

    ‘Catullus 51: High Fantasy translation’ is copyright © Rowyda Amin, 2017. It is reprinted from Bad Kid Catullus (Sidekick Books, 2017) by permission of Sidekick Books

    Notes from Sidekick Books:

    Gaius Valerius Catullus was Ancient Rome’s most notorious scandal-monger, filthsmith and lovelorn wretch. In this interactive handbook, Bad Kid Catullus, his famously sexy, savage, tender and scurrilous poems have been transformed and mutated in myriad ways: compressed, expanded, bricolaged, Catullus in six pulp genres, Catullus as playlist – even a Catullus karma sutra. And then there are pages for you, the reader, to fill in, in your own obscene fashion. You’ll never look at a sparrow the same way again. Find out more about the book on the Sidekick Books website.

    An itinerant scribe, Rowyda Amin lived in the capital until she was sent into exile in the far west for an ill-judged remark about the emperor’s hairpiece. You can read more about Rowyda’s work on her website, and follow her on Twitter

    Sidekick Books is a cross-disciplinary, collaborative poetry press run by Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone. Started in 2009 by the ex-communicated alchemist Dr Fulminare, the press has produced themed anthologies and team-ups on birds, video games, Japanese monsters and everything in between. Sidekick Books titles are intended as charms, codestones and sentry jammers, to be dipped into in times of unease. You can follow Sidekick’s work on the press’s website and via Twitter.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.