The excellent open-mic poetry group, Write Out Loud Woking, has published an anthology with contributions from 54 poets who have read with the group since it began in 2016. Called Finding Our Voices, it’s great value at only £5 and is available from Amazon.
A celebration of the group’s first six years, it’s the brainchild of joint organiser Rodney Wood, who saw it as a good way of marking his co-host Greg Freeman’s move from Surrey to Northumberland. They have edited the anthology together.
I first read with WOL Woking in September 2020 on Zoom and was delighted to have been asked to contribute a poem. I wrote “The Reading” (below) after attending my first in-person meeting of the group at The Lightbox in June. I’ll be in Woking again on 27th October to collect my copy of the anthology and read the poem.
It’s very loosely based on poem 50 by Catullus, in which he describes his inability to sleep after a day spent writing with his friend, Licinius Calvus, a poet and orator, whom Catullus clearly admired. In the original, it was more a workshop than a reading and Catullus certainly didn’t drive home on a motorway. But when my Catullus says that he’s seen the future, it’s true in the sense that his poems have survived (traditionally, found plugging a wine cask in 13th century Verona), whereas only a few fragments of Licinius’s verse remain.
The Reading after Catullus The reading the other night, Licinius, I thought it went well. You’ve certainly got a gift, a real feel for poetry, with technical skill to die for, a voice that’s all your own and the imagery, my God! I’d give anything, I swear, to come up with tropes like that. You were turbocharged, on fire. I, desperate to catch up, road-tested my latest work. It was risky, I know, but the audience were kind – no car crash, anyway. Afterwards, driving home, I couldn’t settle down for thirty motorway miles. Speed traps hurled thunderbolts after the unwary. Under the gantries’ limits, we were reduced to a crawl, like competitors keeping our lanes. My mind, though, was still racing. Stuck in lines of traffic, I produced these lines of my own. Don’t laugh. You may be good, but pride comes before a fall. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen the future, Licinius. Stephen Claughton