Catullus 51 Noir

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: Noir

Lesbia, smoking hot in shifting satin,
a red Schiaparelli number, cut-to-kill,
spaghetti strap artfully loose on one bare
white arm. Her hooks tonight are in
millionaire Crassus. He’s slavering,
luckiest grifter in Little Italy, Straight Flush,
Full House, Jack in the Hole. Rufus,
I tell the barman, hit me with another.
Lesbia. She was Clodia back then.
The shock when she walked through
my door. Like the sizzle that twitched
Antonius. I wired him up to the factory mains.
He went pasty, his legs shook, sawdust-mouthed,
he fizzed inside, talked, and blacked out.
Catullus, I tell myself, here’s the angle:
trouble comes when there’s time to burn.
Time on your hands, Christ, you’re an animal.
Flagrant time. It’s what got Philoctetes
the Greek wasted. It did for Babylon.

by Ian McLachlan

News from the Centre: next Thursday sees the first event in our poetry reading series at our exciting new venue, Society Café in Oxford city centre. The first reading pairs two distinct voices in contemporary poetry: Kirsten Irving (also one of the editors of Sidekick Books) and Caroline Smith (whose poem ‘Teenager’ we featured back in January). Buy your tickets here and join us from 7-9pm. For future events in our reading series, including details of our reading on 9 November with Siobhán Campbell and Kate Clanchy, visit our website.

After the recent announcement of the winners of our International Poetry Competition, judged by Helen Mort, we would be delighted to see you at our awards event on Friday 24 November, which will feature readings from the winning and shortlisted poets and from Helen Mort herself. If you’d like to attend, please e-mail

‘Catullus 51: Noir’ is copyright © Ian McLachlan, 2017. It is reprinted from Bad Kid Catullus (Sidekick Books, 2017) by permission of Sidekick Books.

Notes from Sidekick Books:

Ian McLachlan was the Republic’s favourite tragedian. Due to an unfortunate incident involving Pompey’s son-in-law and the Cloaca Maxima, Ian now lives in remote Britain where he is a student of Stoicism and an assiduous writer of curse tablets. You can follow him on Twitter.

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.

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.