I’d been to many launches in the past at the  Poetry Society and it would make me feel legitimate. Kitty Coles also had a book coming out at the same time so it seemed like a good idea to share the cost of the room. Thought we should have some guests as well to make the evening more stimulating. WOL reviewed the night.

No sweat, it’s cool: verdict on new-look Poetry Cafe as pamphlets are launched

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This is a picture of a happy audience in the new-look basement of the Poetry Café on Saturday night. There’s no doubt that the old downstairs at the Poetry Cafe in London had a ragamuffin identity – and aroma – all of its own. There were those who loved its sweaty ambience, although I was not one of them.

Maybe there will be some who lament that something has been lost amid the bright white surfaces of the new-look café, upstairs and downstairs – an expensive refit by the Poetry Society that has taken the best part of a year to complete. But an atmosphere is not just its surroundings, it is the feelings and inter-action generated by quality poetry and an appreciative audience.  And judging by the bonhomie engendered on Saturday night, the new-look café is already a hit.

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We were there for the joint launch of pamphlets by Rodney Wood and Kitty Coles, pictured – both regulars at Write Out Loud Woking. (Rodney is co-compere). Their readings were preceded by contributions by guest poets – Melanie BrantonMaggie SawkinsGrant Tarbard, and myself.Melanie was first up, her performance, as befits a slam champion, delivered without any reading aid, and laced with witty “syntax evasion” wordplay. There were also strong fairytale elements – of which, more later – including a poem about a gingerbread house, written from the witch’s viewpoint.

Award-winning poet Maggie Sawkins read several poems from her collection Zones of Avoidance, including one about a night when she interviewed her favourite band, another from the point of view of a stone, and ‘A Dog Asleep in the Crook of your Arm’ – the title says it all.

Second-half guest poet Grant Tarbard used to edit a well-loved print and remarkably illustrated online magazine The Screech Owl, both before and after he suffered a stroke that left him in a wheelchair. His poems on Saturday night included ‘Triptych’ – “I have had three deaths, / one for each decade” – and ‘Body’ (“I have been a life without a body / sitting slumped in silence and imcomplete”. They are included in his newly published Rosary of Ghosts, to be launched at the Poetry Cafe next month. The poems in it have been described by Martin Figura as “threaded through with pain; the gentle and abiding love in them carries us through”.

I felt obliged to include a poem about Waterloo station in my guest-poet set, given the struggles some poets and audience members had had to get to Covent Garden, thanks to the ongoing improvements at the London terminus that were meant to have been completed by the end of August, and are now continuing at weekends until the end of November …  but don’t get me started.

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The final poet of the evening, Rodney Wood, pictured, was a revelation. As co-compere of Write Out Loud Woking, I reckon I know him fairly well, and am acquainted with the tercets he often writes involving repetition of lines and phrases – a style I believe he has initiated, and has dubbed his “little poetry machine”. But the said tercets in his pocket-sized, limited-edition chapbook Dante Called You Beatrice took me aback, in their lyricism, heart-on-sleeve charm, and in the hypnotic quality of the repetition, which works both on the page, and even more so in performance.Rodney is a poet that has been around for a while, and consequently seems to know almost everyone on the poetry scene. In his introduction he spoke of the generosity that he has found and valued in the poetry world – and he was certainly generous in his introductions to his fellow poets on Saturday night. It make me realise that what can be lacking at some launch nights is someone to introduce the launch poets themselves – and hopefully this review can partly make good that omission.

In that regard I must also pay tribute to the qualities of Kitty Coles, a younger poet whose name pops up very often in poetry magazines. She was launching her pamphlet collection Seal Wife, which was joint winner of last year’s Indigo Dreams poetry pamphlet competition. Her gothic, unsettling poems using stories and characters taken from fairtytales and myths create a particular world. Her style is cool and controlled, even if the subject matter is the darkness on the edge of town. They are poems that are outside the comfort zone; that is their point.

She disclaims any autobiographical element. Introducing one poem, ‘Black Annis’, with its references to “rag and bone”, and “gowns of skin”, Kitty said: “People can’t possibly think this poem’s about me.” She described another, ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ as “the only one that has a tenuous link with real life”. Other titles included ‘Poltergeist’, ‘Osisris’, ‘Banshee’ and ‘Forest’. We will be hearing more from her, and about her, and one day be saying: “Kitty Coles? She used to read at Write Out Loud Woking, you know.”

As we walked back past the anti-terrorism barriers on Waterloo bridge afterwards, I reflected again on the changes at the Poetry Café – smart new toilets, and extra space in the café upstairs, too. And Grant Tarbard’s verdict on the access facilities? “The only addition to what was already there (disabled toilet and a lift, which are fine) is a slightly awkward ramp. At least it’s a small improvement – and it’s the only poetry venue that I know of in London that’s fully accessible.” From today (Monday 18 September) the Poetry Cafe is open from 11am, Monday to Friday, and on some Saturdays, too.

Greg Freeman



Early August Mark, The Red Ceiling Press, sent me a PDF copy to look through for typos/formatting corrections. I found a few of those and made a few changes myself. After 5 attempts it was signed off on the 6th and I could go on holiday for two weeks. On 1 September 50 copies of the booklet arrived and are sitting beside me. Before the hols I was also thinking about the launch. London I thought, maybe the Poetry Cafe. It so happened that a friend, Kitty Coles, also had a book coming out at the same time. We pooled resources and got the Cafe (£65 for 2 hours) which would be handy for people to get to. We didn’t fancy spending all that time reading ourselves so thought about having friends reading. Greg of course, and Grant (who also has a book coming out and is disabled – Kitty works for a disabled charity). Kitty choose Melanie Branton (a friend of Robert Garnham) and Maggie Sawkins (also known and loved by me) – poetry is a small world. On 1 September it arrived in a sealed plastic envelope.  Had a few drinks that night. Next day posted some copies off for review. I posted Raul a few copies to Mexico City, a few days later there was an earthquake, just saying.


My first preference is for none at all but then I thought maybe I should put down something about myself that shows I’ve been active in the poetry bubble. But should I also say how my little poetry machine works? A friend answered he was more interested in the end result rather than a Haynes type breakdown as to the process. No then.  I have a couple of nice things some poetry mags have said about my poems so why not take them out of context and use them? I thought about Arthur Smith sending me an email – well done that man. I could have sent it out to friends of course but that can wait for a collection. The title of the chapbook comes from a book by Paul Potts (no, not that one), perhaps the most romantic book I’ve ever read. A few relevant quotes. Anything else? The cover. The final choice was a painting by Raul Cordero whose work I first saw when on holiday. I liked the three part structure, what was said and unsaid, the missing parts and the ghosts. There had to be some legal stuff about permission to use the painting.


Rodney Wood

Lives in Farnborough. He left school at 16, obtained a degree with the Open University, worked in the civil service and retired early. Since then he’s organised poetry reading and workshops, volunteered at his local arts centre in Aldershot, and performed in various venues, including the South Bank. Recent work has appeared in or is forthcoming from publications including Brittle Star, Envoi, The Journal, Magma, Prole, South, Stride and Tears in the Fence.

His work has been described as “innovative and moving” by Envoi and “powerful” by Chicago Review

A lover that is not loved is a river which can never get to the sea…you have no more right to ask me to fall out of love with you than I have to expect you to fall in love with me.” Paul Potts

Cover by RAUL CORDERO “Per la vostra sicurezza”

2000. Oil and polyester on canvas

200 x 140 cm

Private Collection, New York

Photo courtesy of Raúl Cordero Studio and Mai 36 Galerie


Used and Found some passive voices, an “I” on a line by itself, some “‘” missing and some spelling mistakes. So very useful even after going through them before with a fine toothcomb. I used one which said my writing contains too many poor quality phrases and I have below average vocabulary usage.


They “publish contemporary poetry in the form of limited edition chapbooks. We like innovative, experimental and avante-garde poetry in particular.”  I am very grateful, and surprised, that Mark Cobley decided that poems made by my little poetry machine fitted, especially after reading the prose poems of Gareth Twose and Katherine Sowerby. Now I’m close to sending 32 poems off, well Thursday actually. I did start with a few more but realised some didn’t fit and others were just bad. If anyone wants a look to spot typos, grammar errors and so on drop we a line with your email address and I’ll wing it your way.



This year I thought it about time I approached some publishers about a pamphlet. I soon found out most weren’t taking on any new work but some were. Eventually, someone replied saying they like my work and if I could add some more poems over the summer they’d be happy to publish. So I must do that and think about cover image, biog, blurb and review (for the back cover) of DANTE CALLED YOU BEATRICE. So thanks to everyone who helped me get this far and especially to Carrie Etter (who set me thinking of a new form), Todd Swift (who introduced me to new poets and gave me encouragement), Greg Freeman (who’s been a good friend and enthusiastic about poetry in general) and David Cooke (for his encouragement). The inexpert photo blow is a cut-out by my friend Dick Boulton.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My Joy

Nunc Dimittis, James Laughlin

Little time now
and so much hasn’t
been put down as I
should have done it.
But does it matter?
It’s all been written
so well by my betters,
and what they wrote
has been my joy.

James was an heir of his family’s iron and steel business. He majored in Latin and Italian at Harvard and studies at Ezra Pound’s “Ezuversity”. In 1935 Pound persuaded the young man to give up his poetic ambitions and “do something useful,” like publishing. The result was New Directions who went on to publish WC Williams, Henry Miller, Dylan Thomas and Delmore Schwartz among others.”It is better,” James wrote, “to be read by eight hundred readers and be a good writer than be read by all the world and be Somerset Maugham.” I didn’t like poetry at school and only started reading it in my late 20s. My guide was Martin Seymour-Smith’s monumental “Guide to Modern World Literature” which introduced me to such stunning writers as Trakl, Vallejo and Mandelstam as well as the poetry of Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe. It’s impossible to compete with them so the joy lies in reading them. The only thing you can do as far as writing is concerned is be yourself and discover that maybe there is something only you can say. It has taken me a lifetime to get there.