The Way the Crocodile Taught Me

I swooned at the large god of him, sunning.
A tooth for every day of my life.
He performed his run along the bank,
as males do. I brought my boat closer.
He took to following, at a distance.

I wasn’t taken in, knew his four-chambered heart
pumped love out and in, in and out,
knew his tongue had few good uses,
knew all about his grin. Yet whoever said he was cold-
blooded has never truly known this beast.

He brought out the prehistoric in me. I dived.
We swam, belly to belly, to where the Niles meet,
tussled as we thrashed among the weeds. After, I lay
the length of him, a limestone lilo, studs patterning
my skin. He smiled at me, often. Taught me all he knew.

Years later, when a man tried to drag me under,
I practised the force my lover had held back –
levered my small jaws open to their furthest extent,
splashed them down on the human’s arm.
My attacker still carries the mark of my smile.

by Katrina Naomi

This is the last Weekly Poem of 2016. The Poetry Centre wishes you a very Merry Christmas! We look forward to sharing more poems with you in 2017, as well as details of our upcoming readings, workshops, and events for 2017. For more initial details on those, do visit the Poetry Centre website.

‘The Way the Crocodile Taught Me’ is copyright © Katrina Naomi, 2016. It is reprinted from The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016) by permission of Seren.

Notes from Seren:

With warmth, flair and a certain ferocious wit, Katrina Naomi tears into her subject matter in The Way the Crocodile Taught Me: a childhood fraught with dislocation and violence but also redeemed by more tender memories of a sister and a kindly, although at times comically obtuse, grandmother. The tone of the work is as much tender as turbulent, reflecting the protagonist’s travails. Vicki Feaver has praised Katrina Naomi’s ‘cool voice and fierce eye’, and this pointed, lively and always entertaining book is sure to delight all those who know Katrina’s work, and undoubtedly win new fans for her courageous and unabashedly entertaining poems. You can read more about the book on Seren’s website.

Katrina Naomi has a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College. She was the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire and was recently writer-in-residence at Gladstone’s Library in North Wales where she wrote a sequence on the Suffragettes, published by Rack Press as Hooligans. Her debut collection The Girl with the Cactus Handshake received an Arts Council Award and was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award. Her pamphlet Lunch at the Elephant & Castle won the 2008 Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition and her pamphlet Charlotte Brontë’s Corset was published to acclaim by the Brontë Society. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, a tutor at Falmouth University and runs Poetry Surgeries for the Poetry Society. Katrina’s recent work has been broadcast on Radio 4 and published by the TLS, The Spectator, The Poetry Review and Poetry Wales. She received an award from the Royal Literary Fund in 2014 for her writing. She enjoys performing her poetry and collaborating with visual artists, musicians and film-makers. She recently had an exhibition at London’s Poetry Café entitled ‘The Argument: Art V Poetry’, following a collaboration with the visual artist, Tim Ridley. She is originally from Margate and lives in Cornwall.

You can find out more about Katrina’s work on her website, in this recent interview from Literature Works, and by following her on Twitter.

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website.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.

Cannibal

Once I was so hungry, I tore the skin in strips from my feet
and ate it – a masseuse asked if I was burned?
There was protein there. I ate stories too,
tales of survival in the shell of planes.

People are said to taste like pork,
the Polynesians called white folk long pigs –
Did you know we’d all taste ourselves
all day long, if we could; that’s what poems are for.

I’d never eat a child.
I’d sooner die than eat a sibling.
Pork meat is white, fatty, fibroud
with the same strings that animate human days.

I’d like to think I could stay alive
on rain and my own dermis, beads of breast milk,
crusts of wax. My heart quietly consuming itself,
cardiac walls breaking down.

by Sarah Westcott

Today (Monday 5 December), the Poetry Centre presents a double dose of poetry from Steven Matthews, Kelley Swain & John Barnie. The three current poets in residence at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History will read from 12-1pm in JHB 208 at Oxford Brookes University, and then in the evening at The Albion Beatnik Bookshop from 7.30pm. All are welcome to either – or both! – events. You can find more details on the Poetry Centre website.

‘Cannibal’ is copyright © Sarah Westcott, 2016. It is reprinted from Slant Light (Liverpool University Press, 2016) by permission of Liverpool University Press.

Notes from Pavilion Poetry:

In her first full-length collection, Slant Light, Sarah Westcott immerses the human self in the natural world, giving voice to a remarkable range of flora and fauna so often silenced or unheard. Here, the voiceless speaks, laments and sings – from the fresh voice of a spring wood to a colony of bats or a grove of ancient sequioa trees. Unafraid of using scientific language and teamed with a clear eye, Westcott’s poems are drawn directly from the natural world, questioning ideas of the porosity of boundaries between the human and non-human and teeming with detail.

Sarah Westcott’s debut pamphlet Inklings was the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice for Winter 2013. Her poems have been published in journals including Poetry ReviewMagma and Poetry Wales and in anthologies including Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt). Sarah grew up in north Devon, on the edge of Exmoor, and has a keen interest in the natural world. She holds a science degree and an MA in poetry from Royal Holloway, University of London. Sarah lives on the London/Kent borders with her family and, after a spell teaching English abroad, works as a news journalist. You can find out more about Sarah and her work on her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Pavilion Poetry is a new contemporary poetry series from Liverpool University Press, edited by Deryn Rees-Jones, which seeks to publish the very best in contemporary poetry. Always international in its reach, Pavilion Poetry is poetry that takes a risk. Whether by new or established and award-winning writers, this is poetry sure to challenge and delight. Launched in 2015, Pavilion has already enjoyed considerable success, with Mona Arshi’s book, Small Hands, winning the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection at the 2015 Forward Prizes, and Ruby Robinson’s Every Little Sound being shortlisted for the same prize in 2016. You can read more about the series on the Liverpool University Press website.

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.