Typhoon Etiquette

Everything is wet
E  v  e  r  y  t  h  i  n  g
Things are done properly here
For two days you will all struggle with umbrellas
On the third day   the see-through plastic and spoke carcasses
line the kerbs
I wait
for my name and number to be proclaimed across the land
before making my arrival
I don’t rush
up the country
that would be inconsiderate
I take each island in turn
a typhoon etiquette
Yaeyama  Miyako   Okinawa  Amami   Tokara   Yakushima
I savour Okinawa   raking
each field   forcing every cane of sugar   every husk of rice
to drink itself daft
You will know of my arrival
via text 
in the middle of the night
There’s the gathering of winds
the heavy slant
of rain   It is almost a relief for you
The waiting is over
I am here
Some of you bet on my wind speeds
I can perform at a mean 150 km an hour
Most aren’t fooled by the lull
after my initial hit
but I love to see those blond tourists
venture from their Best Westerns
flat cameras like amulets
They won’t stay for long
I like the streets
empty night or day   when even the crows are silent
then I concentrate
Destruction used to be easier
I’d been taught to savour the umashi
of Shibuya’s concrete   how it used to crumble
I spun around laughing when they built taller
But they’re cleverer than before
With this all-seeing eye
I do my best work   and my worst
Don’t be fooled
treesriverscarsseafronts are easy
My life is brief   a few days at most
Respect me
write down my name   worship me in this way
then shake the rope that leads to your gods
see if they are listening

by Katrina Naomi

Our International Poetry Competition is open for entries for just a couple more weeks – until 2 September. There are two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. Our judge is Jackie Kay, and you could win £1000! Find out more and enter here.

The Poetry Centre’s ignitionpress has just launched its three newest pamphlets by Joanna Ingham, Jennifer Lee Tsai, and Sarah Shapiro. You can read more about them and buy copies here.

Writing about this week’s poem, Verve Poetry Press says: ‘We are thrilled that the wonderful Katrina Naomi has asked us to publish the poems that came out of her recent Arts Council-supported writing trip to Japan. And a wonderful group of poems they are, that at once depict Japan, its traditions, its customs with great enthusiasm and some puzzlement. Katrina doesn’t pretend she is an expert but prods and questions not only what she finds but also herself.  

Also included are Katrina’s translations of haiku by two Japanese masters, which have previously been published in Modern Poetry in Translation magazine. Altogether, this is Katrina trying something new, but with the quality, the wonderful way with words, the earnest grappling with the perceived world that characterises all her work.’ You can read more about the pamphlet and buy a copy on the Verve Poetry Press site.

In 2018 Katrina Naomi received a BBC commission for National Poetry Day. Her poetry has appeared in the TLSPoetry London, The Poetry Review and The Forward Book of Poetry 2017, as well as on BBC TV’s Spotlight and Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please. Her latest collection, The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren, 2016), was chosen by Foyles’ Bookshop as one of its #FoylesFive for poetry. Katrina was the first writer-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in West Yorkshire. She has a PhD in Creative Writing (Goldsmiths) and tutors for Arvon, Ty Newydd and the Poetry Society. Learn about Katrina’s work via her website and follow her on Twitter.

Verve Poetry Press is a new press focussing intently on meeting a local need in Birmingham – a need for the vibrant poetry scene here in Brum to find a way to present itself to the poetry world via publication. Co-founded by Stuart Bartholomew and Amerah Saleh, the press was voted Most Innovative Press at Saboteur Awards 2019 and has been described as ‘always exciting’ by Andrew McMillan. It is publishing poets from all corners of the city – poets that represent the city’s varied and energetic qualities and will communicate its many poetic stories.

Added to this is a colourful pamphlet series featuring poets who have previously performed at our sister festival such as Luke Kennard, Katrina Naomi and Claire Trévien – and a poetry show series which captures the magic of longer poetry performance pieces by poets such as Polarbear and Matt Abbott. Like the festival, we will strive to think about poetry in inclusive ways and embrace the multiplicity of approaches towards this glorious art. Find out more about Verve Poetry Press here and more about the festival here.

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.

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.