(Seren Books, 2020)
Do you read poetry? Do you read living poets? There is some great stuff being written at the moment, especially by women. Some of it is innovative in form; some uses rhyme and rhythm in novel ways; some of it is in prose. It is about day to day living, influences and aspirations, high and low points, pasts and futures: the gamut of female existence, really. Recently I have been reading Ella Frears (see review on this blog), Isabelle Baafi, and have now just finished Katrina Naomi’s third full collection, Wild Persistence.
Now seems a good time to write a few words of review about Wild Persistence, as it is a year today that it was published.
I’m Cornish. This collection of Naomi’s was written after her move to Cornwall from London. You don’t have to be a Cornish chile to enjoy it – but I found it had a lot of resonances for me that had to do with that particular – perhaps, even, peculiar – place, and a woman’s place within it. Naomi has thrown herself into Cornish society and culture, and I thank her for it.
There is a great deal going on in Naomi’s head, to do with being a woman of a certain age, at this particular time, in this particular place, which she investigates and puts on the page. The richness that results is like quality chocolate. These are intimate poems. She interrogates her life without boundaries. She juxtaposes her life with the lives around her, the way we live now (as Trollope would say) and how it all marries up. Or not.
Her titles are luscious and fascinating, drawing the reader into the collection. ‘Swaling on Boscathow’ is an evocative, descriptive poem of a peculiarly Cornish activity – heather burning. ‘Taking Off Billy Collins’s Clothes’ teases the reader with its titular reference. ‘Ghazal for Tim’ is prefaced with an epigraph from Federico Garcia Lorca – a cultural mashup of a love poem. ‘Bardhonek May Hwisk Hi Ynno Hy Fows Dhemmedhyans Meurgerys’ is a poem of Naomi’s translated into Cornish, the English original (given on the facing page) being ‘Poem in Which She Wears Her Favourite Wedding Dress’. I’m sure I don’t need to point up what a lot is going on there. My favourite is ‘What I Will Tell My Daughter’; a bold poem which really speaks to me. But there isn’t a duff or a dull poem in the collection. The poetical forms Naomi employs to get her messages across are very varied, which helps keep interest high.
If you think that women’s business is a circumscribed and tedious thing, you are in for a very pleasant surprise indeed, as Naomi explores the length and breadth of her rich and full life through her poetry.