Katrina Naomi (interviewed by Hannah Hodgson)
Katrina has a PHD in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths university. Her most recent collection, The way the Crocodile told me, was released by Seren in 2016. Katrina will be reading alongside Malika Booker during the Saturday afternoon reading, you can buy tickets HERE. She will also be running a workshop for us on the Sunday morning of the festival on ‘Sustaining A Poem’. I will also be reading as a young poet during this slot, and I am really excited to be reading alongside Katrina and Malika. I asked Katrina a set of questions for our five minute interview. I hope you will find her answers interesting, I certainly did.
If you could only write poetry on one theme for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Oh that’s tough! I’d hate to feel restricted to just one topic or theme for my poetry. I know that I write a lot about people and that often my poems are quite dark. Other poets often ask me if my poetry is shifting since I moved to Cornwall, I’m not sure, there’s some new themes emerging but still a lot about people and I can’t ever see my poetry becoming too light and fluffy…But still, I want to feel that freedom to write on anything I want. So I shall!
How do you motivate yourself to write?
I tend to write a lot. I write most days. If I am stuck for a subject, then I’ll read someone else’s collection until something clicks with me and then I’m away. I also find walking and visiting art galleries useful for prompting ideas. But motivation isn’t much of a problem with me, happily.
Do you belong to any writing/ critique groups? Do you think that they are a useful way of developing writing?
Yes, I do and I wouldn’t want to be without them. I’ve always been a member of a poetry group or two, and I think it’s essential. All poets need honest feedback on their work. Being part of a group that just encourages you is fine when you’re starting out as a poet but after a while you need a group that’s really going to critique your poetry. You need to know when a poem really isn’t working – and then you can go away and try and fix it. So don’t just stay in a group that says, ‘Oh that’s lovely’ to your poetry. You need to step outside this and take a few risks.
What was your first step into poetry?
This came about when I went on my first writing course. It was a short story writing course, because that’s what I was writing at the time, and the tutor asked us to write ‘something from the heart’. It turned out that I’d written a poem. Nobody could have been more shocked than I was. I’d always thought poetry was elitist, I hated the poetry we’d done at school and wanted no part of it. The tutor suggested I join an adult education class to read poetry, which I did. The first poems that were brought into that adult education class were by Sharon Olds and Mark Doty and I remember thinking, if this is poetry, then I’m all for it. I was hooked. I began reading poetry and began trying to write it.
Have you got any tips for emerging or young poets?
Yes, read as much and as widely as you can. Read contemporary poetry. Join a poetry critiquing group. Subscribe to a poetry magazine or two if you can afford it. But the most important thing is to read. And further to this, copy out those poems that really excite you. I think typing up someone else’s poem helps you to see how it’s been put together. And keep going. Don’t give up. You will get rejections, we all do, everyone does. Just keep reading and writing, and if you really mean it, you’ll get there. And good luck.
Gin and Ice Cream by Katrina Naomi
Even after all the gins, all morning,
you still can’t say the c-word.
Over a weekend, I try to discuss your daughter/
my mum, but your soft blue eyes fill.
You ask me to water the roses,
stabbing at the crust of a lemon cheesecake,
scooping out the last of the ice cream.
The petals drip. We won’t talk of this again.
When mum comes round you hug her so tight
to the mismatched buttons of your pink housecoat,
the air stills. We watch her, like royalty,
searching her eyes, her movements.
We smile hard, draining and weighing
each of her words:
oedema, tamoxifen, oncologist.
Her stay, as always, is brief.
After she leaves, I raise a silent toast
and together, we finish the bottle.