I am very excited about today’s guest post by Katrina Naomi, because today is the LAUNCH DAY of her third collection, Wild Persistence published by Seren Books. Katrina is a great supporter of poets and poetry, running workshops, mentoring, as well as active in the Society of Authors as member of their Poetry and Spoken Word Group. Katrina previously appeared on Proletarian Poetry back in 2015. So why not celebrate Katrina’s launch day by reading her guest feature, and if you can, buying Wild Persistence here. She is also doing a virtual launch on June 11th, details here.
“I’ve chosen to write about the poem ‘Boasting Sonnet’, from my new collection, Wild Persistence, (Seren, 1 June 2020) partly because it’s joyful and partly because the poem considers questions around class.
I was brought up working class, ‘me from a council estate’ in Margate, Kent, and was expelled from school. Since then, I’ve gone on to do any number of things that I might not have seen for myself, including moving to Cornwall. I was commissioned to write ‘Boasting Sonnet’ by Alyson Hallett and Rachel Bentham for Project Boast, a project which asked women to write about their achievements. To begin with, I found the idea of boasting about myself difficult. Then I thought of Sharon Olds’ poem ‘The Language of the Brag’ – how it takes on male entitlement – and I began writing.
Once I had my first line, I really enjoyed myself. I decided to mix things up, in what is a pretty personal poem, placing areas of my life that I might consider to be showy, alongside things that are more flippant. Everything in ‘Boasting Sonnet’ is true. Sharon Olds did write me a poem, after I interviewed her back in 2011, and I have no truck with marriage.
I love receiving commissions – I’m working on one at the moment – I like how they take me out of my comfort zone, when I’m asked to write in a new way, or to write in response to a subject I know next to nothing about. And as a poet, I think it’s good to be taken out of your comfort zone, to have your foundations shaken up a little. (Although perhaps there’s enough of that at the moment?)
Still, ‘Boasting Sonnet’ reminds me that I still think of myself as working class – and that I’ve very much been taken out of my comfort zone – going to Poly, then University, entering into a new language, and only then – much later, not until my early 30s, discovering poetry.
This mix up is what makes a life, and is possibly what makes a poem. I don’t usually write sonnets – and usually avoid rhyme – but once I’d opened up on the boasting, I needed a way to contain it. I’d been re-reading Patience Agbabi’s wonderful sonnet, ‘Transformatrix’, so I thought I’d see if the form might work for all of this showing off. I feel it does. ‘Boasting Sonnet’ told me things I’d perhaps forgotten. It also enabled me to say things I might not previously have been brave enough to share.”
Katrina Naomi received an Authors’ Foundation award from the Society of Authors for her third full collection, Wild Persistence, (Seren, June 2020). Katrina has published four pamphlets of poetry, including the Japan-themed Typhoon Etiquette (Verve Poetry Press, 2019). Her poetry has appeared on Radio 4’s Front Row and Poetry Please, and on Poems on the Underground. Katrina was the first poet-in-residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum and was highly commended in the 2017 Forward Prize for Poetry. She has a PhD in creative writing (Goldsmiths) and tutors for Arvon, Tŷ Newydd and the Poetry School. She lives in Cornwall. www.katrinanaomi.co.uk
I’m not one to brag but Sharon Olds wrote
me a poem; me from a council estate.
I’ve done handstands, on a skateboard, downhill
yet failed both Maths and English O level.
I’m still in love with the man I met at
eighteen. I don’t believe in marriage but
I once won an award for headbanging
and chaired human rights talks at the UN.
Expelled from school, I’m now a PhD.
I don’t wear make-up, this is the real me
unless I’m doing panto. In Cornish.
I’m a qualified mountain leader. Wish
you could see my scything and lindyhop.
I’d say much more but sonnets make you stop.
(from Wild Persistence, Seren, 2020, which you can buy here)