Poetry Review: Wild Persistence by Katrina Naomi

Poetry Book - Wild PersistenceWild Persistence is the first book of poetry written by Katrina Naomi since she moved from London to Cornwall, and it is full of poems about change, about decisions and pausing to consider moments in time. I read this collection on my first day of the #SealeyChallenge (reading a book of poetry each day for the month of August) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book begins with celebration in ‘How to Celebrate a Birthday’, and it sets the tone for the whole collection, urging the reader to pause and contemplate, amid the busy-ness of life.

Here are a few lines from the end of the poem:

Dancing shows us who we really are
and who we might become. Go on, dance.
And look up at the stars on your way
back, look at them for longer than usual.

Naomi’s writing is lyrical, playful, and full of memorable snapshots in time.

There is also a strong sense of place in this collection, with plenty of poems that evoke the delight of living in the countryside, and others that hark back to the attractions of London. ‘Poem in Which She Wears Her Favourite Wedding Dress’ appears in English and in Cornish, giving us a strong sense of Cornwall’s heritage:

Saints are all about her. Herring and mackerel
flit from the frothing nets of underskirts.

And in Cornish:

Yma syns oll a-dro dhedhi. Hern ha brithel
a dernjj a-dhiworth roesow ewynek hy goelesennow.

Other poems focus on the wildlife and natural surroundings of the poet’s home, such as ‘Maybe Owls’, a beautifully haunting description of a walk in the pitch black of night:

The birds in the silver birches listened
as we shone our light over rock
jutting through the moss and grass
of the path. The night silenced us,
we became aware of the still sky
and the stars we were ignorant of.

Many of the poems celebrate human intimacy, even across distances. I particularly enjoyed reading ‘Dualism: A Manifesto’ which examines the surreal sense of being two individuals in one body, and here is a quote from ‘The Only Truly Memorable New Year’s Eve’, in which the poet is photographed by a neighbour:

Who was lonelier that night –
me struggling out of bed, wanting
to be a part of something, even from afar,

or the man opposite, capturing a woman,
her face flu-white and unwashed, her coral
dressing gown the only interest in the frame?

Such poems have a strong sense of vulnerability and honesty about them, as well as capturing an opportunity to pause, for one brief moment, and reflect.

‘House as Tent’ similarly focuses on a moment of connection, but also separation, across time and distance:

Here are many rooms;
there, just the two – indoors and out. Here, you wrestle
with a window, I had no window there; except for that space
when the moor’s ponies and cattle stand, motionless
and you can think about the things that matter.

Such moments, when you ‘think about the things that matter’ run through the core of this collection, with a celebration of life in all its fullness, and the strange intimacy of human relationship. It was an excellent choice to begin my marathon of poetry reading, and I will definitely dip into it again.

Wild Persistence by Katrina Naomi is published by Seren Books

Declaration: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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