Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 15 August 2019

  • 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.