September 26, 2016

Katrina Naomi: “At Noongallas”

Head n Shoulders

This week, we are excited to feature a new poem by Katrina Naomi. Naomi’s poetry has appeared in The TLS, The Spectator, and The Poetry Review. Her second collection, The Way the Crocodile Taught Me (Seren) came out in 2016, following Hooligans (Rack Press), a chapbook of poetry inspired by the Suffragettes. Previous collections include The Girl with the Cactus Handshake (Templar Poetry), which was shortlisted for the London New Writers Award, Charlotte Brönte’s Corset (Brönte Society), and Lunch at the Elephant and Castle (Templar Poetry), which won the Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition. Katrina holds a PhD in creative writing from Goldsmiths, University of London, is a Hawthornden Fellow, and has received awards from the Royal Literary Fund and Arts Council England. She lives in Cornwall. Her website is www.katrinanaomi.co.uk.
 
Author’s note:

I wrote “At Noongallas” when a group of us were camping at a friend’s parents’ farm in Cornwall, near where I live, and my friend gave birth that night. I’ve never been interested in children but was amazed at how relaxed she and her partner were, drinking beer and lazing about by the campfire, watching shooting stars with the rest of us. Before anyone else was awake, the following morning, I found myself writing a poem inspired by the birth of this child as the starting point. I’ve borrowed the form of the poem from Julia Copus (see her wonderful “specular” poem, “The Backseat of My Mother’s Car”). I don’t usually write about children/childbirth and I don’t usually write in strict forms like this, so the poem has come as quite a surprise.

 

At Noongallas

 
for Juliette and Alain
 

A brooding sky,
cows stumbling down a hill.
So much life and death on a farm.
And out of this huge dampness, a thin cry
like a mewling kitten or a tropical bird –
part West Cornwall, part West Africa –
something undefinable.
We spoke of you last night
having no name for you then.
As we talked, a meteor shower, an omen
short lived but powerful. And your father said:
At home, we believe the stars burst
into the atmosphere before falling to the sea.
We felt we were taken somewhere else –
a campsite, beers, talk in English and French –
and that belly still, silent, waiting
to be heard across the sodden fields,
your mother’s waters having run all night.

 

Your mother’s waters having run all night
to be heard across the sodden fields
and that belly still, silent, waiting.
A campsite, beers, talk in English and French.
We felt we were taken somewhere else –
into the atmosphere before falling to the sea.
At home, we believe the stars burst –
short lived but powerful. And your father said,
as we talked, a meteor shower – an omen –
having no name for you. Then
we spoke of you last night:
something undefinable,
part West Cornwall, part West Africa,
like a mewling kitten or a tropical bird.
And out of this huge dampness, a thin cry –
so much life and death on a farm,
cows stumbling down a hill,
a brooding sky.

 

About leanna

Leanna Petronella is a creative writing doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri.

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