Katrina Naomi’s The Girl with the Cactus Handshake

Katrina Naomi

Katrina Naomi’s first full collection, The Girl with the Cactus Handshake (Templar Poetry, 2009) has just been shortlisted for the London Fringe Festival New Poetry Award 2010. During 2009/10, she was the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s first writer-in-residence; a pamphlet, Charlotte Brontë’s Corset, was published by the Brontë Society in April 2010. Katrina was shortlisted for the 2009 Bridport Prize and was runner-up in the Poetry Society’s 2009 Stanza Competition. In 2008/9 she received an Arts Council England Writer’s Award. Katrina won the 2008 Templar Poetry Competition with her pamphlet Lunch at the Elephant & Castle and recently received a Hawthornden Fellowship. She has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths (University of London) and teaches creative writing for the Open University and poetry online at Exeter University. Katrina was brought up in Margate and lives in south London.

“This impressive collection is rich with colour, black comedy, and surprise. Katrina Naomi’s inventive work locates a ‘beauty, a balance in watching’ as it explores unusual lives at key moments. These are poems as eye-opening, twisted fictions, in which B-movie girls, clairvoyants, sailors, psychobilly rockers, and lonely zookeepers feed their desires as best they can. This captivating book offers a riotously imaginative landscape – sometimes lush, sometimes prickly, and often rooted in delicious noir. Naomi’s version of pastoral is not one you’ll soon shake off.”

– Todd Swift
“Katrina Naomi’s poems are fresh and surprising – they’re user-friendly, willing to link arms with you, but then they tug you along in unlikely directions. With their sharp diction, salt tang, blend of dark and light, and their unexpected last lines, these are satisfying pieces which dock in the memory.”
– Roddy Lumsden
“Katrina Naomi’s poems take off from an eerily familiar inner-urban childhood and spiky estuary-hinterland adolescence, to explore, among other unlikely destinations, Brassai’s Parisian underworld, pre-Castro Cuba, ice-bound Newfoundland: daring flights shadowed with edgy, deep, intimate foreboding.”
– Anne-Marie Fyfe
The New World
I live in Ana’s caravan,
strew it with poppies and moss.
She adds cornflowers, cow parsley,
liking colour, greens and blues.
I position the van towards the moon.
She’ll sleep here
or in the woods.
I can never be sure,
but if it’s a night when she’s playing
with wolves, I undo the latch
and sew. I cover her bed
in Kente cloth and matted grass,
find a pink Formica table
from a seaside café that’s selling up,
place it by the window,
so she can paint the stars
by numbers. I leave her
offerings of a bamboo bar,
a solar-powered record player,
scratched jazz.
I love to watch her dance,
how quetzals lift her step,
lizards pull her to the ground.
I cook a dish of cacti,
leave it steaming at her feet.
Bar Girl, Havana, 1954
It’s that time of night when
my earrings pinch like clams,
when my tulle net skirt itches.
Even the Cristal is flat.
Scarcely a customer.
They’re all at the Tropicana,
where I’m barred.
No manager takes what he wants, but
it’s 3 am and Ernesto waits for me
to finish this beer,
my knuckles slumped
under my eyebrows.
My tab’s running over,
I need to clean this dress,
find more lipstick, fix my hair.
People say there’ll be a revolution.
from The Girl with the Cactus Handshake (Templar Poetry, 2009)
Order The Girl with the Cactus Handshake
Visit Katrina’s website.

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