Yesterday, we told you that South West based poet, Katrina Naomi had been selected to represent the region as BBC local poet for National Poetry Day 2018. On National Poetry Day, we're delighted to reveal the poem and share our interview with Katrina on the commission.

'Countrywoman' Katrina's poem is based on the story of one BBC Radio Cornwall listener.

Countrywoman

It’s over, I know that.
But the grasses against my legs
are my lover’s hands,
the wind, his voice, urging me on.

Part of me wanted to be found
with him, for it all to break open.
And there’s my boy, Callum.

I’ve always upset things,
can’t help myself.

I run the dogs along Tredinney
like how they push on,
ignoring the hedges they’ll never scramble
over, have no sense
of shame, just follow their noses.
I did that once – an affair with another farmer.

I can see what a good person is.
We’d walk our dogs here up to Bartinney,
his Collie, my Jack Russells.

I can almost see his farm from here,
his Jeep, his Massey.

I ran away from my family –
twenty generations of farming.
I ran away and towards.

I’ve no regrets. Change is good.

I look out on the land, decide
which path to take down.

I know my way.
I’m a countrywoman.
Trevesiges ov vy.

Katrina Naomi 2018

We caught up with Katrina about the 'Local Poets' commission and about life as a poet in the South West.

Can you tell us how the commission form the BBC came about?

Well it came as a surprise – and a lovely one at that. I received an email out of the blue asking me if I would be interested in being put forward for the commission. Obviously, I was delighted to be considered but didn’t think too much more about it, in case it didn’t happen. I heard from the BBC a few days later confirming it. I had to write a poem based on a BBC Radio Cornwall or BBC Radio Devon listener’s story. As soon as I heard this one woman’s story – about an affair – I knew that this would be the subject for my poem. There’s been a lot of phone calls and emails about it – and I had to write the poem ‘Countrywoman’ quite quickly. So it’s all been really exciting.

The theme of National Poetry Day this year is ‘Change’ – this seems particularly important at the current time. Why do you think poetry is such an effective catalyst for this theme?

I like the theme of Change for this year’s National Poetry Day. We all have changes going on in our lives – big and small. Because poetry tries to only say what absolutely has to be said, I think it allows people to make up their own minds about what a poem might mean, and what decisions they might make in their own lives, were they to be faced with a particular situation. On the whole, poetry doesn’t try to tell you how to think, it (hopefully) allows a reader or a listener to get at the truth of something in their own way and in their own time. This is one of the things I love about poetry.

National Poetry Day is about sharing poetry. The commission for the BBC will be showcased in multiple ways. Do you work in this way often and how do you think that this can impact on the way that people can experience poetry?

Yes, it’s very much about sharing poetry – and making poetry more accessible. This accessibility is important to me. My commissioned poem ‘Countrywoman’ will be going out on local radio (BBC Cornwall on the Debbie McCrory programme) and hopefully on the BBC Spotlight TV programme on 4 October. I’ve been filmed reading my poem, on location in West Cornwall. I remember it was terrible weather, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see me through all the mist! But the poem, the film, and my recording of the poem will be going out on lots of different media on the day – 4 October – and it will be shared on social media quite widely.

Can you tell us a bit about being a poet in the South West? How is the poetry scene looking at the moment?

The South West is an incredibly creative place. I’m lucky enough to know many wonderful poets, visual artists, potters, musicians, singers and actors. And in the far West of Cornwall, where I live, there seems to be a concentration of artists and musicians. I really enjoy the interaction with other artists, as well as other poets, that’s important to me. Cornwall-based poets – and I’d like to single out Penelope Shuttle in particular here – have been really welcoming since I moved to Penzance from south London over 4 years ago. I’m really grateful to Penelope for all of her help and advice. I’m now involved in several poetry workshop groups, I run one in Penzance but also try to get to the Penzance Stanza and Falmouth Poetry Group as often as I can so that I can get feedback on my own poetry. And there’s quite a few big poetry/literature festivals in Cornwall, which is great – the North Cornwall Book Festival and the Cornwall Contemporary Poetry Festival are both coming up.

I run a small pop-up event, called Penzance Poetry Parlour, in my home. I invite top poets to come and read. Last week, I had Pascale Petit and Alyson Hallett in my front room, reading to around 40 people, the place was packed. I had no idea whether it would take off, but it has! So yes, Cornwall is a great place to be a poet, quite apart from all the other poets, writers and artists here, it’s a constant inspiration.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a new poetry collection – this will be my third full collection – which will be published by Seren in June 2020. I’m almost there with it, the deadline is the end of this year, so I’m editing, still adding a poem here and there, changing a few lines, that sort of thing, trying to get the best poems that I can possibly write in the best order. I feel quite pleased, so far, with how it’s going. I hope to be able to talk a little more about the themes of the new collection and give you the title in the new year. And I’ve just heard that I’ll have my Japanese-themed poems published in April 2019 as a pamphlet. So I’m also busy editing these. I received funding from the Arts Council to travel to Japan at the end of last year, it was a wonderful experience, so I hope my poems will do the country and the people I met some justice. Again, I hope to be able to reveal the title of the new pamphlet soon. And finally, I’m just finishing up my year as the first poet-in-residence at the Leach Pottery in St Ives. I’m going to be reading some of my pottery-inspired and Japanese-themed poems at the Leach Pottery’s Feast & Flames event in St Ives on 2nd November.

Thank you Katrina!