She sits on the bench, leaning forward over crossed legs, cradling a glass of wine – hiding her body.   She is wearing a pretty smock dress, printed with green leaves and white flowers, over a pair of utilitarian jeans and open-toed sandles.  Her voice is posh, home  counties but her sentences are peppered with obscenities.  Her hair spikes from her head in straight black tufts, like exclamation marks.   Her lips fold into a cute smile, both quizzical and seductive, but her eyes remain alert, fearful.  ‘I write better when I’m pissed,’  she says taking another gulp of wine.  ‘Poets are either drunk or depressed.’    

    

Catherine Smith, celebrated poet, short story writer, editor of The New Writer, is seeking discipline. She has become interested in poetic form.  ‘Free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.  I need more rules.’     

Smith’s poems are funny in a way that is disturbing.  Her humour shines a searchlight into  the dark corners of human nature.   They are her way of dealing with disappointment.   When she was young, her mother was depressed.  Her father was away a lot.  Her brother was a child prodigy.  She was ignored.  But she found she could lose herself in her head.  Poetry protected her from mum’s depression and gave structure and meaning to her pain.  Her first poem was published in Teaching World at the age of 7.  A few years later, she won a childrens’ literary award, sponsored by the Daily Mail.  She then developed an eating disorder and the poems stopped. 

She lost her virginity at 16 while gazing up at the photograph of David Cassidy above her bed.  Mechanical, sordid, devoid of romance and meaning,  her boy friend rolled off her and went downstairs to watch Match of the Day with her brother.  Her poem written some years later, invites laughter, but the scene it describes is traumatic.   Catherine Smith is as paradoxical as Wendy Cope on Prozac.  She drinks snake-bite and black, a mixture of cider, lager and blackcurrant, on the swings in the park and compares it to incest and country dancing.   Ms Smith writes of bad sex,  body parts, death, childbirth and freak shows.  She cuts open the hypocritical skin of life and lays bare guilt and guts, pokes fun at sinew and shame.   You can’t ignore Catherine Smith.  She grabs you with eyelashes like Venus fly traps and fucking-well makes you  take notice.             

She agrees with Hemingway when he advised aspiring novelists to ‘write hard and clear about what hurts’.  ‘Poetry helps you laugh at yourself.  It’s a form of therapy. It helps you deal with the pain by engaging with the ridiculous.’

She’s now writing a novel.  ‘Rhymes with hovel’, she quips.      

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