Poet Mimi Khalvati on my ‘Sleeping with Rivers’ collection: Cath Drake’s watery themes reflect the unstoppable flow of her thought and expression: generous, empathetic, joyful and lyrical. Her warmth, the permeability of her voice – giving us intimacy, yet standing her ground – draw us in with humour and a total lack of affectation to the vast, “rooted and always lifting” world of her brave imagination.
Amy Wack, editor of Seren books and judge of the Mslexia/Seren pamphlet prize 2013: The standard was, if anything, even higher than last year. The manuscript that kept sifting to the top, Sleeping with Rivers by Cath Drake, is simply full of gorgeous poems. Drake has a tendency to a longer line, a discursive manner, a narrative depth. I started to love these poems from the very first line of the first poem, ‘Every morning she wakes up with rivers…’ Drake’s tone is beautifully sensitive to the rhythms of language: knows when to pull back, when to unfurl startling imagery. There are artful poems about a childhood in Australia, where an ‘eccentric year-nine social studies teacher’ dares whisper about the native peoples and their mistreatment by the ‘brave men in sailing ships’. Quite a few of the poems involve the education of the female protagonist/poet. There is also a quietly devastating wit at work. Another teacher, a ‘spineless’ Mr Jacob, suffers a fitting destiny by devolving into a jellyfish. And there is a long, strange and hilarious poem in which a duck haunts the protagonist like a persistent nightmare.
‘Sleeping with Rivers’ Poetry Book Society summer pamphlet choice: Drake is a distinctive stylist with a playful sense of humour, but her work is full of emotional depth and insight… [she] can turn a phrase and literalise a figure of speech to great effect…. Any writer may draw on a wealth of personal experience, from losing virginity or learning from an “eccentric year nine social studies teacher”, the real human cost of romanticised exploration and empire: Cath Drake’s poetry takes the stuff of experience and memory and gives it real symbolic heft. ‘House of Bricks’, for instance, deftly ties fairy-tale imagery into metonym for trauma repression before exploding into a sharply poignant final stanza. This is intense, enjoyable work from a promising new poet.
Cath Drake has a distinctive narrative voice, direct and painful, witty and penetrating. Her poems on family life and relationships strike a nerve, and are fully her own. Poet Moniza Alvi
is on the make
Cath Drake provided a wonderful workshop for the Off the Shelf Festival - well organised, excellently led and inspirational. We had reallypositive feedback from all participants. Lesley Webster, Off the Shelf Festival of Writing and Reading, Sheffield I always knew that Cath would offer a friendly, welcoming and stimulating workshop for writers. The workshops themselves formed a valuable addition to the repertoire of creative writing training that Centerprise Literature offered. We found that a wide range of writers attended – many of whom did not want the frequency or the structure of a taught course, but wanted a contained opportunity to experiment and explore. The sessions were stimulating and hard working – but not intimidating – and many participants attended more than one series. Participants went away with reams of material to develop into story and poetry drafts, but also with a sense of the possibilities opened up by writing in this way. I would certainly recommend Cath Drake as a tutor and these writing workshops as a valuable route for writers to explore and develop their potential. Eva Lewin, Centreprise Literature Development programme coordinator (now at Spread the Word)
Comments from workshop participants
- Thank you, it was just what I needed: space and a chance to write without judgement and lots of exercises creatively thought through
- It was my very first workshop on writing…I started out very fearful and it took all my resources not to scuttle out of the room at the beginning, but having stayed I had a ball.
- This workshop was brilliant and I feel really inspired now!
- I really enjoyed this workshop as it allowed me to let my creativity wander in ways I hadn’t expected.
- A great session, lovely atmosphere and a non-judgmental environment. Cath was friendly and encouraging. A real positive of the session was that it was an open, non-threatening group.
- I really enjoyed the workshop, how long do I have to wait to do another one?
- The non-judgmental atmosphere and range of stimulus was great, it frees you up to dismiss the critic.
- I found the sessions quite invaluable. My writing, and ideas for writing, benefited from the free association/senses conjured up and results shared.
Thanks for great morning… Sophie was so enthused by it all that she spent most of the afternoon and into mid evening writing and playing out another story. Paul Gasson, Medham writers’ workshop for parents or grandparents and children
Cath Drake’s highly evocative & sharp poetry takes you far beyond Middle England into a different Antipodean world. Agnes Meadows, Loose Muse
Strictly Come Poetry is a truly remarkable evening and a brilliant experience for an audience member. The sweet, the sad, the funny, the emotional poetry all wrapped up in one package. As a live event it has charm and character as it moves in and out of the performative and makes you feel like you are right there, in the moment, with every word uttered. Mari Rettedal, The Space Theatre (about a full length production written and performed with four other writers, Thea-poets, for two theatres in London)
I was lucky enough to catch your poetry on Friday evening. I thought it was great, and some parts have really stayed with me. Keep up the great work! – audience member at the ‘Great Eight’ headlined by comedian Stewart Lee.
Thanks so much for the reading today, for sharing the class and for your ideas and knowledge on poetry and poets.Your poetry was stunning and we all enjoyed it very much. Beautiful work. Julie Watts, Oota writer’s group Australia 2012
The Wordshuffle Café was a great addition to our Summer programmes at the Albany and it cleverly integrated with a range of activity and people to ensure it very much felt part of the fabric of the Café. In the first instance, Cath ran a short session with young people on our Summer Arts programme for 13-19 year olds, who continued to use the books in their break times to provide a good amount of ‘pre-fill’ before they went public. Then, we timed Cath’s roving poets with our Albany Outdoors weekend to prompt wider engagement from passers-by in the street and market. This is all in addition to the light-touch activity in the Café where regular users and visitors read or wrote in the books whilst having a cup of tea or after a meeting for example. Experience has told us that this sort of transitory participation activity in the Café is more popular than more visible efforts, and manages to draw all sorts of interest and spark other conversations. The final event in the Café was very popular and made for a nice tangible ‘close’ of the activity for those who had been part of the process. We are steadily building our Café programme with regular events and festivals and would definitely like to see more activity like The Wordshuffle Café take place. Raidene Carter, Head of Creative programmes, The Albany, 2013
I have known Cath Drake for some years through her science journalism activities. Cath works competently, with intelligence and candour, with strong skills in distilling in plain language the essence of scientific discoveries and technical investigations. She is hard-working, good-humoured and able to follow through to completion difficult projects. I have no hesitation in recommending Cath Drake to potential employers. Dr Steve Hopper, ex-CEO of Perth’s Botanic Gardens/ Director of Kew Gardens