Philip Gross: Cath Drake wants to grasp the world whole. When she looks at the past, it’s with a big rambunctious energy that has implications for the present. These are restless and generous poems, full of the vivid reality of people’s lives. Read them as a guide to staying clear-eyed, combative and caring in unsettled times.
Amy Wack, poetry editor, Seren Books: Cath Drake’s native Australia features large in her debut collection of poems, The Shaking City. Author of a Mslexia magazine prize-winning pamphlet, Drake fashions adroit narratives, lush landscapes and keenly observed character portraits. The Shaking City itself stands for both the unease of the narrator and the swiftly changing times we live in.
Helen Mort: Cath Drake’s poems deftly explore conflict and the future of our changing, imperilled planet – in a poem about climate emergency, the narrator muses wryly ‘sometimes I hold world in one hand, my life / in the other’. This is a collection alive to dilemmas. Her writing is searching, witty and full of compassion, helping us navigate a shifting world.
Karen McCarthy Woolf: Cath Drake’s lush, lyric poems are full of inquisitive movement that traverses a network of meridians between her native Australia and the UK. Like midday sun in a desert, their narrative strikes hard in its passionate counterpoint between the absurdities of the human condition and our most urgent environmental concerns.
Kate Potts: In Cath Drake’s The Shaking City, inhabitants and buildings wobble, crack, shudder, unpeel and regrow their own skin. They seek out ways to endure: sturdy-framed lives, bricks strong enough to withstand hurricanes, wolves, and the weight of unspoken trauma. In this world, close and passionate attention is paid to the beauty and strangeness of nature, and of everyday life. The Shaking City’s tall tales explore existence across boundaries, and in between places: the folkloric bunyip appearing in the kitchen, the would-be lovers stuck (perhaps forever) on the circle line, the speaker who catches the hide of the world and fashions it into a handbag. This joyful, exuberant, wildly imaginative collection exhorts us all to unmoor our minds, to ‘live among the strange and shining.
The New Welsh Review Its unfettered creativity and sharp, critical mind work alongside one another to deliver a poetry collection equal parts fascinating, essential, abstract and educational. The insights it provides into the major struggles of our era and the particularly intimate approach it takes in doing so create a truly worthwhile literary experience.
‘SLEEPING WITH RIVERS ‘ 2014
Mimi Khalvati: 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: 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.
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
Cath engaged readily with members of our writing community and was always an inspiring and welcome presence at the Centre. She was a guest at the poetry group and literary dinner and I attended her excellent workshop. Cath was always generous and supportive in her role and demonstrated a deep commitment to her craft. With her outstanding poetry and ability to convey ideas, Cath was an asset to KSP. Mardi May, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre Australia (a month-long live-in writers residency)
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