Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith: Featured Poet


All over the city, women in restaurants,
cafes, bars, wait for their fathers. Sometimes
the women sip coffee, or wine, pretend to read.
Some fathers arrive promptly, smiling,
dressed as Policemen, or in flannel pyjamas.
One wears a taffeta dress, fishnets and stilettos,
rubs the stubble under his make-up.
Sometimes the father is a Priest
in a robe stained with candle-wax.
Some have pockets gritty with sand
from Cornish holidays; one father
flourishes a fledgling sparrow, damp
and frightened, from an ironed handkerchief.
They bring spaniels, Shetland ponies, anacondas,
they bring yellowed photographs
whose edges curl like wilting cabbages.
One father has blue ghosts of numbers
inked into his forearm. Some of the fathers
have been dead or absent for so long
the women hardly recognise them, a few
talk rapidly in Polish or Greek and the women
shift on their chairs. Some sign cheques,
others blag a tenner. One smells of wood-shavings
and presents the woman with a dolls’ house.
Some fathers tell the women You’re getting fat
while others say, Put some meat on your bones, girl.
Some women leave arm in arm with their fathers,
huddled against the cold air, and shop
for turquoise sequinned slippers or Angelfish
hanging like jewels in bright tanks. Others
part with a kiss that misses a cheek – lint
left on coats, and buttons done up wrong.

From Lip (Smith/Doorstop)


Catherine Smith is an award-winning poet and fiction writer; she has also written radio drama, (Jellybelly, broadcast May 2005). Her first short poetry collection, The New Bride, (Smith/Doorstop) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2001. Her other books include The Butcher’s Hands (short-listed for the Aldeburgh/Jerwood Prize ) and Lip which was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2008.  The Biting Point, her long awaited prose collection is published by Speechbubble Books.

3 thoughts on “Catherine Smith: Featured Poet”

  1. I like this a lot Catherine – all those fathers. I found myself trying to find my own in there but he must have been totally unique 🙂 I like the details – sequinned slippers, the angel fish and bright tanks. These things make the whole poem come very much alive. The last few lines make the reader think. Your book Lip is in my little pile of poetry I am going to enjoy reading – have just finished an OU degree and now can’t wait to read something other than a study book. So I think I have some treats in store – including yours. Thanks for letting us see this one. A poem that seems to encapsulate all of life.

  2. Reading your poem reminds me of how much I enjoyed the online”love” course you tutoured for the Poetry School last year, and how much I enjoyed your book “Lip” (which I own a copy of). I love how you show that each person experiences the father-relationship uniquely – which perhaps is a reason for each of us to try to tell our stories – in however way we can – because we all have our own particular experiences. Thanks Catherine. Great poem. (And I think it looks really cool as a single block.)

  3. Hi Catherine. I love this poem, it’s beautiful and tender. I’ve got it already of course in my a very well-thumbed, dog-eared copy of Lip, but lovely to see it on Abi’s site for the first time.

    I don’t know if you remember but I did a Poetry School online course with you a while back which was great as you were a fab tutor and the group really gelled. I’ve been trying to find a way back to one of your courses, so far in vain, but I will one day.

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