Catherine Smith

Otherwhere: Catherine Smith



In 1957, BBC’s ‘Panorama’ announced that due to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper crop. Huge numbers of viewers called the BBC asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.
Not for us, the back-breaking digging,
Wellingtons sinking deep into sticky mud,

spade-handles callusing our hands.
No, we’ve switched, gone Continental.

We started with one tree, but now we’ve
a small orchard! At harvest time,

the whole family’s involved. Up at dawn
for prayers round the table, giving thanks

for God’s great blessing –  the mild winter,
early spring. We sing the special

harvesting song as we reach up, lay
damp strands in our wicker baskets.

It’s a marvel, how straight
and blonde it is. Like a Princess’s hair!

our daughters say. You can‘t say that
about spuds, can you? We lay it

on towels, dry it in the sun. It keeps
for months, never loses flavour.

Our neighbours don’t speak to us,
leave their windows open

when they’re roasting potatoes
in duck-fat and home-grown rosemary.


Otherwhere Smiths/Doorstop 62pp | 978-1-906613-76-1 Available here


‘Her scary, unsettling voice seems unexpected in poetry, and cuts her free of the crowd’ said The Times of Smith’s earlier work. Her latest, unputdownable collection is as unpredictable as ever – including as it does the spaghetti harvest and the drought of 1976, vegetarian hangovers, horse-racing, teenage girls inhaling helium and cats brought in a case through customs. Sexy, sassy and recklessly wise writing.’

‘Catherine Smith’s poems are at once visceral and delicate. The mythical seeps through the tang and stench of the everyday and asserts itself, triumphant and strange’ — Sasha Dugdale

‘Seductive and hugely enjoyable … a celebration of the human condition by a poet at the top of her game’ — Neil Rollinson


Catherine’s first pamphlet, The New Bride, was a winner in the 2000 Book & Pamphlet Competition and shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her first book, The Butcher’s Hands, was a PBS Recommendation, and won the Aldeburgh/Jerwood Prize for Best First Collection. Her collection, Lip, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.

Catherine’s poetry has been widely published in magazines and anthologies, and she has won prizes for her short stories. She writes narratives of alienation, engaging with dream, nightmare and the surreal, peopled by characters at the edge and sometimes beyond the edge. Intense and even at times grotesque (the pages are littered with obsessives, a vampire, the ghost of a jealous wife, ‘Charades’ with an s & m subtext) her poetry is always convincingly well-observed, imaginative and ultimately life-affirming. Born in 1962 in Windsor, educated at Windsor Girls’ School and the Universities of Bradford and Sussex; Catherine now live in Lewes, East Sussex, married with two adult sons.

4 thoughts on “Otherwhere: Catherine Smith”

    1. Ellie Nobbs! How good to hear from you. I am proud to say I was one of the ‘not taken in” by the April Fool spaghetti tree. I knew that although spaghetti, in those days, in our house, came in tins with tomato sauce, it grew,not on trees, but was a kind of vine which grew on the ground, chopped up and tinned by Italians for Mr Heinz. I was 7 and my father was a joker! I think he may have embellished the story so it was an olive vine – another unknown in Bedfordshire. . And Catherine – thanks very much – I’d forgotten how backward we were! You’ve caught the foreignness of eating Continental. X RosieB

  1. A wonderful, quirky poem – I’m right there ‘lay[ing] damp strands in our wicker baskets’. The whole collection is great, I whizzed through it and am now savouring each one again like a delicious golden strand.

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