This week I sat down and chatted with my college friend and sister about her new poetry book entitled ” A Look Inside”. I met Cathy when she was a freshman at Hollins University (always Hollins College to me) she was a presence back then, even if she didn’t know it and now several years later I get to stand in awe of her brilliance. Cathy is the mom of one a bit of a foodie and wellness lover. With such a personal piece of work I wanted to get an idea of the process, relief, and even the healing that came from writing her first book.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I started writing as a child about seven or eight. Growing up in the South, I guess I was always inspired by the images and experiences in my life. Also, my grandfather, Thomas Draine, pushed education in all forms. Writing became a way to educate myself. For me, the written word provided an opportunity to investigate one’s own way of seeing the world. Poetry came as life became more challenging as my family structure broke down. It is the way I capture moments and get the feelings out to examine from a different vantage point.
What drew you into poetry?
I grew up with poetry being a part of the educational system. Exposure is the first step to falling in love with the arts I think. When I was placed in foster care at age 11, I was shuffled around until I was finally placed in a Catholic boarding school, DeNeuville Heights School for Girls at age fourteen. There a teacher, Mrs. Ferguson, made it a part of her English curriculum so I was always exposed to poetry. Through reading and having to recite poems of those considered the masters of the English poetry canon, I really started what I would consider my formal relationship with the art form of poetry. At some point at DeNeuville, I was given an African American history themed calendar and found that I shared a birthday with poet June Jordan and also learned about other poets from my culture. I took it as a sign and validation to really start writing and consider my own voice at that point.
I’m sure you have a few but which of your favorite poets could you not live without?
June Jordan, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ursula Rucker, Langston Hughes, Khalil Gibran, and Walt Whitman, Give me life.
How long did it take you to write the poems that make up this collection?
This collection has poems that date back to my early twenties. This was an intentional editorial choice given the theme of “A Look Inside“. The point was to do a biographical sketch through the poetry of where I have been and explore those moments.
All writers feel their work is cathartic, how so for you?
I consider writing a Sankofa experience. It is an opportunity to go back and fetch something we need in order to move forward. When I am writing I realize that I am actively looking for something, sometimes it’s a solution – but given that there really are very few definitive end all solutions to anything in life I think I mostly am looking for an answer – a response that allows me to come to terms with an experience. For me that is the cathartic moment, when I can say this is what happened or at least my version of what happened and then there is stillness. The beauty in this life is when we can learn to sit with something and it no longer nips away at our soul and tampers with our sense of peace and joy.
Can you give a few tips on how to recover when you feel blocked creatively?
Make doubt an ally. Write about what seems to be holding you back. Put the fear on the page and stare at it. Then write about where that doubt came from – tell the origin story of your doubt. We all have a moment that made us question our wholeness and our abilities. Articulate that moment or those moments, then mine that writing for source material. I believe there will be something golden in the truth telling that will lead to a breakthrough.
Sometimes in the voice of a survivor and at other times with the cadence and candor of an ardent activist, A Look Inside soulfully lifts the veil of living in and through multiple identities and experiences. – A Look Inside, Cathy Draine
As this is a wellness blog, give me an idea of your self-care regiment?
I am really big on mindfulness exercises. Staying present with whatever you are doing is such an important part of self-care and can help get the bigger goals accomplished. The one I have been practicing lately is called mindfulness 101. Basically, you use your five senses to make sure you are fully present in order to maximize your efforts to complete the task at hand. My daughter Ailey has taught me the importance of good naps . Most importantly, I am eating whole foods with minimal processing and strive to make the majority of my meals that way.
I am a walker. I love to go for long walks and make it a point to walk at least 30 minutes a day. Water is essential. Also, I really play with my daughter and that’s a work out! She is a toddler now so chasing behind her can make you break a sweat.
You’re a mom, Are any of the poems inspired by your little one? Which one?
This entire book is dedicated to my daughter Ailey. I realized if I wanted to say to her with certainty that she is the author of her own destiny – then I had to be about the business of creating mine.
What do you want readers to know about your beautiful collection?
A Look Inside is a heart led attempt to explore the many facets of my life up to this point. Some of the poems are biographical in nature and others are using words to evoke the sense of urgency I feel for us to collectively change the world by starting with ourselves. Also, there are pieces inspired by special people in my life. I hope survivors read it and reclaim their own strength. I do hope women of color read the book and find themselves celebrated as beautiful and powerful.
Will you be reading from your book at any events? If so, where?
We are finalizing dates right now; they are here in Boston for the time being. But, stay tuned a blog will be launching mid-June!
If you’re a lover of poetry this one is for you, head on over and purchase “A Look Inside“