In Memoriam : Catherine Walker

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Katherine-Linda-Wyatt-1.jpgOn the evening of Sunday the 23rd of July just after 9 PM I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I saw a message from my friend Marc Sherland. This post left me both shocked and saddened as it told me of the death of our friend and fellow poet Catherine Walker who had been found dead in her flat earlier that day by Marc and another friend from the writers community of which Catherine was an important part, Stephen Smith.  Marc and Stephen had made the discovery at around 1 PM on Sunday afternoon at a time when most of us would be enjoying social time with friends and family. Catherine Walker was only 55 years old.

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Naturally Catherine’s unexpected death has come as a shock to all her many friends in the poetry community and beyond and many poets have paid warm and affectionate tributes to her expressing their sadness at a the loss of an excellent poet and an even better woman. Her loss pains us all and to those of a similar vintage is a sharp remainder that our light can be extinguished at any time and makes us all to aware of our mortality.  It was her compassion for all inhabitants of our planet which made Catherine a keen environmentalist and eventually a vegetarian, but anyone who thinks that these beliefs would make this softly spoken poet one of the tweed and twee whose poems could be dismissed, as airy fairy could not be further from the truth. It is my opinion that her Christmas poem Santa’s on minimum wage is one the most biting satirical critiques I have ever heard on the impact of austerity.

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Amongst the facts I would never have known about Catherine was that she was a skilled amateur mathematician and was once married to a driving instructor and despite passing her test never drove and was as Marc readily confirms one of the most nervous passengers he has ever driven.  It saddens me as it will many others that a woman of Catherine Walker’s talent has no volume of her work to leave as her legacy. This was at least in part due to the fact that Catherine, a shy and on occasion nervous woman lacked belief what others who knew her work would describe as her considerable abilities.  This was due to be rectified this year as Marc Sherland had been due to publish a book of her poetry sometime this year . However in January Catherine requested that he put it on hold as she had lost faith in her poetic voice. A modest woman with more talent than she ever knew her loss will be deeply felt by all whose lives she touched but perhaps most keenly by Marc Sherland who she viewed as her non biological brother and whose family she adopted as her own.

For those who wish to celebrate Catherine’s life there will be a gathering at The Blue Chair Cafe 85 High Street on Wednesday the 2nd August from 7 to 10 PM

 Gayle Smith

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