First book of poetry by acclaimed curator, writer and speaker Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith celebrates her profound curiosity about wild cats

Dr Nima Poovaya-Smith OBE, Trustee of Harewood House and Patron of The Leeds Library, is a prominent figure in the cultural, academic and public sectors, well known for her work on transcultural and post-colonial South Asian museum collections and multidisciplinary arts projects across the region and beyond.  The Wild Cats’ Compendium, Poovaya-Smith’s first solo collection of illustrated poetry, will be launched at The Leeds Library on 24 November 2022.  A highly successful launch has already taken place at the Ilkley Literature Festival.

The 45 poems explore legends and fables of the cat world, as well as their often bleak, everyday lives.  The reed or jungle cat may have once dined with the Crown Prince of an Egyptian Pharaoh but ends up interred with him; an ocelot gifted to Salvador Dali who tried unsuccessfully to run away and the smallest feline in Southern Africa – the black-footed cat –  which eats almost a fifth of its body weight night after night.  Environmentalist Benjamin Lascelles, comments that Compendium “captures the essence of the many species brilliantly and highlights the threats they face. The geographic, conservation and threat references are meticulously researched and powerfully conveyed.”

Poovaya-Smith says: “Cats –  wild or domestic –  are some of nature’s most charismatic creatures. We have had a special relationship with the feline species for thousands of years and celebrated them in literature, art, music and dance.  I found particular delight in gleaning more information about lesser-known small cats.  Each one is characterful enough to hold its own with the bigger, more iconic cats. The more I learned, the more enigmatic and fascinating they became. I hope the emotions I experienced exploring the feline world – joy and a deep sense of loss – will resonate with all readers.”

Writer, historian, and author of Victoria and Abdul Shrabani Basu in her Foreword to The Wild Cats’ Compendium states: “Nima Poovaya-Smith takes us into the myth and magic of the cat world. Through her beautiful poems, we get a glimpse into their lives as pampered pets or solitary creatures. She questions, probes, and enlightens us, not just about the tiger or the lion, but also about some of the lesser-known species of the cat family.

A cat, they say, has nine lives. Poovaya-Smith’s forty-five poems give them many more.”

The different species of cat are each accompanied by images – historical and contemporary – many of which are new works.

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Copies of the book can be bought on Amazon.

Nima’s role in building Bradford Museums’ acclaimed textile collections was celebrated, along with the work of six other curators, in the exhibition Unbound at 2 Temple Place, London, 2020.  She was recently interviewed as part of the British Library’s National Life Stories.  This is now accessible online.