Bio: Catherine Graham is the author of Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects (Link to my review) , a finalist for the Raymond Souster Poetry Award, and the acclaimed poetry trilogy: Pupa, The Red Element and Winterkill. Winner of the IFOA’s 6thPoetry NOW competition, recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in: Poetry Daily (USA), The Ulster Tatler (Northern Ireland), The Malahat Review, Crannóg Magazine (Ireland), Eyewear (UK), The Fiddlehead, Prairie Fire, Joyland and Room Magazine. Her work is anthologized in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol IV & V and The White Page /An Bhileog Bhan: Twentieth Century Irish Women Poets. Winner of an Excellence in Teaching Award, she is an instructor of creative writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. www.catherinegraham.com
1) It has been a bit of time since Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects has been released. How are you finding the reaction to it so far?
A: The book was launched last October and I’m pleased with the reactions from readers so far. It’s had several positive reviews, a Raymond Souster Poetry Award nomination and my reading of it won IFOA’s Poetry NOW competition. One writer, Lisa de Nikolits is currently tweeting lines from it on Twitter. It’s rewarding to see readers respond so favourably to the work.
2) I recently met a poet who lamented that many people are disappointed that her work “doesn’t rhyme.” Do you find that poetry has a stereotypical image that may be keeping readers away?
A: Poetry demands a reader’s full attention. What you give to the poem the poem will give back. This requires concentrated effort and full engagement with the text. Not everyone is willing to surrender to the demands of poetry or even to seek it out. But if you do, you may feel as Emily Dickinson put it, “as if the top of my head were taken off” I know that happens to me when I read good poetry.
3) Who are your favourite writers? Who are you reading right now?
A: I have too many favourites to list them all. My taste in poetry is quite varied with a slant towards Irish, Northern Irish, and UK poets, given I studied poetry in Northern Ireland (completing an M.A.) and lived there for many years afterwards. In addition to reading Mary Ruefle’s collected lectures Madness, Rack and Honey and James Longenbach’s The Virtues of Poetry, I’m re-reading Louise Glück, Seamus Heaney, Tomas Tranströmer and Wallace Stevens. Next week this list will change.
4) Why do you use poetry to write? Have you ever tried any other forms of writing to express yourself?
A: I find poetry uses me. With this in mind there is no why. I love what poetry can do: say the most with the least amount of words. I have written some prose, but poetry is my first love. I couldn’t live without it.
5) There are a lot of people who seem to be writing poetry right nowjust for their own personal enjoyment. Do you have any advice for people who are doing that task right now?
A: The best advice I can give is to read poetry and never stop reading poetry.
6) Your website lists you as “Marketing Coordinator” for the Rowers Reading Series. Does that job help you with your writing at all?
A: Volunteer work such as being the marketing coordinator for the Rowers Reading Series is a way of giving back to the writing community. Showcasing talented writers on a monthly basis helps connect writers with readers. Hearing authors read their work aloud can add new dimensions to the text through the power of the listening experience. It doesn’t help directly with my writing but it is extremely rewarding watching invited authors shine on stage.
7) You seem active on the social media platforms like Twitter. Do you find such tools useful in helping with your writing?
A: I’ve only recently joined Twitter so I’m still learning the ropes. Social media doesn’t help me directly with my writing but it keeps me informed with what’s going on in the literary community. It also helps me connect with other writers. I can be found here: @catgrahampoet.
8) Have you done any public readings? If yes, what was that experience like for you?
A: I’ve read overseas in Belfast, Dublin, London and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as well as multiple venues here in Toronto such as the Toronto Reference Library and Word on the Street. One of my most recent readings took place at the IFOA’s Poetry NOW Battle of the Bards. Given all the talented poets reading there that night I was thrilled and honoured to win the competition. This means I’ll be reading there this fall for the 35th annual International Festival of Authors
I’m always nervous before readings but once on stage I try to let the words do the work.
9) Are you working on anything new right now for publication?
A: I’m working on new poems at the moment. If past history is any indication, they will eventually show me when I have a new manuscript.