Tag Archives: Catherine Graham

The Detailed Views from this Forest |Review of “The Celery Forest” by Catherine Graham (2017) Buckrider Books/Wolsak and Wynn Publishing

9781928088417

Constantly I hear that we need to make time to ponder our reality and at least consider the state of the world we are in. But to find the time to sit and reflect is at a premium. Then something occurs in our lives that forces ourselves into a state of shock to dwell on ‘the meaning of life.’ Catherine Graham has been a writer I have enjoyed for years. And I knew for months on had that she had a work coming out with the imagery-rich title  The Celery Forest. So I gleefully purchased my copy of her book when I saw it and raced over to meet her to get her to sign it for me. But when I walked away from that signing session and read the phrase on the back of book “this is the topsy-turvy world she found herself in after learning she had breast cancer,” I knew this was a volume that I needed to find time to carefully read with deep consideration. So I waited impatiently to enter Graham’s Celery Forest until I had the time to reflect on the sights and sounds I would witness there. And the journey in there was truly an enlightening one.

Interrogation in the Celery Forest (Page 1)

We shoulder it onto the slab.

It squirms. Water. Electric-white

 

Raindrops fast into absence.

No bridge as believable as all this.

 

Pliers were used. And absence.

A heart – skewered through skeins

 

of red nets and milk from some aimless

animal on the drowning cloth.

 

Now, intruder, bird`s-eye, pip,

you must answer.

Cancer seems to vaulting us into states of shock all the time. It afflicts friends and loved ones and we really never seem to be prepared to deal with it.  And while there may be a technical definition to the disease, truly understanding what people go through when it hits them only really can be understood through the works of literature. Graham has given insight to her experience with cancer by creating this ‘forest’ and allowing us to witness the sights and sounds there. There is a hodgepodge of images and emotions which require careful reading (I admit to mouthing certain phrases to truly understanding their meanings) but by documenting her thoughts here, Graham has given us something to at least ‘get a grip’ when cancer throws us into a reflective state.

Owl in the Celery Forest (Page 24)

Owl, you never asked to be wise

or a companion to the witch.

 

Fly in for the scurry – vole, field mouse,

creatures with eyes scuttling through grass,

 

Then pluck the tumour out of my breast

with you sharp, curved talons –

 

let the only thing that spreads be your wings.

There is a collection of opposites in Graham’s forest. There is angst but there is joy. There is some darkness but there is some light. There is urgency but there are moments to enjoy nature. There is some ugliness but there is also much beauty. We adults may have matured beyond the understanding that our stories don’t close with a ‘happy-ever-after’ ending but Graham does show some enchantment of life with it’s  continued existence.

Fireflies (Page 49)

Little green fires that do not burn,

yet blink and float

outside the cottage window

stringing night

into Christmas trees.

When you returned

as a firefly, I heard

what happened –

your winking battery

broken because you merely

grew in size.

Jealous of Dad`s sighting,

not knowing you would appear

decades later as pure

waves the moment I broke

free from anaesthesia’s grip.

After reading Catherine Graham’s The Celery Forest, I realized my act of getting her to sign my copy of her book was not a flippant act, but one of my craving for a enlightened understanding of the human condition. Graham’s bold and detailed exploration of ‘the forest’ certainly enlightened me. And this book will hold a special place in my library.

*****

Link to Catherine Graham’s website

Link to Wolsak & Wynn’s website for The Celery Forest

forest

 

A Unique and Emotional Novel from a Talented Writer | Review of “Quarry” by Catherine Graham (2017) Two Wolves Press

Quarry Cover from Natalie jpeg

There is something about becoming absorbed with a well-crafted, coming-of-age novel. Not only do we learn we are not alone with the pains and sufferings that we all endured during that fundamental time of our lives but we gain a better understanding of the types of confusions that other people endured while growing up. And that is exactly what we get when one reads Catherine Graham’s brilliant novel Quarry.

Pages 9-10 Nobody

I didn’t know what a quarry was until I saw the one that would belong to us. A pit carved for mining. Dig what you need – the dynamite gap –  leave a hole for evidence. Don’t think about air filling it up. Air fills up everything. Water makes the quarry more than it is; the blue we were drawn to. On the dock, looking out. My mother on one side. My father, the other. The big shoulders pressing me in.

It was our first summer living beside a lake that wasn’t a lake, with wind tents of blue moving in the jewelled sunlight, up and gone and up again. the limestone, cut into jagged rock, layered with the weight of dead animals, ancient sea animals, imprints. Lush green trees, they surrounded as a forest. Dad had found the place by chance after spotting the For Sale sign outside a white gate that led to a long gravel driveway, a bend that led to a mini-lake, the house of Mom’s dreams.

We made up dives that summer, me and Cindy. The Watermelon Dive – legs in a V. The About-to-Die Dive – a rambling, dramatic shotgun death off the dock. The Scissor Kick Dive – a flutter of pointed legs in the air. And the Drowning Dive – rise to the surface and float like the dead fish that smacked against the limestone rock, oozing decay’s stink. With a two-year advantage, I gave my nine-year-old cousin a three-second head start whenever we raced off the dock to reach the floating raft. Sometimes a hit of the giggles cut through my determination – a memory of something we’d laughed about while in the dark, tucked in single beds, or while eating Rice Krispies, opening up our food-filled mouths to shout: see-food diet!

Catherine Graham has lyrically told the story of Caitlin Maharg here. Living beside a quarry presents an idyllic childhood of exploration and excitement for the young girl, but all that is shattered when her mother becomes terminally ill. Through the course of the illness  – and the growth of Caitlin –  a series of embarrassing family secrets emerge that require the young girl to attempt to;  understand, deal with, and heal. And the journey requires the young girl to mature a bit too fast at times.

Pages 51-52 Lifeguard

They were bored now that the keg they’d stolen from Cherry Hill Golf Club was empty, the silver carcass found by Chuck. He doesn’t have proof. He doesn’t know it was us. They all said this. But I knew Chuck knew by that look in his eye, that high-beam gaze.

Pac-Man and pinball were no substitution. Darren spent less time in the Games Room, more time in the back field where the keg used to be. I didn’t see him through the pool’s chain-link fence anymore. The stone in my hand, my only comfort.

“What do you guys do back there?” He was walking me to the Malibu like he always did after the end of my shift, but I couldn’t see his face. The plan was for me to come back later with Brenda. “Why are you walking so fast?”

He stopped. And when he turned, the late sunlight hit him; his eyes were glazed with red squiggles.

“Why are your eyes so red?”

He laughed, and when he tilted his neck, I could see how thick the glaze was.

“It’s not right,” I said. I thought of the druggies at school, their long scraggly hair and rocker T-shirts. Skipping school. Failing tests. Losers.

“What do you know?” His eyes narrowed. “Ever try it?”

I froze.

“Caitlin,” he said. “If you don’t want me to, I’ll stop.”

His eyes softened. Too soft, liquid rushing down a drain.

“Don’t you wanna know what I got ya?” He pulled a necklace from his pocket – an arrow on a silver chain – and swung it back and forth.

I stared at the swaying arrow. “Are you trying to hypnotize me?”

“Here. It’s special.” He clasped it around my neck. “Like you.”

Cold on the hollow of my throat.

It is truly amazing how well this story flows. And the plot is memorable. Graham’s previous work in poetry has built a foundation in writing novels that are unique and well-crafted. This is a great piece of literature which explores the range of human emotions of a young girl in some truly stressful situations.

Page 103-104 Three in a Room

She died Christmas Day. I knew she would. A voice had told me. A voice that wasn’t mine but must’ve been. None of this made sense. But sometimes it did, when I tried not to think about it. Like the way you see a star by looking to the left, just a little.

The quarry was cold when she went into the hospital for the last time, but not cold enough to form a skin. It received the snow and turned the snow to water. Eventually, it would scab over, cap the quarry of life. The fish would anchor rock bottom, dormant in their crypt.

Mom said strange things those last few days while I sat by her bedside in her private room, flipping through old magazines. She seemed anxious about someone. The name Geordie passed through her morphined mouth, followed by: don’t . . . stop it.

I touched her arm. “Who’s Geordie, Mom?”

She muttered more nonsense.

Still, I thought, she’ll come through. She always did. I thought of the time (two years ago? three?) when she spat out blood. I’d never seen such vile red. Even that time she’d come through.

I never knew you could lose so much in one day. And on the biggest day of giving, the day set aside to open gifts with loved ones. I should’ve gone to the hospital; I’d heard the voice by then: She’ll die on Christmas Day. But Dad’s shift was first, and his Caddy was already gone by the time I woke up.

I was watching an old episode of Little House on the Prairie in the family room. The horse-drawn covered wagon was trundling across the television screen when I heard the side door open. He came straight through without taking off his boots. He stood in the middle of the family room for what seemed like a long time. Long enough for the snow to slide off and form a blurry puddle.

“She’s gone.”

“I know.”

Round and round. And then the world stopped.

Quarry is a unique and emotional coming-of-age novel from talented writer Catherine Graham. It is lyrical and memorable hence a great piece of literature. One of my favourite reads of 2017 and hopefully not the last novel from this writer.

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Link to the Blogspot page of Two Wolves Press

Link to Catherine Graham’s website

Link to my Q&A with Catherine Graham about Quarry – (T)he novel is about a young woman who learns to draw on inner strength she didn’t know she had to overcome dramatic challenges on her journey to adulthood.

(T)he novel is about a young woman who learns to draw on inner strength she didn’t know she had to overcome dramatic challenges on her journey to adulthood. | Q&A with author Catherine Graham on her first novel “Quarry.”

Quarry Cover from Natalie jpeg

 

Catherine Graham’s poetry has won numerous awards and garnished huge praises from all sorts. Now Graham has turned her skilled craft towards a novel, something many people have been eagerly talking about in many of my circles. Graham was kind enough to answer a few questions about her first novel “Quarry.”

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1) First off, could you give a bit of an outline of “Quarry.”

It’s a fictional account of what an introverted young woman discovers about herself on a journey that starts with an idyllic upbringing with her parents in a house beside a water-filled limestone quarry and moves through tragic loss, love and the family secrets that emerge.

2) This is your first published novel. Was there much of a ‘jump’ for you from writing poetry to writing a novel?

Yes and no. The imagery that powers my poetry is still present in the novel, but writing prose has so many more opportunities for detail and well, completeness. Some readers of early novel drafts were also fans of my poetry and I wasn’t sure how they’d like the book. Thankfully the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I think I was able to find the right balance between the lyricism of poetry and the narrative form demanded by long prose.

3) Was there something specific that inspired you to write this novel?

Ultimately, the novel is about a young woman who learns to draw on inner strength she didn’t know she had to overcome dramatic challenges on her journey to adulthood. Those who know me will see parallels with my own life, but Caitlin Maharg’s story is not mine, nor is mine hers. So I guess you could say the inspiration for the novel has been with me forever.

4) “Two Wolves Press” seems like a unique publishing house. How did you get involved with them?

Alexandra Leggat is a fellow instructor at University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. She started Two Wolves Press with a fiercely independent desire to publish a few carefully curated books each year that would bring fresh voices to the Canadian literary scene. Having Two Wolves pick up Quarry for publication was a match made in heaven. I loved Two Wolves’ approach to publishing and thankfully, Alexandra loved Quarry. (Link to Two Wolves Press Blogspot site)

5) Are you planning any public readings/discussions of “Quarry?” If yes, any specific dates that you are excited to be partaking in?

The novel launches June 1 at The Tranzac Club in Toronto.  IFOA and Two Wolves Press have partnered up for the event as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series (Link to the event’s website here). After a short reading, Mary Lou Finlay, radio and television journalist, will interview me on stage. There will also be music from the soundtrack of the novel and other special features. Then on June 4, I’ll be doing a Q & A at the Calgary Memorial Library as part of Spur Festival Calgary. (Link to event’s website here)

I’m thrilled to be partaking in both events and all are welcome to attend. I’m also looking forward to reading in the UK this August as part of The Shaken and the Stirred group—readings in London, Manchester, Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Link here), Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Belfast’s Linen Hall Library and Bangor’s Open House Festival.

6) You mentioned in a past Q&A a few years ago that you just signed on to Twitter. And you have an active role on Facebook. How do you like using social media in relation to your writing?

It’s interesting you should ask. Social media was a bit of a foreign landscape to me at first, but it’s actually more fun than I thought it would be. To that end, I’ll be making some exciting changes to my social media presence in the near future, so stay tuned to the website (www.catherinegraham.com), Twitter (@catgrahmpoet) and Instagram (catgrahampoet) to see what’s cooking.

7) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?

Right now, I’m focused on making sure people enjoy the novel launch and know where they can get a copy of the book (Ben McNally’s Bookstore in Toronto (Link here) and Shopify (Link here).

But regardless of how busy I am, scribbled ideas always seem to be appearing in my notebook, so in a way, you could say I’m already at work on the next novel. Or poetry collection. Or something. Speaking of poetry, my seventh collection, The Celery Forest, will appear this fall with Wolsak & Wynn. (Link to their website)

Author Bio:
Catherine Graham is the author of five acclaimed poetry collections. Her most recent collection, Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects, was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and CAA Poetry Award. Winner of the IFOA’s Poetry NOW competition, she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award. Her work is anthologized in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol IV & V, The White Page/An Bhileog Bhan: Twentieth Century Irish Women Poets and has appeared in The Malahat Review, Gutter Magazine (Scotland), Poetry Daily (USA), The Glasgow Review of Books, Poetry Ireland Review, The Ulster Tatler, The Fiddlehead, LRC, Southword Journal (Ireland), CBC Books and elsewhere. International reading venues include Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 and 2017, University of Westminster, Bowery Poetry Club NYC, International Anthony Burgess Foundation (Manchester), 4th International Congress of Language and Literature Linares (Mexico), Seamus Heaney HomePlace (Northern Ireland) and the Thessaloniki International Book Fair (Greece). She publishes two books in 2017, her sixth poetry collection, The Celery Forest, and her debut novel, Quarry. Visit her at www.catherinegraham.com.

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Link to Catherine Graham’s website

Link to Two Wolves Press Blogspot site

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

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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.

*****

Link to Wolsak and Wynn’s page for “Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects”

Link to the listing for the Rowers Pub Reading Series

Fate Rises Through The Pulp | Review of “Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings Of Insects” by Catherine Graham. (2013) Wolsak And Wynn

I’ve had a frantic, unsuccessful week of trying to increase my “profits,” and ignoring my “leisures.” Yet somehow the fates spoke to me. My recent readings of the works of P.K. Page and the discovery of the publishing house of Wolsak and Wynn have led to previous posts here. But then as I raced by one of those “new books” sections and looked in between a collection of pulp novels, I discovered a copy of Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings Of Insects by Catherine Graham. Of course, I picked it up and had to talk about it here.

To The Animal He Met In The Dark (Page 1)

I’ve often thought about you.

 

How you came in the night, in the middle of the night,

to stand on the road for some goddamn reason.

 

How in the blinding light you stood as still as branches,

like anything trapped.

 

Nothing to see in the darkened windshield –

just the last expression on my drunk father’s face,

 

and you, white-tailed beast, reflected, just like that,

on your way through you own nocturnal route.

 

I have so often thought about you.

Most of the poems Graham’s has in this book, started off as glosas (The opening fours lines of another poet’s work are ‘woven’ into the last line of each of four ten line stanzas.) But Graham has added a lot of her own personal touch to each work. In many cases dealing with passion and trying to define that emotion.

Reading (Page 4)

He’s not done yet –

He tightens the rope and drops

his voice into my chest. I endure;

stare through closed dreams

I haven’t slept through yet –

 

Mouth tuned to the rhythm of a voice box

poet man needs no dais to look tall

to his locked-in audience.

I feel half-naked, my pelvis exposed

between the lines of each stanza.

 

Clouds shift to receive new registers.

Criss-crossed on my lap, my hands swell

as the room thins. I know what

happens happens – Him in me

circling like a wolf.

 

Graham writes in the introduction that she calls both Dorothy Molloy and P. K. Page her ‘spirit mentors’ while writing this book. Indeed she has extend their ideas into her work, but even Graham’s own words are enlightening.

Ache (Page 20)

So cold, so dry, where is

the echo of my echo?

 

The umbilical cord

is cut and I’m pure.

 

Never so.

 

Father’s ears. Mother’s brow.

What is said to my future is:

 

“Isn’t she?”

I miss my slip of water.

This was a wonderful collection to read. No doubt I will be reading it again and again.

Snowfall (Page 39)

The snow holds light. Winter spins

into a trance. The sky can’t keep up

with the falling. The sifting

 

edges in waves to the roof below the pitch

of night the white shoots up.

Ironed moon. Smooth as the dew

 

hidden in each flake, each crystal imprint

of pedigree lace. Safe from the world, I hid

there all alone, till suddenly, I’m falling –

 

pores – flakes – riding the white drift;

spin calm into a bleach explosion.

I stutter under the gathering spell and wait

 

for pain to level things out –

the weight of an animal’s foot –

dark stirrings are welcome then.

It was a strange timing of fate that I found Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings of Insects by Catherine Graham but I am glad that I found it. It fed my intellectual need right now and I have no doubt I will be checking out more of her work.

Link to Catherine Graham’s website

Link to Wolsak and Wynn’s page for “Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings of Insects.”