Poetry

Catherine Graham’s poetry has appeared widely in literary journals in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland and in many anthologies. Her work has been translated into Greek, Bangla, Mandarin, Serbo-Croatian and Spanish. View her Poetry London reading here. View the launch of Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric here.

Publications

To learn more about each collection, please click on the book covers below.

Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric

Catherine Graham has created a luminous homage to family, to cancer and to the strange windings of truth. Swimming through time and space, Graham introduces her mother, her father and herself and the cancers that pull them apart and bring them together. Memories mesh with visitations and multiple stories unfold of pain and loss, hidden tragedy, forgiveness and growth. With an otherworldly delicacy Graham stitches it all together to create a book-length lyric essay of lingering and profound beauty, a paean to the complexity of love and survival.

“Catherine Graham’s seventh book of poetry is an intricate reverie, in poetry and prose, which floats back and forth in time and between memories, dreams and reflections . . . Graham is an accomplished lyric poet.”
 — Barb Carey, Toronto Star

“This might be shelved in poetry, but it’s essay and mystery and grief and healing and love too. Graham has a spiraling way of writing that is mesmerizing. With each revisit of a fact or feeling, more is revealed. Everything about this book is perfect – word choice, pacing, even the presentation on the page.”
 — Jennifer Geraedts, Beagle and Wolf Books

“In the lyric essay Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric, Catherine Graham explores how a cancer diagnosis can change a family forever. Æther is about Catherine, her mother and her father, as this disease turns their life upside down and they grapple with the grief, pain and loss that comes with cancer, but also with the joy, forgiveness, strength and growth.”
 — CBC Books

Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric is a deeply moving account of coming to terms with personal loss and an intelligent, sensitive probing of the creative process.  What was glimpsed in The Celery Forest and embellished in Quarry is here in new forms and fresh angles. It’s a seamless blending of memoir/autobiography with poetry. Accounts of loss and grief, marginalisation, and self-acceptance are stitched together via a spine of recurrent images—birds, deer, quarry, cancer cells—and rich, vibrant vocabulary. It illustrates how, through writing painful experiences, trauma may be ‘owned’ and redirected into nurturance, creativity and a gift to readers. A gorgeous achievement.”
 — Kathleen McCracken, author of Double Self Portrait with Mirror: New and Selected

“Death may have found Graham as a key theme in her writing but the way she has dealt with it brings a sense of glory and light to the terrain of love and familial bonds that I have rarely seen on any page.”
 — Mel McMahon, author of Beneath Our Feet

Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric appears on the 40th Shelf Most Anticipated Spring Poetry Preview and What We’re Reading: Editors’ Picks, Hamilton Review of Books.

The Celery Forest

Catherine Graham’s sixth poetry collection The Celery Forest (Wolsak & Wynn, Buckrider Books) is a CBC Books Top 10 Canadian Poetry Collection of 2017 and appears on their Ultimate Canadian Poetry List.

“An impressive new collection, The Celery Forest is both powerful and beautiful, a work of great fortitude and invention, full of jewel-like moments and dark gnomic utterance. It faces into the dark and finds a way through.”
 — Michael Longley, author of The Stairwell and Angel Hill

“Here are poems that speak with originality, a point which is not from earth or heaven, not real or surreal. I call it in abeyance. It’s a smart distance, very intriguing and elegant. It’s like being inside a paleontological museum. Not because of the age of the species exposed there but the mystery reflected in an isolated space. Graham mystifies the ordinary and demystifies the rare. The Celery Forest is a wild book with all its physical and metaphysical fears and tastes of absurdity. Lines like “anonymity is no worry”, “harmony is only a hair’s breadth away from real life”, “her missing foot–it shows me where the rain fits”, “an animal—somewhere—inside another animal’s throat” are striking and I am not going to forget them. Undefined, ambiguous as in a dream, difficult to understand who, where and what, the elements seem to be projected from a source outside. It’s a special psychological position, more than a stylistic choice, bringing a new order and re-dimensioning of things.”
 — Luljeta Lleshanaku, author of the Griffin Poetry Prize Shorlisted Book Negative Space (Bloodaxe Books), translated by Ani Gjika

“Graham has transmuted the terrors of an encounter with cancer … into pure art that is fierce, true and unsullied by platitudes and truisms … a rare and extraordinary creation …The Celery Forest is a volume of poems wrought mainly in language that (like the language of Wallace Stevens, for example) is brilliantly and intriguingly circuitous.”
 — P. W. Bridgman, Glasgow Review of Books

“Like Wonderland or Oz, Neverland or Narnia, The Celery Forest is an extraordinary world filled with strange creatures and disorienting sights. But the doorway to the Celery Forest is not a rabbit hole or an old wardrobe. The doorway is a mammogram. For poet and novelist Catherine Graham, this is the topsy-turvy world she found herself in after learning she had breast cancer. No longer the world she recognized, the Celery Forest is a place where things are seen and experienced for the first time. More than a survivor’s tale, these poems are a map through unknowable terrain, infused with awareness and forgetting, written by a poet with the visionary ability to distill our sense of wonder into something we can hold.”
 — Paul Vermeersch, Senior Editor, Wolsak and Wynn (Buckrider Books)

The Celery Forest is a fantastical world with strange creatures and disorienting sights. Within the poetry collection’s magical imagery is the examination of Catherine Graham’s recent bout with breast cancer; the novelist and poet uses sensual language and style that peers into the duality of beauty and horror.”
 — CBC Books, The Best Canadian Poetry of 2017

“Her figurative language is vivid, rooted in sensation: a mole “running riot underground, clever,/slippery as buried water” symbolizes the spread of cancer cells. Elsewhere, fate seems predatory: a bird is “masked with slashes/ of night” and the turn of the season, from autumn to winter, is rife with foreboding: “Leaves dry out, become castanets, shaking . . . A sheet of starlings falls,” reminding her of “black knots in x-rays.” Like the fairy tales and myths that these poems often echo, The Celery Forest is spellbinding, unsettling but powerful.”
 — Barb Carey, Toronto Star

“We might also call cancer an occasion for remembrance, for fear and bewilderment, and for exultation in birds. It’s a level of experience almost too intense to bear, both the immediacy of still-available delight and of one’s own fragility, when everything seen or felt is colored and textured by it. That’s what Catherine Graham is after: when “Leaves dry out, become castanets,” when “Your pale feet / grow rubies,” when “You dream of trees.” The Celery Forest is a book of enacted grace, poetic resourcefulness, and imaginative courage. It is also, regarding its subject and its author’s experience, a genuine and intensely compelling work of art.”
 — Robert Wrigley, author of Lives of the Animals and Box

Master of the short poem.”
 — Kirby, This Is Where I Get Off

“Such a beautiful book, where every bird, cell and syllable counts. After a few reads I found myself approaching it like one long poem rather than a collection of shorter pieces. Catherine lets the weight of her subject matter bend, break and expand her lines wonderfully. The craft of her poetry is far, far stronger than the cancer she survived.”
 — Patrick Woodcock, author of You Can’t Bury Them All

“Graham’s bold and detailed exploration of ‘the forest’ certainly enlightened me. And this book will hold a special place in my library.”
 —
Steven Buechler, The Library of Pacific Tranquility

“Tell the truth/but tell it slant,” Dickinson wrote. And Graham does, this topsy-turvy country of a potentially terminal illness a place she is forced to inhabit and thus decides not to empower by giving it other than her own vertiginous spin, viewing this alien topography with a peripheral gaze, enabling the horrors to turn into often helpfully feathered denizens in a forest of the blandest, most innocuous of vegetables.
Poems are spells, charms and like Plath’s evocations of tulips or Roethke’s hothouse world, Graham’s collection elaborates a tangle of vegetation, a whir of wings that rarely addresses the disease itself directly, but like a magician refusing negotiation with what is, she weaves around the tumour and away from it.”
 Catherine Owen, Marrow Reviews

“I often think that Catherine’s poems work by balancing opposites. Her work frequently combines the lyrical with the elegiac, and manages to be both accessible — even approachable — and complex, welcoming — even soothing — and unsettling. Catherine’s work walks a fine line between offering comfort and pointing to the void, and it’s not afraid to raise unsettling questions. When it needs to, her work provokes, but never the sake of provocation.”
 Lee Parpart, Canadian Authors Association

Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of InsectsHer Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects

Wolsak & Wynn, 2013

“In her fifth collection of poetry, Catherine Graham breaks into rich, new territory. Long recognized for the easy grace and strange beauty of her poems about grief and remembrance, in Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects, she turns her thoughts toward poems of tribute and exaltation. Paying homage to the work of two inspiring poets — P. K. Page, whose long life and celebrated career have made her a legend in her native Canada, and Dorothy Molloy, an Irish poet whose life was tragically cut short just as readers were discovering the true scope of her talents — Graham has crafted an ocean-spanning book of deep feeling, good humour and hard-won solace.”
 — Paul Vermeersch, Senior Editor, Wolsak and Wynn

“Graham’s poems are sparely worded but full of evocative images that vividly convey a wide range of emotion, from passion to grief.”
 — CBC Books

“Catherine Graham delivered exquisite sylvan imagery.”
 — Jane Berg, Three Weeks Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016, 5/5 star review

“Catherine Graham is an accomplished poet with a generous and whimsical mind, whose candid poetry offers us startling insights. Graham’s work is fresh, sophisticated and beautifully crafted. It moves easily between imagine and natural worlds, from mashed potato dolls to nipples to the Queen and Bobby Orr, in meditation and song. Her muscular images and sensual language are wrought in lines that are as evocative as those of her mentors, Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan and Paul Muldoon.”
  — the judges of the Raymond Souster Award

“Such dark and disquieting poems…such language: snowfall–“spin calm into a bleach explosion”  “the waves/ lap against me, sizzling white strings.” And “Ceramic!” The muse, here, is the rampaging bull in the china shop crèche: “and the stiff baby cries in ceramic. Now black is a crack below/ blue-robed Mary who screams she’ll eat your hair with fluorescent teeth.”  Things are infused with feelings, from the turbulent depths where we are prey to all that eats at us– “we, walking meals for mosquitoes.” So stringent and startling, the seamless way the borrowed images burrow and find an unsettling home.”
  — Eleanor Wilner, The Girl with Bees in Her Hair

“Graham is exact as NASA, and as elegant as P.K. Page … She has the technical mastery to make the glosas disappear — what I mean is that the technique vanishes and we are left with strong, vibrant poems that aren’t bridled by technique. There is humour, wit, sensual experience, fantasy and grace in these poems.”
  — Michael Dennis, Michael Dennis Poet

“The book grew exhilarating as it revealed a sly and dark call and response between the two writers [Graham and Molloy] as poem after poem unfolded.”
  — Mark Sampson, Free Range Reading

“Graham’s fifth poetry collection, Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects, began as a deliberate experiment that turned gothic and magical.”
  — George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald

“This is no simple book of poetry. It is sensual and dark, a feast for the senses. Her grace with language is sublime.”
  — Rayanne Doucet, Canadian Poetries

“‘Cloak’ was a very rhythmic piece that took the second-person point-of-view, a voice which seems to trouble a lot of writers, but which Graham utilized effortlessly… Graham’s poetry just seems to be getting better and better.”
  — Tracy Kyncl, Town Crier

“This was a wonderful collection to read. No doubt I will be reading it again and again.”
  — buecom, The Library of Pacific Tranquility

“The gothic, textured, ornately spare cover design is gorgeous and the experimental entrances into Dorothy Molloy’s poems are fascinating. I adore form and fiddlings with it and Graham shows what can happen when one reads a deceased poet’s work so deeply that their spirit in a sense infiltrates, shaping not only the content, but more importantly, the structure of the work.”
  — Catherine Owen, The Relentless Adventures of OCD Crow

“The elegant fifth collection of poetry by Catherine Graham is an experiment gone right…. A master of vivid imagery, Graham evokes all the senses, allowing readers to bask along the way in both the beauty and horror of the world.”
  — Jessica Rose, This Magazine

“While reading the entrancing poetry collection by Catherine Graham, Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings of Insects, I think you’d need chocolate-covered ginger, mysterious, exotic, deep, with many nuances of flavours; bittersweet, tart, memorable, teasing with the soft texture of melting chocolate, the tiny roughness of the ginger graining against your tongue, leaving a tiny sugar bead, palate satisfaction and a lingering taste of wanting more.”
 — Lisa de Nikolits, Mesdames of Mayhem

“Graham offers no easy answers, and what at first looks like defeatism and resignation in the face of pain gives way to a hard-won acceptance.”
 — Arc Poetry Magazine, Anouk H. Henri

“While the original idea for the collection was formed using the straightjacket restraint, the final poems blossomed out of a resistant and creative freedom. The final product is subtly violent and beautifully poetic.”
 — CV2

“Catherine Graham is the über-maestro of whipping up images that startle, surprise and delight … she lays bare all our desires, fears and hopes. She shows how we are sculpted by society, how our intellects are forced into cookie cutter molds and yet the characters in her poems resist this forced shaping and they speak with their own voices, voices that are unforgettable and brutally pure.”
 — Brick Books Celebration of Canadian Poetry

WinterkillWinterkill

Insomniac Press, 2010

“Catherine Graham’s new collection Winterkill completes the trilogy that includes her critically acclaimed previous books Pupa (2003) and The Red Element (2008). Her poems always navigate the difficult paths between grief and memory, between intimacy and strangeness, with a disarming, surefooted grace. These are her most powerful, most affirming works to date.”
  — Paul Vermeersch, poetry editor for Insomniac Press

“From unicorns to frogs and turtles to moths, Graham utilizes images from fantasy and nature, working these poems to mine a quarry of loss: “We look for the dead in the living.” And Graham writes that loss into startling poems.”
  — The Telegraph-Journal

“…Graham invests the colours red and green with layers of meaning to the point that it verges on self-induced synesthesia. But the repetition of this and other motifs (wings, water) is incantatory — and effective.”
Winnipeg Free Press

… the gifts they offer are expansive and reward close attention.that’s the beauty of this and so many other poems in Winterkill: you’re given lots of space to fill in the blanks on your own…Winterkill is a warm, generous and welcoming collection of poems.”
— Mark Sampson, Free Range Reading

“Like the painting on the cover of her newest book of poetry, Winterkill, Catherine Graham’s poems are at once delicate and terrifying. In “Turtles,” for instance, she renders the brutal nature of children so beautifully in just two lines: “I let them stew in their piss./I wanted something alive.” My favourite poetry is the narrative kind, and Catherine tells such incredibly layered stories with so few words that I’m constantly blinking in amazement.”
— Jessica Westhead, The New Quarterly, Who’s Reading What

“As the last of Graham’s Quarry Trilogy, Winterkill will surely leave on the reader’s fingertips a residue of sleek creek mud, of purifying snowdrifts, and the bittersweet cadence of self and loss.”
  — The Toronto Quarterly

Another highly accessible collection of poetry from one of Toronto’s brightest poetry minds.”
Open Book: Toronto

“Desire, menace and loss thrum through this collection of deceptively restrained, brief poems that, in the main, mourn the early deaths of the poet’s parents. Imagery of mysterious creatures (a misunderstood troll, a unicorn wearied by expectations, the trickster rabbit of a breakfast cereal), the natural world of vivid colours and decay, and a dream-like abandoned quarry indirectly expresses both the poignancy of grief and a wild, just-below-the-surface longing… these are works of supple strength that have emerged from the storm to linger in the mind.”
  — Advent Book Blog, Kateri Lanthier

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The Red ElementThe Red Element

Insomniac Press, 2008

“…Catherine Graham is a poet of the intimate voice, the treasured, internalised experience…”
  — Parameter Magazine (UK)

“In her stunning new volume of poems, The Red Element, Catherine Graham distills the whirling ambiguities of memories into gorgeous, mysterious single images, making the short poem triumph again on the Canadian literary landscape. With the dense, new energy of The Red Element, where all the poems form a bravura lyrical sequence, Graham proves herself as one of Canada’s premier younger poets.”
  — Molly Peacock

“These poems are fine works. Choose any set of lines: “By the end of mid-October…. / Off come the leaves. / They whip through the world as birds.”
  — George Elliott Clarke, The Chronicle Herald

“…more goose bumps per page than any collection in recent memory. Sticking to the poetic doctrine less is more, this collection is a tour de force in minimalism. Her steady hand and firm voice are breathtaking. They are empowered images, graceful sparks.”
  — Angela Hibbs, Broken Pencil

“These poems are sharp, imaginative, and never cutesy… Graham’s poetry is especially admirable in its combination of accessibility, urgency, and imagination, making The Red Element one of my favourite poetry collections of the year.”
  — Hannah Stephenson, Gloss

“Having carved out her particular niche on the Canlit map with her last two offerings, The Watch and Pupa, The Red Element is another groundbreaking delight.”
  — Kane X. Faucher, Scene Magazine

“…it is worthwhile to let The Red Element (Insomniac Press, 2008) suck you into its vividly morbid world.”
  — Matrix

“The oneiric surrealism engendered there is highly effective; it harnesses narrative purpose and stanza order in tension to the seemingly random menace of the poems’ imagery.”
  — Arc Poetry Magazine

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PupaPupa

Insomniac Press, 2003

“The poems in Pupa, her first collection, are spiky little meditations so taut and tightly controlled they are almost claustrophobic…The poems’ effect is all the more intense as a result…. This impressive collection should put her on the Canlit map.”
  — The Toronto Star

“An underrated poet; the super-compressed lyrics of this book make a most unusual music and are quite convincing treatments of grief.”
  — Zachariah Wells

“The best advice that I can give on this book is to go read it, let Graham explain Graham to you.”
  — Grey Borders

“…Graham is a young poet whose work should be closely attended to.”
— Arc Poetry Magazine

“…Graham’s Pupa is a debut collection of graceful concision and surprising wisdom.”
  — The Times-Colonist

“Graham has the haiku sensibility: not the Orientally measured form which, in English, can appeal only to the eye, but the talent for the evocative image succinctly expressed… Her best work is at once brief, yet resonant…the sophistication of their brevity, remind me of Roethke.”
  — The Fiddlehead

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The WatchThe Watch

Abbey Press, 1998

“…dives sensually into experience and enables the reader to follow. She writes what happens so that it happens again. It’s an appealing collection, full of telling and specific detail.”
  — Poetry Ireland Review 61

“Graham has much promise as a poet, and makes one eager to read a full collection of her work.”
  — Nessa O’Mahoney, InCognito, Dublin

“…resurrects and at the same time revivifies the ordinary, the everyday, in a new light.”
  — Books Ireland

“…Graham is a young poet whose work should be closely attended to.”
  — Arc Poetry Magazine

“Irony and wit are some of the gifts best displayed by Catherine Graham.”
  — The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, Vol IV & V

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