Catherine Graham launched her sixth poetry collection, The Celery Forest with Wolsak & Wynn, Buckrider Books, Fall 2017. A Best Canadian Poetry Collection of 2017, The Celery Forest appears on CBC Book’s Ultimate Canadian Poetry List and is shortlisted for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry.
Storylines: Listen to Graham’s interview about The Celery Forest with Christine Cowley by clicking below.
Reviews & Praise
“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
“This book succeeds in creating its own world, using magic realism, fairy tales and a skilled and sure ear. We are led and follow the path of images both frightening and fabulous, until, surrounded, we’re lost. Exploring a subject that’s hard to make new, The Celery Forest is a rare and compelling achievement.”
— the judge for the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry
“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
“She speaks to an owl and tells him to “pluck the tumour out of [her] breast / with your sharp, curved talons— / let the only thing that spreads be your wings.” It’s images like these that are so affective and so carefully and delicately conjured that they stick to the walls of the reader’s mind and slowly drip down. Their haunting beauty can feel exactly like ‘a Zeppelin record playing / backwards.’”
— David Johnstone, Canadian Literature
“Catherine Graham, the final reader, captivated us with her humour, courage and beautiful Canadian voice. She observed – if that’s the word – her illness through images of birds, moles and even Louis XIV. I admired her conciseness and verbal precision.”
— Peter Adair, Canadian Lines, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
The Celery Forest appears on Spotlight Writer Rayanne Haines’ list: Canadian Poets Rocking Words for the Edmonton Public Library.
“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
“What a joy of a book. Every page is delicious although piercing. It’s subtle, personal and moving.”
— Lauren B. Davis, Books I Loved in 2018