Toronto Poet and Writer, Catherine Graham

Catherine Graham grew up in Southern Ontario, living with her parents beside a water-filled limestone quarry. Tragically, during her undergraduate years at McMaster University, she lost both parents—her mother to cancer during her first year, her father in a late-night car accident during her last year. Throughout this time of deep grief Catherine found poetry (or did poetry find her?). To Catherine, grief is much like a quarry—a blasted landscape that becomes a hole, a wound. Yet, from beneath, water emerges, an underground spring rises to fill the open-aired pit. Water and rock. Rock and water. Something new is born.

Catherine has written six poetry collections, two novels (Quarry and The Most Cunning Heart) and a hybrid memoir, Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric. Looking back, it seems these two strands—poetry and prose—were ready to merge into one to become this hybrid mix. Listening to the work—the words, the images, the music and silence—plus allowing room for intuition and synchronicity to appear, are essential to Catherine’s process.

She lived in Northern Ireland for eight years, studying the craft of poetry and publishing her first chapbook there, The Watch. Although she now lives and writes in Toronto, she is looking forward to returning to Northern Ireland this September to read her poetry at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace again.

Catherine began her career as an elementary school teacher. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and will be teaching at their Summer School this July. She also serves as the Heliconian Club’s Writer-in-Residence and leads the Toronto International Festival of Authors’ Virtual Book Club.

Catherine writes about grief and loss, her parents and the quarry, but she’s also interested in both the natural world and the liminal; the fine line between things that includes the real, the imagined and the pull of mystery. She explores these concepts (and more) with her fellow co-host Jessica Outram in The Hummingbird Podcast. Catherine and Jessica are honoured to have their podcast included in the WNED/PBS app Amplify.

Catherine’s poems of late have been inspired by lines that appear in her dreams. A bedside notebook serves as the repository for these dreamlines, although the challenge is often deciphering them in the morning! The poem below is one of many originating from dreamt lines and will appear this spring in her eighth collection: Put Flowers Around Us and Pretend We’re Dead: New and Selected Poems (Wolsak and Wynn / Buckrider Books).

She is thrilled to receive this advance praise from Lorna Crozier: “This is a book to keep by your bedside, to read when you dream and when you awaken. The poems will disturb, they will shatter, they will mend.”

Ghost Apples

You are out of the forest now.

Icicle birds, having called, melted.

Ash tree, seen from a distance,

view to underground—

hold flash-happens,

so many goods —

the sleeping mind wants—all of it—

mixing gone with apple’s core—

leaving field in your bones.

Catherine Graham
Put Flowers Around Us and Pretend We’re Dead: New and Selected Poems