Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Catherine Graham

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Ten Questions with Catherine Graham

Catherine Graham is the author of The Watch, Pupa and The Red Element. She teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto and through Descant’s NowHearThis writer-in-schools program. Her work has been anthologized internationally and published in The New Quarterly, Literary Review of Canada, Taddle Creek and The Fiddlehead. Join Catherine Graham, Jason Camlot and Stuart Ross for the Insomniac Press / Punchy Writers Launch at Dora Keogh Traditional Irish Pub in Toronto on Wednesday, May 21. Visit our events page for details.

OB:

Tell us about your latest book, The Red Element.

CG:

Unlike Pupa, my last book which was divided into sections, The Red Element flows from one poem to another. In addition to the colour red, you’ll find flying arms, doodles, pigeons, willows, stars and terrible ponds.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

CG:

Not really. I’m hoping poetry lovers from all walks of life will find something to relate to.

OB:

What poets got you interested in poetry?

CG:

When I was writing my first poems, I was completing an MA in creative writing in Northern Ireland. The program concentrated on Irish/Northern Irish/American poets and a few from the UK. Some of the poets that got me interested were: Elizabeth Bishop, Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney, Wallace Stevens, Derek Mahon, Eavan Boland.

OB:

What was your first publication?

CG:

The Watch. It was published when I lived in Northern Ireland. The poems were about my attempts to come to terms with the deaths of my parents. It was through grief that I came to writing poetry.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

CG:

A quiet place is important but for me what’s more important is a quiet mind – one free of worries and concerns so that images and word rhythms can rise to the surface.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

CG:

The Sentinel by A. F. Moritz, Little Eurekas by Robyn Sarah and Amsterdam by Ian McEwan are some of the books on my bedside table.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

CG:

I really don’t know how to answer this question – too many amazing voices to choose from, perhaps an illustrated book like Oh Canada by Ted Harrison.

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

CG:

When I entered the writing life, I took a creative writing course with Barbara Gowdy. Her comment – your subject matter chooses you – touched me deeply. I often pass this advice on to my own creative writing students.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

CG:

A couple of years ago when my partner and I were out in BC, he secretly arranged for us to visit one of my writing heroes – P K Page. After a lovely afternoon at her home, I gave her a copy of my book, Pupa. “Thank you,” she said and then she looked me in the eye. “You know, I might not like it.” A week later she sent me an email to let me know how much she liked my work. I was thrilled.

OB:

What is your next project?

CG:

In addition to teaching creative writing at U of T, poetry coaching and leading more creativity workshops, I’m gearing up for the launch of The Red Element. But more poems, for sure.

The Red Element ""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

Visit the Insomniac Press website to read more about the The Red Element by Catherine Graham.

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