February 19, 2015 in Celebration of Canadian Poetry

Week 8 – Catherine Graham presented by Lisa de Nikolits

Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings of Insects by Catherine Graham (Wolsak & Wynn, 2013)

I loved every line from Catherine Graham’s collection, Her Red Hair Rises With the Wings of Insects. In fact, I loved every line so much that I tweeted excerpts daily, from most of the book. And while I loved all of the poems, I am going to feature this one today, “Peas & Barbies.”

Catherine Graham is the über-maestro of whipping up images that startle, surprise and delight and this poem is spectacularly memorable for its intense visceral quality, its vivid, powerful and incredibly poignant imagery.

Catherine reveals the bedrock of our instinctive natures, 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.


Make her naked and still she smiles,
exposing breasts without nipples.


We giggled at the word in the secret book
where the small arrow pointed.

We said it at the same time.

I made a doll of mashed potato
with nipple-peas on my plate.

Take charge and spit.
Witless move. Nana’s looking.

Don’t play with your food says the line
in her lips that melts the wizard in mine.

She blinks the nippled world away.
I give the world too much.

Fork more food in your mouth
and keep your eyes shut;

be an empty-headed thing
with shredded carrot hair.

Now roll on into Vegetable Land
where potatoes rule and peas shrivel

when told to stack up like tennis balls
on a Prince racquet.

Which one will tip the hill?
This pea. That.

“Eat your meal. It’s getting cold.
You’ll be hungry later.”

I’ll chew my hair.


after “Barbie” by Dorothy Molloy

Permission is granted by publisher Wolsak & Wynn to use this poem from Her Red Hair Rises With The Wings of Insects.

Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She is the author of four novels. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain. Visit her website.

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