How the death of her parents inspired poet Catherine Graham to turn to fiction
Poet Catherine Graham's debut novel is about a young girl's coming of age. Quarryfollows Caitlin, an only child who lives with her parents beside a limestone quarry. But her life shifts dramatically when she learns her mother is dying.
Catherine Graham is the author of the poetry collection The Celery Forest.
Words undergoing change
"As a poet, I love words with multiple meanings. Quarry, of course, means a man-made pit, it also means prey and it comes from the French word coeur, as in heart. It is the essence of life. I'm also interested in quarry as a place because I grew up beside one. It's a man-made landscape — it's blasted into being. I think true grief blasts us as we're hit with it and we're never the same. We then have this pit inside us. What happens with that empty space? How is it filled? For the protagonist dealing with that intensity, I think she identifies with the quarry even more than she realizes."
Stories that lead
"The story came to me through the experience of grief. I actually lost my parents when I was coming into adulthood — it was through grief that poetry found me. I've been writing about my parents ever since that time and they appear in all of my books in some shape or form, as does the quarry. I did think about writing a memoir, but Quarry didn't want to be that. It wanted to enter into the imagination and become something else. I wanted to follow the emotional truth of what I experienced, but then the characters took on a life of their own. I couldn't call it a memoir, it really became something else."
Catherine Graham's comments have been edited and condensed.