GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2018 IS NOW OPEN
Catherine Graham grew up in Newcastle on Tyne where she still lives.
Her awards include a Northern Voices Poetry Award and Catherine’s poems have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, USA and Ireland as well as online.
Like A Fish Out Of Batter is Catherine’s third collection, her first,
a chapbook, Signs (ID on Tyne Press) was one of The Poetry Kit’s top five recommended books for 2011.
Her first full collection Things I Will Put In My Mother’s Pocket also received great acclaim when it was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2013.
138 x 216mm
£6.00 + P&P UK
PUB: 2nd DECEMBER 2016
Like A Fish Out Of Batter is an original collection of poems that bring the people in L. S. Lowry’s paintings to life. Drawing on Catherine Graham’s experience and pride in her working-class Tyneside roots, meet Maureen and Ray the factory workers she has created and whose story is woven through the poems. Spoken in voices that are sometimes ‘almost shockingly intimate’ and often with a bite of humour.
“Catherine Graham’s poems have an immediacy that mimics beautifully something that’s always there in Lowry’s paintings: an uncanny sense of presence. We are instantly with her speakers in a direct, almost shockingly intimate manner. She finds a way of doing in her poems what Lowry does in his paintings: of turning a dispassionate yet compassionate ear to their inhabitants, just as he turned a unique eye on an undervalued beauty of place and the lives of the unfairly dismissed.”
“Catherine Graham's poems are precise, tender and humane, perfectly catching the hues, acoustics, textures and rhythms of her characters' lives.” Catherine Smith
Like A Fish Out Of Batter
Red and yellow sails like flames
out on the water; the salt-sea air
so good for factory girls like me,
girls who spend their days in overalls
and daft hats; busy little workers
pounding the production line.
The two blokes in row boats look
knackered, like me at the end of a shift.
My ex was at the back of the bus, sat
next to her from Packaging. God she was
packed into that dress. Maybe I'll just
stand here a bit longer, imagine life
beyond that horizon, but what the hell
do I know about life beyond any horizon,
standing here looking at yachts, feeling
lost, like a fish out of batter, praying
my period will come, either that or
with the next kind wave I drown.
Girl with Bouffant Hair
My mother sits on the end of my bed,
watching me get ready to meet Ray.
‘I wish you wouldn’t backcomb your hair like that,
it makes you look common.’
It’s never worth answering my mother,
she loves me too much to listen.
On summer days when girls played skips in the street
in nylon swimming costumes that never got wet,
I was the girl who had to keep her vest on.
Mother’s notes to my teacher read like letters
to an agony aunt; the problem was never the same.
Years down the line and here we are, me (and my mother)
getting ready for my date. ‘You’re not going
straight out after a hot bath, our Maureen,
all them open pores; you’ll catch your death!’
I put on my vest and she passes me my best white blouse,
the one with the wide collar. I check myself in the mirror:
She thinks I can’t see her as she checks the length of my skirt.
Her eyes read me from head to toe
as if at an appointment with the optician.
When I put on my camel-hair coat and kitten heel shoes,
she smiles. Hoping to catch the 7 o’clock into town,
I grab my handbag and go, just in time to hear
the bus wheezing to a stop across the road.
My mother, standing on the toilet seat to reach,
pushes open the bathroom window,
‘Mind you catch the last bus home!’ Her voice wavers
as she closes the window and mouths my dead sister’s name.
Children look up
at the war-wounded
as if to bombard them with questions.
But not all that we see are
home from the war:
the polio leg, scoliosis, the stroke.
a black-eyed boy front left tells his sister.
Or perhaps not.¬¬
Perhaps he is about to lift her
so that like grown-ups
she can feast her eyes on a closer look.
The broken man in the middle,
deep in thought, opts out
of the pantomime and walks his dog
while the child, hand-out on the right
startles the double amputee
by asking for a turn on his trolley.
Putting Aunt Adeline On the Train
Head of a Woman in a Feathered Hat
I'd never tried cheese and pineapple
until I met Aunt Adeline;
never seen a real feather in a hat.
I thought perfume smelled of violets
and petticoats were flannelette.
Until I met Aunt Adeline
I'd never heard of South Africa,
anyone coming to visit came from Blyth.
But I learned so much in that fortnight,
so much about a different life.
As her train steamed away from the station
I asked my mother, 'Mam, what’s apartheid?’
And Mam, like a ventriloquist and still waving,
'Fasten your coat, you look cold.' replied.