New Book of Poems
Few people have survived the nightmare of a stem cell transplant gone sideways. Fewer still have had the audacity to write poetry about the miraculous yet bewildering experience of becoming a genetic chimera. Brad Buchanan breaks this taboo and offers us eloquent, surrealistic, and profoundly moving lyrics about his dramatic transformation and amazing recovery. The result is CHIMERA, one book of poetry you will never forget.
Click here for Heather Campbell's review of CHIMERA.
What others have said about CHIMERA:
In CHIMERA, Brad Buchanan explores the multi-valanced meanings of his title—from the mythical and monstrous to the fanciful to the genetic—while he chronicles a harrowing journey through the daily indignities of a body at war with itself. With influences as diverse as Shakespeare and Dickinson, these compelling poems are as cerebral as they are carnal, combining in chimerical fashion the painful and miraculous details that comprise “the raw / fact of survival.”
—Joshua McKinney, author of MAD CURSIVE (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2012) and SMALL SILLION (Parlor Press, 2018)
Brad Buchanan's painfully stunning new collection, CHIMERA, continues his explorations of the monstrosities that cancer can create in the lives of human beings as they struggle through invasive testing, treatments, recovery, and the hope of being cancer-free that stem cell transplants offer. Buchanan…documents, reports, questions, disputes both himself and the world cancer and chimerism force him to confront. He helps us see and feel in a most visceral way what it means—for him, for us, for those he loves and those who love him—to be engaged in this struggle. “Cancer is not your standard bully, / it will not back down if confronted / with sufficiently brave defiance. / It doesn't have a nervous system / to mobilize or sympathize. / The only martial arts it knows/ are patience, stealth and resilience.” These poems will surprise you with their tenacity, empathy and ingenious language. —Susan Kelly-DeWitt, author of SPIDER SEASON (Cold River Press, 2016) and GRAVITATIONAL TUG (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2020)
CHIMERA is Brad Buchanan’s poetry of recovery after the medical and emotional ordeals he detailed so powerfully in his previous collection THE SCARS, ALIGNED (Finishing Line Press, 2019). The visceral realism and honesty of that volume are once again on display… two bitter, glittering prose poems bring Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Lear into the hospital to anatomize collapsing bodies and minds, in cynical and often hilarious tones… And some of the finest poems in the volume are the stunning pastiches of Emily Dickinson, who has given Buchanan a stanza that works like a knife edge to pare away all the sentiment and obscurity of an approach to—and a last-minute shying away—from death… The bleakest poems here could not have been written except from the perspective of a survivor husband and father, catching his breath in the outside world, looking back in astonishment… noticing the world of the healthy and loving and beautiful again—Brian Trehearne, Professor of Canadian Literature, McGill University
Brad is a spokesperson for GvHDNow, and was interviewed about his struggle with acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease. See the video here.
Brad was also interviewed on the Story Discovery Podcast, which features a reading (by Melissa Collings) of Brad's recent nonfiction piece: "A Concert for the Elephants: My Father's Miracle Cure," published online by Etched Onyx.
Brad's scholarly monograph, "Indict the Author of Affection": Affectation and Catachresis in Hamlet, is forthcoming from McGill-Queen's University Press.
A video recording of the Zoom book launch for LIVING WITH GRAFT-VERSUS-HOST DISEASE: HOW I STOPPED FIGHTING CANCER AND STARTED HEALING is now available!
For those who couldn't make it but are interested, the recording of the Zoom launch for LIVING WITH GRAFT-VERSUS-HOST DISEASE has been posted. Thank you to Heidi, Jared, and Ross from Capital Books on K in Sacramento for hosting and posting! We had a great (and very frank) discussion of the pros and cons of my tell-all book about a fascinating illness with Dr. Joseph Tuscano of UC Davis, Dr. Emily Hopewell of Indiana University, and Jackie Foster of Be The Match®.
Brad Buchanan's medical memoir, LIVING WITH GRAFT-VERSUS-HOST DISEASE: HOW I STOPPED FIGHTING CANCER AND STARTED HEALING, is now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
If you suffered from an acute or chronic disease, wouldn’t you want to know as much about it as possible? If that disease were graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), you would have great difficulty in finding a readable, relatable account of its physical, psychological and emotional consequences, since there are no current books that combine a synoptic account of GvHD symptoms and treatments with a patient’s own story of survivorship. A 70,000 word personal narrative enriched with medical information, LIVING WITH GRAFT-VERSUS-HOST DISEASE: HOW I STOPPED FIGHTING CANCER AND STARTED HEALING, fills a huge gap in current health and wellness literature. It tells the story of the author’s survival against the odds, outlines his sometimes rocky path to long-term recovery, and offers unique and important insights into acute and chronic GvHD. Using poetry as a touchstone, it draws on the author’s own experiences as a two-time blood cancer survivor and stem-cell transplant recipient to encourage GvHD patients to move beyond the “warrior” mentality promoted by much of the current cultural discourse surrounding disease, treatment, and survivorship. LIVING WITH GRAFT-VERSUS-HOST DISEASE also promotes a greater awareness of the unusual nature of GvHD itself, which often cannot be “defeated” or “beaten” in a traditional sense, since it has its roots in a genetic mismatch that, paradoxically, makes it effective in preventing cancer’s resurgence. It also advocates a full understanding of the current best practices in the treatment of GvHD, as well as an attitude of acceptance and emotional openness, in addition to the practice of writing as a self-healing activity.
Praise for LIVING WITH GRAFT-VERSUS-HOST DISEASE: HOW I STOPPED FIGHTING CANCER AND STARTED HEALING:
While recovery from transplant is unique for everyone, first-hand experiences help to tear down the walls of isolation. We are incredibly grateful to people like Dr. Buchanan who share their personal story. His is both profound and relatable; written with humor, honesty and hope.
—Be The Match®
Brad Buchanan has produced a detailed narration of his personal battle with lymphoma and ultimately graft-versus-host disease (GvHD). He takes a no-holds-barred approach that leaves little to the imagination. His command of the language and mix of prose and poetry bring to life the good, the bad and the terrifying components of his journey with a rare and particularly intense form of GvHD.
—Joseph M. Tuscano, MD, Interim Director of Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplantation and deLeuze Endowed Professor of Medicine, UC Davis Cancer Center
Dr. Buchanan provides a frank and engaging account of his personal journey through blood cancer treatment and the repercussions of living with graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) as a result of that treatment. He unmasks both the physical and mental impact of GvHD on himself and his caregivers and provides a reminder that becoming cancer free is not always the end of the pilgrimage.
—Emily Hopewell, PhD, Director of Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University
Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) remains a significant cause of morbidity and non-relapse mortality for allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT). This book tells a story of courage and overcoming the formidable challenges of acute and chronic GvHD. It will help physicians, nurses, and scientists genuinely understand the story of patients’ difficulties living with GvHD. As a scientist working on uncoupling GvHD from GVL (graft-versus-leukemia), I encourage every citizen to read this book, which ought to convince our politicians and policymakers to support more research into GvHD.
—Dr. Mobin Karimi, Assistant Professor of Immunology and Microbiology, SUNY Upstate Medical University
Brad Buchanan was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and holds degrees in English from McGill University (BA 1994), the University of Toronto (MA 1995), and Stanford University (PhD 2001). He taught British and Postcolonial Literature, as well as Creative Writing, at Sacramento State University until his retirement due to disability in 2017. His poetry, fiction, and scholarly articles have appeared in more than 200 journals.
He was diagnosed with a rare form of T-cell lymphoma in February 2015 and, after chemotherapy and radiation treatments, underwent a stem cell transplant at the U.C. Davis Medical Center in 2016. He is a genetic chimera, since his DNA has been altered by his brother's life saving donation of stem cells. The stem-cell transplant, however, was a rocky one; it nearly proved fatal, and entailed 129 days in the hospital’s transplant unit, a significant loss of vision, and a lengthy recovery period at home. In late 2016 he was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma induced by the Epstein-Barr virus. After participating in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering he was declared cancer-free in 2017, and is currently still in remission. He still suffers from chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGvHD), a consequence of his stem cell transplant. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and two daughters.
Brad currently co-facilitates two Zoom writing workshops for people dealing with illness, disability and recovery. The first workshop runs on second and fourth Saturdays from noon to 2pm for the Sacramento Society for the Blind. (Read more about the Society for the Blind workshop here.) The other runs every Wednesday from 6:30PM to 8:30PM through the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. (Read more about the UC Davis workshop here)
Brad Buchanan's third book of poems, THE SCARS, ALIGNED: A CANCER NARRATIVE (Finishing Line Press, 2019) is now on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's "Living with Cancer" Suggested Reading List.
Forced to an intimacy with the body’s deep mechanisms, its betrayals and resilience, in The Scars, Aligned Brad Buchanan chronicles his battle with cancer, a journey through a personal hell where malady and cure sound alike. This powerful book offers an unflinching portrait of one man’s encounter with mortality, “the capital / T-cell truth.” In poems that convey a terrible urgency, we glimpse the daily struggle between fear and hope, the periods of crushing isolation, and the resulting questions of how does one keep hope alive, how does one survive? For Buchanan, the answer lies in the love of friends and family, and further, in conversation with his poetic forebears, in the redemptive power of language. For anyone who has ever questioned the utility of poetry, these poems stand defiant. In “Miracle,” the speaker recounts hearing about a woman whose infertility was cured by her treatment for ovarian cancer: “I listened dumbstruck / to her story / and wondered what / new birth / my sickness might / bring me.” The beautiful and moving poems of The Scars, Aligned are that birth, and it is miraculous.
—Joshua McKinney, author of Mad Cursive and The Novice Mourner
Brad Buchanan’s poems prove that reading and writing poetry can help us make sense of the senselessness of cancer.
—Susan Gubar, author of the column “Living With Cancer” in The New York Times (electronic edition)
Buchanan’s muscular third collection of poems, The Scars, Aligned, holds you in its fierce grasp as ruthlessly as the near-fatal lymphoma the speaker endures. This is not just a collection about a young father’s trial by cancer and his emergence back to the world of the living; this is a book where the power of mortality writes itself through the transfiguration of its human host. In ‘Thanksgiving,’ Buchanan writes, “yes/I will give this thanks/to cancer/for showing me/that something in nature/needs me to live out/its tragedy/more urgently than I could ever/live out my own truth/ in my own time…” Thanks to Buchanan for letting us this close to such a searing truth.
—Julia Levine, author of Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight (LSU Press 2014), awarded the 2015 Northern California Book Award in Poetry
Brad Buchanan has written with fierceness, tenderness, bafflement, and frightening honesty about his own experience of cancer and the rounds of painstaking and painful treatment that brought him through it.…One of the great surprises and great pleasures of The Scars, Aligned is the intermittent presence of humour and wit, whether it is the delightful voice of scandalized literary authorities in “Acceptance Notice,” or a brilliant zeugma in “Vagal,” or the “unforgettable” comparison of first sex and first suppository in “Unforgettable,” or the supreme conceit that governs “A Cancer Patient’s Guide to Hockey.” The poet’s body is the subject and the display of these poems, but it is the enduring well-being of his mind that moves us most.
—Brian Trehearne, Professor of Canadian Literature, McGill University
Brad has published 3 books of poetry: THE MIRACLE SHIRKER (Poets Corner Press, 2005), SWIMMING THE MIRROR: POEMS FOR MY DAUGHTER (Roan Press, 2008), and THE SCARS, ALIGNED: A CANCER NARRATIVE (Finishing Line Press, 2019). He has also published THE WAR GROOM, a chapbook from Rattlesnake Press. His poems have been published in more than 200 journals worldwide, including Canadian Literature, Convergence, The Dalhousie Review, Eclectica, English Journal, Event, Grain, Griffel, Levee, Mamazine.com, Mercutio Press, Minnetonka Review, Mudlark, Pirene's Fountain, Rattlesnake Press, The Sacramento News & Review, The Seattle Review, and The Wisconsin Review. Recent pieces have also appeared in Cagibi, The Esthetic Apostle, The Indianapolis Review, Valiant Scribe, and Wordgathering. You can see Brad recite poems from "Notes from SHOAH" on Facebook. Brad's post-election poems about politics, protest, and the pandemic can also be seen on Facebook. You can hear him read his recent hockey poems on Soundcloud, where he was also interviewed for The Gateway by Howard Mitnick on U2's album The Unforgettable Fire.
Brad has published dozens of scholarly articles in journals such as the Journal of Modern Literature, Men and Masculinities, Notes and Queries, and Twentieth Century Literature as well as two scholarly books: HANIF KUREISHI: NEW BRITISH FICTION SERIES (Palgrave Macmillan Press, 2007), and OEDIPUS AGAINST FREUD: MYTH AND THE END(S) OF THE HUMAN IN TWENTIETH CENTURY BRITISH LITERATURE (University of Toronto Press, 2010).
Brad contributed to and edited VISIONS OF JOANNA NEWSOM a book of art and essays devoted to the songs of the famed California harpist and singer/songwriter (Roan Press, 2010). Interested in a free electronic copy of this hard-to-find book? Email Brad for details.
Brad has written chapters appearing in the following books: READING ZADIE SMITH, CONTEMPORARY BRITISH FICTION, HUXLEY'S BRAVE NEW WORLD: ESSAYS, RE-READING B.S. JOHNSON, and RACE AND RELIGION IN THE POSTCOLONIAL BRITISH DETECTIVE STORY,
Brad has also published the following blog entries about writing and reviews:
Blog post for University of Toronto Press on the process of turning his dissertation into a book.
Blog post for SacWellness.com on how EMDR helped him to write about his writing about remission from cancer.
Blog post for Poets & Writers on the benefits of workshopping with the AWA (Amherst) method.
Essay entitled "I'm Done with Being a Cancer Survivor: What I am Now is a GvHD Patient" was published in Prometheus Dreaming.
Review of Ron Slate's THE GREAT WAVE on Gently Read Literature.
Brad's Likes and Recommendations:
I am very proud and excited that ALREADY TOAST: CAREGIVING AND BURNOUT IN AMERICA, an important and timely book written by a terrific writer named Kate Washington
(who happens to be my wife) is now available from Amazon.com. This book details Kate's struggle with the medical establishment as my caregiver, draws on literary classics for points of comparison and contrast with her own experiences, and and offers a trenchant indictment of the sexism underlying the American dependence on unpaid female caregivers.
I was honored to write a blurb for Elizabeth Varadan's new chapbook, "SAUDADE." Please consider ordering your copy from Finishing Line Press today!
I was honored to write a blurb for Michelle A. Johnson's new chapbook, "MAN KILLS GIRLFRIEND OVER COLD SANDWICHES AND OTHER SAD TALES." Please consider ordering your copy from Finishing Line Press today!