Monday, January 16, 2023

Book Nook: Chimera

 Few people have survived the nightmare of a stem cell transplant gone sideways. Fewer still have had the audacity to write about the miraculous yet bewildering experience of becoming a genetic chimera. Brad Buchanan breaks this taboo and offers readers eloquent, surrealistic and profoundly moving passages about his dramatic transformation and amazing recovery. Chimera, Buchanan’s fourth book of poems, tells in lyrically oblique confessions and hallucinatory vignettes the difficult but nevertheless wonderful history and aftermath of the author’s 2016 stem cell transplant.


After a rocky and near-fatal beginning, the transplant enabled Buchanan to survive a malignant blood cancer through becoming a genetic chimera (his DNA was altered through the successful engraftment of his brother’s stem cells). It has also left him and his family to deal with many subsequent challenges: the dreaded return of lymphoma, a chronic illness (graft-versus-host disease) and many conflicting emotions.


Chimera is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture and overcome moments of suffering and confusion, and a document of the serenity that the acceptance of illness and disability can offer,” Buchanan said.


In Chimera, Buchanan also questions and protests the violent, militaristic language that dominates the discourse of cancer survivorship, and shows how harmful the long-term effects of this “warrior” mentality can be. The book explores the problems of survivor guilt, chemical dependency, and unprocessed or displaced trauma, while tracing an ultimately positive narrative of recovery and acceptance.


In a review for Poetry Flash, Tom Goff said: “Chimera gives us a comprehensive look at a lifespan, segmented or fractured, as illness interrupts. Rarely have we been favored with so strong an impression that poetic mastery exacts patience, submission to circumstance, from the observing writer, or that the richness of the reading comes at high cost to the poet.”

About the Author 

Brad Buchanan was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and holds degrees from McGill University (BA in English, 1994), the University of Toronto (MA in English, 1995) and Stanford University (Ph.D. in English, 2001). He taught British and Postcolonial Literature, as well as Creative Writing, at Sacramento State University until his retirement in 2016. His poetry, fiction and scholarly articles have appeared in nearly 200 journals. He is also the author of The Miracle Shirker (Poet’s Corner Press, 2005), Swimming the Mirror: Poems for My Daughter (Roan Press 2009), The Scars, Aligned: A Cancer Narrative (Finishing Line Press, 2019), the medical memoir, Living with Graft-Versus-Host Disease: How I Stopped Fighting Cancer and Started Healing, (Armin Lear Press, 2021) and the academic books Hanif Kureishi (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and Oedipus Against Freud: Myth and the End(s) of Humanism in Twentieth-Century British Literature (University of Toronto Press, 2010). His third academic book, Indict the Author of Affection: Affectation and Catachresis in Hamlet, is forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press.


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. The transplant entailed 129 days in the hospital, a significant though temporary loss of vision and a lengthy recovery period at home. During this time, 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 early 2017, and is currently still in remission. However, his acute graft-versus-host disease has become a chronic illness, and he was forced to retire early from Sacramento State to pursue writing full-time. He lives in Sacramento and co-facilitates a writing workshop aimed at helping people dealing with issues of illness, disability and recovery. He is married to author Kate Washington, and they have two daughters: Nora (17) and Lucy (13). Washington has written a book telling of her difficult experiences as Buchanan’s caregiver: Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America (Beacon Press, 2021).


For more information, please visit, or follow the author on Twitter, Instagram and Tikok at @bradthechimera, or on Facebook at

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