Skip to main content

Distributed for CavanKerry Press



Winner of the 2022 Paterson Poetry Prize, this coming-of-age collection is set in 1960s Paterson, New Jersey.

Wonderama is a collection of cinematic, surprising, and at times harrowing poems that capture 1960s Paterson, New Jersey, as experienced by the poorest, most vulnerable children living there. With candor, ferocity, and stunning imagery, Catherine Doty’s poems explore survival and loss in the life of a young girl escaping the perils of want, neglect, and abuse. At times both heartbreaking and vaudevillian, Doty’s work chronicles sexual awakening and assault, alcoholism, the hazards of Catholic school, and the complex consequences of coming of age in the inner city.

72 pages | 6 x 9


CavanKerry Press image

View all books from CavanKerry Press


“In Catherine Doty’s poetry the lyric gift and the comic gift are so finely interfused that you can turn a poem inside out and not expose a single seam. Over and over in her poems, these two rarest of gifts react, and produce the mysterious virtue called style. In Doty’s first book of magic, momentum, I thought I was just being sledded too fast to see how it was done. Now we have this—Wonderama, with its relaxed texture and magisterial tempos—and I still can’t see how it’s done. But that is a wonder for the way home. For the most and best of this book’s wonders, just open the gate and walk through.”

Robert Carnevale

“When William Carlos Williams wrote ‘Memory is a kind of accomplishment,’ who knew he was writing about Catherine Doty and her long-awaited second book of poems? From the mean streets of midcentury Paterson, where she is accosted by an inexperienced mugger, and the weekly confessional which she leaves with a ‘head full of sin and two Holy Cards,’ to the temple of the boardwalk arcade, Doty takes us on a hurricane-in-a-whirling-teacup rush that is both alarming and beautiful. I found myself reading these poems so many times, I swear, I thought my eyes rubbed the ink off the pages.”

Peter Murphy, founder of Murphy Writing of Stockton University

Wonderama delves gloriously into the shame-filled mess of searing poverty, and finds wonder there, in the absurdity of human meanness, our stupidity, frailty, madness, and kindness. Doty drops us directly inside childhood experience without sentimentality. Despairing as they sometimes are, these are not poems of despair. She’s not looking toward heaven to justify the suffering of the people in these poems. She knows they can’t afford such luxury. Instead, with compassion, humor and often astonishingly beautiful imagery, Doty invites us to stay right here, rooted to the earth with her and them. We’re grateful for the invitation.”

Martin Jude Farawell, director, Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, and author of 'Odd Boy'

"Catherine Doty’s pitiless poems beautifully show us what we don’t want to see: children’s poverty, abuse, neglect. And their meanness. Poor children living in squalor, which Doty’s language often veils in lyrical glamor."

Vox Populi

Table of Contents


Breathing Under Water
For Thomas Mosby
Sweet Ants
The First Time I Was Told to Fuck Myself
The Dawn of Beauty
Behind Bars


What Does Not Kill Us
Half Day Kindergarten
Mikado, 1960
Standing, 1964
EZ Bake
Dirt Cellar
Riding the Maniac


At the Circus
Federal Sweets and Biscuit, l962


New Girl in Town
Franny Takes Advice
Franny of the Jungle


Seaside Heights, 1964
Here, Boy
Sixteen, in the One Room That Locks
On Valley Road
Working Girls
JC and Me in the Summer of 64

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press