Synopses & Reviews
Gravesend, which takes its name from the English town at the mouth of the Thames, revisits the genre of the ghost story and, through fragmentation, juxtaposition, and allusion, powerfully summons the uncanny, the spectral presence. Cole Swensen delves into ancient fables, the Bible, medieval records, Victorian ghost stories, contemporary interviews, and more to explore the effects of the ghostly on our daily lives, at times returning to the notion of "gravesend," implicitly asking if all ends in the grave or if death itself has an end. Swensen's focus on language shapes these visitations--glimpses of the supernatural or intuitions of the afterlife in all its mystery--allowing readers to ponder such eternal questions further or simply to experience the frisson that accompanies the perception of a ghost or the reading of a poem.
“A book-length meditation on ghosts and ghost stories in Swensens haunting style.”
"It is poetry that honestly admits the inchoate, affirms mystery and responds to successive readings: it is alive."
The act of seeing, and seeing as a kind of consciousness, is where Swensens true project lies. For unlike many poets before her who have practiced the art of ekphrasis by describing or illuminating the visual, Swensen is interested in the representation of representation
. Above all, she is interested in the process and procedures of perception.”Boston Review
Swensen draws relationships between disparate elements across time, space and discipline with a magician's touch. Her work continues to meditate on the act, and art, of seeing and saying.”Publishers Weekly
One of the most assured voices in contemporary poetry.”Library Journal
Ghosts appear in place of whatever a given people will not face” (p. 65)
The poems in Gravesend explore ghosts as instances of collective grief and guilt, as cultural constructs evolved to elide or to absorb a given societys actions, as well as, at times, to fill the gaps between such actions and the desires and intentions of its individual citizens. Tracing the changing nature of the ghostly in the western world from antiquity to today, the collection focuses particularly on the ghosts created by the European expansion of the 16th through 20th centuries, using the town of Gravesend, the seaport at the mouth of the Thames through which countless emigrants passed, as an emblem of theambiguous threshold between one life and another, in all the many meanings of that phrase.
About the Author
Cole Swensen is the author of twelve previous books of poetry, including the acclaimed Ours (UC Press). She is also coeditor of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry and teaches in the Literary Arts Program at Brown University.
Table of Contents
One: Have you ever seen a ghost?
Sometimes the Ghost
He Who Was
Varieties of Ghost
The Ghost Is in Itself
The End of Antiquity
According to Scripture
The Hellequins Hunt
Who Only Living
The Ghost Story
Interview Series 1
Toward the End
The Beginnings of the Modern Era
Two: How did Gravesend get its name?
A Good Friend
Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman
Some Paintings of Ghosts
Some Ghosts in Paintings
Interview Series 2
Pocahontas (1595, Powhatan Confederacy1616, Gravesend, England)
The Ghost Dance
Three: What do you think a ghost is?
Ghosts in the Sun
And Are Ghosts
Interview Series 3
Old Wives Tales
Some Chinese Ghosts
After This Death There Will Be No Other
How a Ghost Might Age
The Ghost Orchid