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“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 society’s 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.
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 Hellequin’s 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 Confederacy—1616, 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
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.
“The act of seeing, and seeing as a kind of consciousness, is where Swensen’s 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.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“One of the most assured voices in contemporary poetry.”—Library Journal