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Conversation Pieces

Vol. 43 — Ghost Signs

by Sonya Taaffe

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Read a sample from the book.

Say she calls the dead
only if copper calls lightning
or north calls geese . . .
A lantern hangs for the ghosts, both desolate and numinous. The white road and the black river run down into the dark and return again. In this collection of thirty-six poems and one story, Rhysling Award-winning poet Sonya Taaffe traces the complex paths between the dead, memory, and living. A two-part cycle written over the course of seven years, “Ghost Signs” leads the reader through the underworld of myth to the hauntings of the present, where the shades of Sappho, Alan Turing, and Ludwig Wittgenstein exist alongside Charon, Dido, and The War of the Worlds. “The Boatman's Cure” follows a haunted woman and a dead man as they embark on a road trip through coastal New England, an exorcism at its end. Sharply imagined, deeply personal, Taaffe's work in Ghost Signs is at once an act of remembrance and release.

Sonya Taaffe writes hauntingly of edgelands. Her poetic world lies on both banks of the Acheron, which may be crossed both ways. In Ghost Signs, she writes of uncompleted lives, of the lingering and commingling of the dead with us, the living. Where we meet are borderlands, uncertain spaces: in a saltmarsh, in the mud of trenches, in the realm of numbers, on the edge of sleep. There is darkness; but the journey is upward, into light. A transcendent book. —Greer Gilman, author of Cloud & Ashes


Ghost Signs is a masterpiece: In content, in curation, these poems and one story are that species of perfect that has me struggling with metaphor. I can hardly bear to speak of it: All I want is to sit you, dear reader, down in a comfortable place with a beverage to hand and make you listen to each one, pausing periodically to say “can you even believe this line” or “RIGHT?” as you exclaim, inevitably, over the feelings these words provoke.   (Read the whole review)
  —Lightspeed Magazine, Amal El Mohtar, March 2015

Sonya Taaffe's collection Ghost Signs...[is] not to be missed. Taaffe is probably my favorite poet in the genre, and the book collects a great many of her recent poems, but also includes one wonderful long story, "The Boatman's Cure". The prose is particularly wonderful—full of striking meta­phor, with a driving, nearly desperate rhythm, and the story is original and powerful, about a woman who can see and perhaps free ghosts. She seeks out an apparently quite ancient ghost, for obscure reasons that are slowly revealed to lie in her difficult past, especially her relationship with her dead sister—and of course her sister's ghost. 
  —Locus, Rich Horton, January 2016

If you don't already love Sonya Taaffe's work, this collection makes a beautiful introduction.  (Read the whole review)
  —Stone Telling, Lev Mirov, January 2016

The poetry here has the brilliance of a knife's edge, sharp and cuttingly clean, saturated with meaning and freighted with significance. And fittingly, given the title, every poem is a ghost. Every poem a katabatic descent to the underworld, a shade glimpsed at the corner of the eye, the whisper of something lost as it teases the edge of memory. If there is one word to describe this collection, it is elegiac [...] By any standards, this is an incredibly successful poetry collection.   (Read the whole review)
  —Strange Horizons, Liz Bourke, January 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61976-071-4 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Jan 2015
paperback 84 pages