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Conversation Pieces

Vol. 47 — A Field Guide to the Spirits

by Jean LeBlanc

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In A Field Guide to the Spirits, poetry becomes a means of time travel in which voices from the past offer insights, reveal secrets, transform our concept of now. These poems explore the interwoven pathways of ghost, memory, imagination, and desire. The spirits visited range from Caroline Herschel and Mary Shelley to Zane Grey and Dashiell Hammet, William Blake to Anne Hutchinson, John Keats to Isaac Newton's niece.


From Jean LeBlanc and Aqueduct Press a book titled A Field Guide to the Spirits might conjure up visions of an abecedarium of different supernatural beings, each with their own way of interacting with the world. What we get is instead something considerably more nuanced and interesting. The focus of this collection is historical, looking back at the spiritualism movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and to historical figures spanning many centuries. At no point does it commit to the reality of the spirits being channeled in the poetry, which evidences an interesting tension between the obviously rationalistic tenor of our society that frames the collection and the perhaps pre-rational mindset of the spiritualists and their clients, especially at the height of their popularity. So here we get Kate Fox and automatic writing, but at the same time we get a series of three poems about astronomer Caroline Herschel.  
  —Strange Horizons, Karen Burnham, April 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61976-097-4 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Oct 2015
paperback 98 pages