On Ghosts
Elizabeth Robinson
Solid Objects, $16 (cloth)

Part poetry collection, part essay, Elizabeth Robinson’s investigation into the phenomena of ghost happenings asserts, “To be alive is in so many ways to be haunted anyway, to be coursed through with hesitations.” On Ghosts is made up of “Incidents,” “Photographs,” and brief meditations with titles such as “Skepticism” and “The Nature of Association” in which Robinson employs a microscopically sensitive sensibility to examine the body as a container for the soul and the soul as a receptacle for language and memory. And what is memory but loneliness, a palpable absence, a ghost? In “The Relation of Mother and Child to Haunting and Ghost,” Robinson writes, “Blank memory is not the same as broken memory. The ghost is broken, but the memory has been taken completely away. That is the efficacy of the broken thing, to enact a removal, to study absence and to ape it.” Robinson never offers a straightforward definition of a ghost, but that is because one is neither necessary nor possible. Absence cannot be probed; its space must be approached intuitively, at the rate of a sleeper’s heartbeat: “The essay will necessarily operate circuitously. Its manner will be disorganized where it accurately follows the movement of the uncircumscribable through the deteriorated soul.” On Ghosts features one especially strong poem, “The Soul,” which ends, “Until the portal / states its purpose: disgorge purpose. We are one / pulse, particulate and tinting the atmosphere. / We see the spoils descend. Immediately: / surround us. All souls. I aspirate. I surround / us.” Slow and quiet, Robinson’s text envelops us like those presences she stalks.