Interview with a Ghost: Essays

Tom Sleigh, Author . Graywolf $15 (285p) ISBN 978-1-55597-440-4

In dense and formally playful essays, poet Sleigh (Far Side of the Earth ) explores how "private life, historical circumstance, and art converge" and "what it means to say 'I' in a poem, in all its psychological, historical, political, and aesthetic ramifications." In his opening essay Sleigh draws on his own experiences of bodily wasting and brushes with death (he has a chronic blood disease) to read between the lines of Plato's Phaedo . Another autobiographical essay reflects on his parents' East Texas drive-in movie theater while analyzing the relationship between technological and poetical thinking; here Sleigh invokes Heidegger, Auden, Lowell and Yeats and recalls memories of his father hooked to a dialysis machine, en route to striking insights into technology, magic and the divine. He traces notions of the self from Anne Bradstreet to Emerson, Whitman and Eliot, noting that "the self in American poetry has usually been dependent on some sponsoring transcendental source." To richly suggestive effect, Sleigh combines child psychologist D.W. Winnicott's ideas about infantile absorption in play and T.S. Eliot's theories of "impersonality" to comment on the act of poetic communication. Sleigh concludes by focusing essays on specific writers and their works, treating among others Frank Bidart, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell and Seamus Heaney. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/27/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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