cover image Ghosts!


Martine Bellen. Spuyten Duyvil (SPD, dist.), $14 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-933132-41-9

The latest from Bellen (The Vulnerability of Order) surveys an imagined underworld, but seems more at home in the spiritual heights. Long lines, vaunting proclamations, and confident invocations of Freud, St. Augustine, pagan gods, and digital codes find the poet's spirit, and the spirits of lovers, fathers, enemies, friends, in flight from and yet tethered to real bodies on this earth. "When the assumption of a system is altered," Bellen explains, "the space it describes/ Changes in unforeseen ways," and her decidedly intuitive explorations show us how much she can change. The middle third of the book, entitled "In the Computer," experiments with up-to-date language for the transmigration of souls: "She was sent an attachment, only 30KB, couldn't open the file or/ Leave [love believe] herself." Her supernatural aspirations ("More than one Martine simulcast"), along with her gradually accretive methods and her early invocations of Sappho and Freud, should remind more than a few readers of H.D.; the foremother of lyric poetry sponsors Bellen's melancholy victory: "The daughter of God/ Chariot pulled by sparrows aquiver across high, steep air/ And none alive remembers you, gray among ghosts." This poet offers not smoothly finished, closed-off verbal objects but "Raw exposures, too contrasted to reckon/ Like sailing through a star." (June)