Review of The Language of Ghosts, Lauren Poole

The Language of Ghosts is Lauren Poole’s tremendous debut, raising the bar for 21st century poetry. Divided into three parts, ‘preterite tense’, ‘imperfect tense’ and ‘present tense’, Poole’s deliberate and purposeful structure reminds the reader healing is not linear and nor is trauma. Similar to A. B. Cofer’s Not Enough, Just Enough and Kait Quinn’s A Time for Winter, The Language of Ghosts acknowledges how not all journeys have an end and nor should they. Poole’s words embrace the imperfect and the nature of grief and love to co-exist. 

Every piece in ‘preterite tense’ resonated with me. Poole masterfully captures the limbo of heartbreak; of knowing losing is better for you but struggling to reconcile yourself with the pain of loss and the freedom you have always deserved. The motifs of car crashes, blood and fire are poignant markers, symbolic of how unpredictable trauma is and the lack of agency a person has when experiencing it. 

“the way every name i’ve ever had for you being synonymous with fate is coincidence. you, a reckless driver and me, a little too good at pretending i don’t see the stop signs.”

Alternate Names For -, Lauren Poole

Despite this, the speaker never denies their right to survival. And so even in the dark, the light we deserve is visible:

“& once you have survived the wildfire / it can never burn your house down again.”

A Complete History of Arson, Lauren Poole

Then, in ‘imperfect tense’, every poem had me pause for thought; almost as if Poole had held up a mirror and asked if I saw myself. Poole’s poems about womanhood, identity and sexuality are incredible and wholly relatable. Her words made me feel seen and heard, even in the silent and lonely act of reading. As she wrote about grief and then proudly proclaimed a love for how she loves, my heart remembered its aches and sung simultaneously. 

“i dream of the knife’s edge between land and water”

Co-Star Asks:…, Lauren Poole

“if i am greedy, let greedy mean open-mouthed and tender.”

My Mother Says Bisexuals Are Greedy…, Lauren Poole

Finally, for me, ‘present tense’ felt like a celebration. Even with the soft underbelly of grief still present. There is so much power and empowerment in this section around bisexuality and healing; of realising the speaker is deserving of love. 

“i mean what could be more holy than a girl / who walked through fire & came out softer, / came out survivor”

After the Assault, Lauren Poole

Poole’s imagery is beautiful and sublime. Everything felt tangible and alive. Her love poetry towards the end is stunning:

“peach trees have meant love. the kind of love that’s soft and sweet and drips down the chin until it gets all over everything.”

Peach Blossom, Lauren Poole

Upon finishing The Language of Ghosts, I am excited. I am thrilled to witness Poole’s talent and her debut; incredibly excited for what comes next. 

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