Eye to the Telescope is the online journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. A different person edits each issue (being published quarterly) and I myself have edited one – No. 16. The current issue, No. 22, “Ghosts”, is edited by Shannon Connor Winward, author of the Elgin Award winning poetry chapbook Undoing Winter (which I reviewed here). She has had a life-long fascination with Ghosts, by her own admission in the Editor’s Notes. A record (for the journal) 700+ submissions were sent to Shannon for this issue! She chose 27 for our reading pleasure and, even though I might be slightly biased, I think this is a fantastic collection of poetry and well worth your time, especially in light of Halloween just behind us!
These poems are not your typical ghost story poems. They come at you obliquely (much like the pesky buggers themselves) and surprise, delight, enlighten (strange but true) and elicit shivers left and right. The writers are many diverse and award winning poets: SFPA Grand Master Jane Yolen, Akua Lezli Hope, F.J. Bergmann, Lev Mirov, Christina Sng, Ann K. Schwader, John C. Mannone, Andrea Blythe, L.W. Salinas, Holly Walrath, Robin Husen, Dawn Cunningham, Suzan Pickford and Cathleen Allyn Conway, Daniel R. Jones, Joe Nazare and Oliver Smith, Aisha Tayo Ijadunola, Jessica J. Horowitz, Charles Christian, Lauren McBride, Deborah L. Davitt, Wendy Rathbone, John W. Sexton, Rebecca Buchanan, John C. Mannone, James Edward O’Brien and Alex Harper. You’ll see many familiar names and it is a pleasure to read their offerings for this anthology, but many are also new names (to me) from whom I truly hope to hear more.
The subject of ghosts is presented in many different ways: Words as ghosts, ghosts trapped on the island they were buried on, Whale spirits, houses as receptacles for you as a ghost, the spectral experience in Gran’ma’s house, a Villanelle of the geist in the closet, the father who doesn’t believe he’s dead, traveling to the Destination which is Not after death, becoming a blip on a computer screen, ectoplasm made visible by nanobots run wild, ghostly body parts in the jam, what happens in Ghost Month (hint – it’s not October), what happens to ghosts on a hot summer night, a less desirable child possessed by a pretty changeling finally getting
his body back, stars as ghosts, the ghost of an unacknowledged cosmonaut stuck in her spaceship, ghostly visions on junkyard viewscreens, a sonnet for the deceased cryosleepers haunting the planet they should’ve colonized, consciousness uploaded into living bodies instead of androids, 3 sequential existences for a ghost, a woman contemplates the ghost moths that she senses cover her, but there are wild animal spirits as well, is it the ghost of a bear or a husband?, dying done backwards, a séance in a long abandoned place, death and rebirth in an endless circle – but why?
Shannon has written a seven part blog series (“Eye to the Telescope #22 – “The Ghosts Issue”: Pt. 1”) with commentary on three or four poems each from this issue of Eye to the Telescope. I would recommend reading the Ghosts issue, then reading Shannon’s thoughts (and also her reasons for including them) referring to Eye to the Telescope as you go along. It’s a very rewarding way to read this poetry and Shannon’s insight into the poetry, and illumination into her choices are particularly interesting reading. Very rewarding also for this time of year, when the life of summer is slowly dying, we are celebrating Halloween and all the creepiness that comes with it, in some circles celebrating all the souls who have died before us and settling in for the long darkness before our various celebrations of light.