Three Chapbooks by Ghost City Press

— Terry Abrahams

Ghost City Press has, for the past three years, made the sweltering heat of my northern hemisphere, city-bound summer, a little more bearable by releasing a series of micro-chapbooks over the course of three months. These books, free to download and easy to access, are the ideal way to spend a few minutes out of the sun and get into poetry by both established and emerging poets across North America, the UK, and beyond.

The series is still ongoing—there should be twenty-six by the time this is published. So don’t feel as if you’re missing out; though you might have some catching up to do, it’s well worth it. Here, I’d like to highlight three of my favourites, and some of the most striking, from what has been published so far.

Loneliness and Other Ways to Split a Body (Kanika Lawton)

Lawton’s poetry reads defiantly. In the face of the lingering pain from a poor relationship, these poems address the lack of and desire for self-love that Lawton’s narrator grapples with throughout. She calls to the animal, images of ones we might deem ugly—oysters, pigs, mussels—but in reality are necessary, important, continuously desired, and even treasured, by a select few, in order to illustrate this.

The poem ‘Shower Ritual’ is the shortest, but perhaps the most telling in tone of voice. It ends with

Watch how animal I can be
fetus’d on the bathroom

This is striking image of someone who is both aware of their own power as an animal, as well as their weakness—vulnerable, curled up like a fetus on the bathroom floor after time spent trying to physically remove evidence of a harrowing encounter. Lawton’s works are narrative in tone but move often toward the confessional, two forms that work wonderfully to draw the themes therein together.

My Only Regret Is Having a Body (Jess R. Sutton)

This micro-chapbook consists of eight untitled poems that, read in sequence, unfold in the form of a brief memoir for their body—but also of a garden. Whether metaphorical or real (I’m leaning towards the latter), this garden, a place of both personal hurt and healing, is present and unavoidable.

Sutton writes:

I was born with dirt in
my knuckles
there are weeds between my toes and I

I thirst

I water my roses

Caring for a body one is at odds with is incredibly difficult; even more so if it feels, unlike watching a garden grow, there is no reward for any effort made. Sutton admits I am at my best when I hold / a baby, but positions, not the baby as the one in need of comfort and support, but they themselves: they are the one body (tall, weary) clinging / to another / for dear life. And life, it seems, is what is dear to Sutton—between the attention to detail in gardens and among marbles, pens, and soap bubbles, is an underlying notion that all the little things are what make being in a body bearable, no matter how difficult it may be.

Heaven Is Only a Part of Our Body Where All the Sickness Resides (Tanya Singh)

These poems, split into four parts, were written in response to the Partition of British India in 1947. Singh begins by writing

Recognize human agency in creating reality,
when a dog eats a dog, do we mourn
the dog who died, or the dog who learnt to kill?

This question carries readers through the following poems, pieces that touch on the historical, the personal, and the political, mixing Singh’s present with the familiar and the alien aspects of a familial and cultural history affected by this act of violence. In all of these poems is Singh’s ability to weave an entire world with only a few words and some careful, quiet description, evidence of their skill as a storyteller and writer of narrative poetry.

Tinged with grief, and a clear effort in mourning, these poems are nonetheless not without hope. To survive is a kind of beautiful, writes Singh, reminding both they themselves and their readers of this immutable fact.

The similarity in theme of these three texts is apparent from their titles, and to me, this speaks little about a so-called lack of originality among poets, and more about the need for an ever-growing space where these themes, issues, and emotions can be present, empowered, and given an honesty they may not have been allowed before. Lawton, Sutton and Singh weave their own unique experiences into their poetic works, drawing attention to the body as it is, was, and will be. All three of these micro-chapbooks speak to and of an effort and homage to the human body, and act, in themselves, as poetic proof of the body’s penchant for survival.

Ghost City Press