“In three sections that combine poetry and prose, she modernizes the myths of Media and Dido.... Those interested in mythology and political poetry will find something of note here.”—Doris Lynch, Library Journal
An epic poem of genocide, designed to create power for the dead
Left dead after our cultures were broken by triumphant enemies, our stories changed to suit others. We now change them again to suit ourselves. Songs and Stories of the Ghouls purports to give power to the dead—voices to the victims of genocide both ancient and contemporary—and presence to women. Medea did not kill her sons; Dido founds a city, over and over again, the city of the present author’s poetry. In these poems the poet asserts that though her art comes from a tradition as broken as Afghanistan’s statuary, there is always a culture to pass on to one’s children, and one is always involved in doing so. We are the ghouls, the drinkers of the blood-sacs, and we insist that we are alive.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“Alice Notley scribes a deep voice, her ear floating in space listens to flames talk.” —Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Brooklyn Rail
“Continual wars and women is a key theme of Notley’s latest collection, it is a dark and trick book, she says, ‘Ghouls don’t really die. That’s one of the rules of the Dead.’ … The past always comes back to haunt us. … Possibly her most adventurous and experimental volume to date and certainly a long way from her New York school days.”—Pauline Reeves, Beat Scene
“…these latest poems of Notley’s are amulets, and their power protects as well as defends. Tamper with the ghouls at your own peril.”—Patrick James Dunagan, Rain Taxi
“Notley’s oeuvre is a rich field for exploration, and…The Songs and Stories of the Ghouls is a wonderful place to start.”—David Blomenberg, Sycamore Review
“In Songs and Stories of the Ghouls, Alice Notley continues her fearless excavation, subverting traditional readings of Dido and Medea as exiled queens and jilted lovers. The latest in an oeuvre which seeks the missing—or overlooked spirit, or soul—Songs and Stories of the Ghouls makes thrilling claims for the power of dispossession.”—Claudia Keelan, author of Missing Her
“With her own natural, raw violence, Alice Notley reminds us that wars do not only kill people and bring down their houses, but destroy also their writings, their cultures, their civilization. Here she creates an intricate form of writing, balances song against story, to assert her belief in the creative powers of poetry, one of which is the power to bring about the seeds of a new culture. And the basic element of this new culture, she seems to say, ought to be a culture of love, love, the element most missing in the world we live in, and the literature we read.”—Etel Adnan, author of Master of the Eclipse
From the Book:
There was power in that room. I saw
it, because my eyes were crushed out
It’s my judgment on this almost face
holding the mouth so.
The scars on my right side won’t fail.
I’ve come back wearing them
instead of a conscience or a guide
in order to cause
a breakaway culture.
trembling white vertical lines
in black sky above sea. they
spell what it might be; the
emotional tone of the old
universe was vicious.
it had no care for me
from “Introducing Carthage”
ALICE NOTLEY is the author of many collections of poems including Pulitzer Prize-finalist Mysteries of Small Houses, and Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems. She is the recipient of the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award.
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