Dear Weather Ghost
by Melissa Ginsburg
The poems in Dear Weather Ghost, Melissa Ginsburg’s debut collection, examine the idea of place from the viewpoint of exile, both actual—“in the green shadow of an old stand of forest”—and psychological—“a dune of the outside builds in me.” The poems’ speakers and their banishments are varied: a heron “great and blue and standing still,” a child who “used a spool for a racecar,” a mermaid yearning for “a rock on which to perch.” Unmoored, the speakers turn to objects as a means of connecting to place. One speaker observes villagers who “cut snowflakes out of paper / and taped them to the windows,” noting this “seemed like an attractive lifestyle.” Watching, remembering, wondering, these speakers want “danger in the form of deep feeling.”
Built around a long epistolary sequence, “The Weather Ghost Letters,” this collection showcases Ginsburg’s exploratory poetic style. The language is straightforward yet unusual: “leaves pardon themselves” and “Tides flatten minnows.” The images are startling, sometimes unsettling: “A lightning throws the oak in flames, warms its chipmunks living inside.” The syntax runs the gamut from fragmented to inverted to traditional. The end result is a powerful, fresh collection, one that proclaims, “The world was full of this.”
“In deceptively simple language, and with a child’s-eye view, Melissa Ginsburg’s poems describe a world as complex and surprising as any. In sequence they build a music that is truly mesmerizing. In poem after poem we are in the presence of a voice both gentle and terrified, and an eye the same. And as the pages and birthdays pass—as all things do—we come to the grown truth, that the games we enacted as children we endlessly reenact as adults. A tremendous debut.”
“Melissa Ginsburg’s poems are delicate but they are not fragile. They speak from a place they call ‘permanent winter,’ where resilience, exactness, vigilance and honest respect for silence are the necessary attributes of survival. This book is a subtly beautiful address to the air, and it approaches the transformative.”
Sam says: a man steals something and runs
toward home. He sees a man in a mask
so he runs back. You have to guess the situation.
I guess diseases, airborn
as insects. It’s my birthday. A bee lands.
Coneflowers sag into the yard.
Sam says he has put the answer in my mind
with his mind and it’s up to me to see it.
I’ve heard this riddle before, but I guess
for an hour and never think baseball.
My guesses are star shaped,
It’s September. Coneflower season is over.
The sun blinds and does not stop.
about the author
Melissa Ginsburg grew up in Houston, Texas, and is the author of Arbor, a chapbook published by New Michigan Press. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review; Jubilat; Forklift, Ohio; Pleiades; and other magazines. She holds a BA in English from the University of Houston and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She teaches creative writing at the University of Mississippi and edits the literary magazine Yalobusha Review. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi.