Ghost Voices

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

Slavery is a hard topic to read about and discuss, but it should be done.  I love that this collection focuses on that while giving it a lyrical and poetic resonance.  This collection of poetry is gorgeous and should be read by everyone.
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A quick read and a beautiful one. Perfect to read before going to bed and fall asleep thinking about what the poems represent.
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A powerful poetic read and not for the light-hearted.

Quincy Troupe; reinforces and tactfully delivers cultural history through and emotional felt layout words; expressed in various rhythms that constantly floats back and forth between an array of moods. 
There is no denying that there is a lot of imagery harvested from pain and suffering;  however there is also ambiguity in its meaning, which makes it all the more beautiful and inspiring in a forever hopeful quest to find freedom.

These poems have been thoughtfully and repetitiously bound together, forever concentrating on movement of sound, the human experiences of the past and what it is to feel in connection to it.
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The multi-award winning poet Quincey Troupe has written over a dozen books, which include a bestseller about his friendship with the famous trumpeter/jazzman Miles Davis (1926-1991) - also another book about the literary intellectual icon James Baldwin (1924-1987).  The great cover of “Ghost Voices: A Poem In Prayer” (2018) was so unique and interesting that I had to check this book out, this is Troupe’s 9thvolume of poetry.

In the introduction of this short and slim volume, the visual imagery of huge ships that brought the West African slaves across the Atlantic Ocean to the “New World” is the theme of the first poem: “Chorus Song: Crossing Big Salt Water”. The chorus of voices cry:—“we are crossing, we are crossing/in big salt water we are crossing we have left home”. The elements of the water, the sting of salty sea air, the vastness of the ocean waves, the screech of sea birds flying overhead and the rolling evolving cycles of the tides.
With the African slaves arrival the New World, their practice of Hoodoo Religion continued—many  believed that the ocean was the graveyard of the dead. “we came upon another big salt water/beneath the gray sky of no remorse/towering waves full of savage/unhinged/leering skeletons” Out at sea, especially at night, we realize how utterly frightening this journey must have been. “Arrival of Ghost Voices” - “Transferring the Dream of the Ghost Voices”  – “The New Dream of Ghost Voices” the superstition, elements of magic, and belief in things and spirits unseen are blended with the poetic voice and powerful imagery.
Along the Gulf of Mexico, walks the spirit of an old black man: there too is a woman spirit—erzulie, she has 3 rings for her 3 husband’s: the first husband is symbolized in the sovereign sea - agwe. The other two husbands of lesser importance-- are symbolized in logs, spirits, and African Ghost Crabs. According to Hoodoo belief, the crab, which walks backwards— indicates that evil spells and curses can be reversed and sent back to the one conjuring up the spell/ curse. The magical crab imagery is part of several poems: “Song of the Hoodoo Spirit Crabs” – “Hoodoo Spirit Crabs Find New Homes”.
 
The themes of the sea and waters that empty from the ocean into the Caribbean Sea, The Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River continue and are evoked through sound and song; In the final poem, “The Enlightened Awakening” Troupe pays tribute to the legacy of musicians, jazzmen, singers of Rock and Roll, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Road House, Honky-Tonk: Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Jimmy Hendrix, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and the more recent loss of Prince and Aretha Franklin. There were so many others as well. Readers are brought back from distant times to the present as Troupe recalls writing at his desk in his Harlem office.  **With  thanks and appreciation to Northwestern University Press for providing the DDC to NetGalley readers for the purpose of review.
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As someone who tends to stick with female poets because I relate more to their subject matter, I was impressed by this book of poety. Troupe deals with subjects in such an intensely beautiful way that anyone could relate.
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A great collection of poetry. I was unaware of Troupe until now, but I've quickly become a fan of their work.
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I honestly couldn't connect to the writing of this, which is a let-down because people have seem to really like it and the message behind is very important but since the writing didn't flow for me at all and I couldn't get a consistent reading done and nothing really made sense for me.
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The poems can be seen as chants; the narrator recites his poetry to a fictitious audience, whilst the text is divided into excerpts that can be interpreted as oral recitals. Literature was originally an oral art, even after the invention of writing and the emergence of written literature, orality continues to exert influence, remaining a predominant element of folk creation; the repetition, thus, of words and "formal phrases," variations of words and lyrics create a particular rhythm that captivates the reader and leads to an almost primitive result.

listen now, / hear them speak / lost rhythms / scripted in the skins of talking drums, / hear them speak, / hear the wailing.
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A very beautiful and haunting piece of work, this is a very profound and devastating read.

Troupe carefully constructs such vibrant imagery in the words he uses and the story he tells. Slavery is such a difficult subject to tackle but it is very skilfully done here.

I’d certainly like to read more of his work.
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This is a powerful and poignant work filled with haunting and heart-breaking imagery throughout.  A horrific sense of loss and rootlessness bleeds through the pages in a frighteningly effective and hard-hitting manner.

Downright devastating in many places, Ghost Voices is book that should not be ignored.   This is a collection that will stay with you for a long time afterwards.

With kind thanks to Netgalley and  Northwestern University Press for the ARC in exchange for a fair review.
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Thank you to Northwestern Unity Press and to Netgalley for allowing me to read this advance e-arc copy poetry collection in exchange for an honest review. This will be available for purchase on December 15th, 2018 for everyone. 

To me this poetry becomes more like a chanting and maybe that is what is meant by the subtitle
 “ A poem in prayer.” It discusses slaves, in death, trying to find “ IT” meaning freedom. They go from location to location, one after another, people breaking off each time when they believe they found what they’ve been looking for, while others are desperately following their loved ones who are still alive —the ghosts not knowing where to go.

The narrator asks a very important question, “ where does breath go after flesh falls away from bone, does it remember?” Well, the answer is yes, it does, breath is reborn into those who are alive now and have freedom now, through storytelling and ancestors they feel the pain, grieve for the losses, struggle with the answer to why anyone would put others through such hell. The “ old selves” are gone and reborn into a new light. A life where people like Beyoncé, Kanye, Macy Gray; Rihanna thrive. But boy oh boy did that come with a cost.

Slavery is a hard-hitting subject to read about, so I certainly can’t imagine writing about it let alone living through this time period. It is hard for me to put a rating on any book when the topic deals with lives that have been lost. Judging solely based on the poetry itself I give this a 4 stars, my only complaint would be that it does become a bit monotonous at times using the same words over and over, just as it would if I were listening to a song.

I think this is a collection that anyone can, and everyone should read.
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The first poem begins with the beauty of repetition, the chant “we are crossing” fills the poem with the flow of movement, the reminder of this pattern of crossing over and over, the beauty of sound contrasting the jarring nature of history.

As this collection progresses, the chanting repetition continues, morphing into different phrases as the timeline of ghosts pushes their histories and memories and struggles and influences forward.

At times the density of the language overshadowed the meaning and at other times the long, roughly flowing lists broke the rhythm, but those are minor complaints.

I’ve always enjoyed the rich imagery and the dense and mysterious paintings that Troupe’s poetry colors in my mind’s eye as I read. I enjoyed it all right up to the end.
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