Tuesday, 15 January 2019

The reinvention of tradition and myth, Anna Saunders' Ghosting for Beginners

In the title poem to her collection Ghosting for Beginners (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018), Anna Saunders takes a traditional theme in literature through the ages – ghosts – and reinvents it in a contemporary context, as is reflected by the poem’s opening lines:

Having only the suggestion of fingers, ghosts
are unable to embrace the internet…

The pivotal juxtaposition here is that of ghosts and the internet, and it’s no coincidence that Saunders should have placed the two terms at the end of consecutive lines. This juxtaposition is intended to startle the reader, opening up possibilities and connections that cast renewed light on a classical element of the myth kitty, as in the following extract:

…Simply disappear from her Twitter feed,
become invisible on her wall,
leave vast gaps between texts…

In the above quote, the three verbs are key. The poem’s title has already turned ghosting into a verb, and these three now provide examples of just how that conversion manifests itself.  Syntax is thus being refreshed at the same time as semantics: the reader is reminded that language is continually evolving and that “to ghost somebody” involves generating a new meaning from an old verb.

The poem’s ending, meanwhile, brings the two strands of traditional and contemporary language and themes together beautifully:

…Oh ethereal fingers
unable to click in unfriend.

The penultimate line begins with a classical tone and device, following them up in the final line with one of the freshest verbs on the block.

As discussed above, the collection’s title poem, Ghosting for Beginners, epitomizes Anna Saunders’ capacity for subtle, implicit riffs on the comparisons and contrasts that can be made between the old and the new. Throughout the book, she explores ways in which tradition and myth can be subverted to cast different perspectives on highly contemporary issues. She’s changed my attitude to ghosts forever!

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