The poet attracted to the virgule, or the slash, is the poet who intuits that one break in the line cannot possibly convey wreckage enough. The device elaborates upon further disruptions within the process of the poem, which leads us to how such a poet might cope with, navigate, and redefine narrative, line by ravaged line. torrin a. greathouse knows about such a ravaging. The poems in boy/girl/ghost demonstrate and necessitate the power (and the sundering) of threes: first the boy (“i buried / the boy / my father beat / behind the barn”), then the girl (“to name us queen / is to both name us women and steal / this word away”), then the ghost (“a birdcage gutted of his fluttering”). Combined is the perfect amalgam of disappearance but it is also within this alchemistry that we come to greathouse’s most tremendous rendering of agency. To control the story of the trans body through the violence of confession keeps the threads together and helps the body survive the poems. When greathouse writes, “any part of me I can coerce into softness // maybe / this begins & ends in scar tissue,” we must acknowledge there is great risk on the poet’s part to speak. The incentive to live, to “body into anything,” to verb at all is endlessly wrought in the brilliant lyricism of boy/girl/ghost.
But don’t just take our word for it. Read the advance praise on torrin a. greathouse’s boy/girl/ghost by some of the poetry world’s greatest new luminaries:
In boy/girl/ghost, torrin a. greathouse writes, “every tooth-filled thing opens / its mouth & the whole night / howls.” You. Me. Every tooth-filled thing. This stunning collection is an intoxicating examination of the body and its multitudes of survivals, extinctions, and rebirths. Deftly converging authenticity and craft, the poems collected here are each simultaneously blade and hand-woven lace. So awestruck by greathouse’s sorcery of language, I audibly gasped at least once upon each page. Let this book unbolt you.
—Jeanann Verlee, author of prey, Said the Manic to the Muse, and Racing Hummingbirds
Through an incredibly well-crafted juxtaposition of gorgeous, haunting imagery with brutal reality, torrin a. greathouse explores the ways in which absence can be held as a tangible object. Language is beautifully picked apart and dis(re)membered in service of dis(re)membering a self who never fit, who never made sense. “How far was walking out of boyhood from a grave?” greathouse asks, revealing the ways in which existing as a transgender person remains an ongoing process of navigating loss, grief, and an always-looming potential of violence. All I could think of while reading boy/girl/ghost was how thankful I am for this poet, for this poetry, for this truth put into words.
—Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, author of Outside of the Body There is Something Like Hope, There Should Be Flowers, and i’m alive / it hurts / i love it
In her collection boy/girl/ghost, torrin a. greathouse takes us on a journey to find softness, to find malleable understandings of language and of the selves who use that language, “i am searching for a soft poem in this mouth.” The poems in boy/girl/ghost implore us to question fixed forms, to see the danger inherent in confinement, in forcing the self to shrink in order to survive within rigid, socially imposed containers, “i took a pencil to my leg & tried / to see how much of myself i could erase.” Through stunning formal innovation, greathouse’s poems themselves become testaments to the freedom and power that come from sloughing off these constraints. Her poems become maps to new landscapes in which there is space enough to breathe.
—Paige Lewis, author of SPACE STRUCK
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