“We see a little farther now and a little farther still”: Rendering the South by Its Ghosts
MetadataShow full item record
In this essay, I examine the ghosts of the place I’m from—Bedford County, Virginia—as well as those of other parts of the South, and argue that the haunted or ghostly is essential to getting at a true, felt sense of any region. The ghost, in my reckoning, encompasses not only the imprint of a past life long gone but also a host of absences, fractures, traumas, histories, harms, ignored bodies, and even certain manipulations of time: a way of surpassing its understood forward logic in favor of circular movements that resemble the way people move imperfectly—recursively—in and between places. Here, I discuss works by several poets who have, at one time or another, called the South home: C.D. Wright’s book-length poem Deepstep Come Shining (1998); Tiana Clark’s “Soil Horizon,” from her collection I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (2018); and the self-portrait sequence from Charles Wright’s The Southern Cross (1981). I intersperse these sections with short interludes on the photography and thought of Sally Mann. These artists’ poems and photography—ghost-techniques themselves—are uniquely suited to, as Jane Wong calls it, “go toward the ghosts”: to both acknowledge and create a fragmentary yet pervasive memory of the South, as well as the selves they have fostered there.
- English