White Ghosts

Katie Hale


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Nine Arches Press
23 March 2023
ISBN: 9781913437664

From the publisher

White Ghosts, the debut collection by poet and novelist Katie Hale, traces maternal lines, and the legacies of slavery and whiteness interwoven into the fabric of America, through revealing, unflinching poems. Travelling deep into an intimate history that spans both sides of the Atlantic, Hale unravels the language haunting those narratives we choose to tell in official versions – through museum labels and civic statues – and in handed-down stories.

Transformational and challenging, these sharply-detailed poems interrogate the bare bones of silence, complicity, difficult inheritances and racial constructs. Via wagon routes or interstates, on desert highways or in the landscapes of northern England, through nature and through human culture, questions of ownership and power are writ into the journey. Through four hundred years of female migration, the poems in White Ghosts use art, music, and lyrical reworking of the curated space, to address white guilt: what is lost through generations, and what is passed on?

Praise for White Ghosts:

"From immigrants and settlers to slave owners and abolitionists, Katie Hale's candid poems of portraiture constitute a necessary work of decoloniality and witness. By tracing the histories of women in her family, she offers a radical exploration of whiteness and its impact across the centuries that, 'Let the body learn to witness its own skeletons.'" - Malika Booker

“How do we understand our maternal legacies, and how is that understanding inflected by race? Katie Hale’s White Ghosts explores the author’s own maternal legacy and its entanglement with America’s history of immigration, white privilege, and slavery; what that means for the contemporary moment and the woman standing at the end of this maternal line. Here is tenderness and rigour, beauty and truth-telling, in an engaging and ambitious debut.” – Carrie Etter

"A reckoning with self, and with familial history: where often there might be shame, or avoidance, these poems look into the white spaces of history in search of truth" – Andrew McMillan

"This haunted, haunting book is unflinching in its confrontation of history, and what it means to own or be owned. Poems about whiteness are gradually erased and in this erasure reveal new, painful stories that examine the intersection between responsibility and guilt, between truth and omission.  Throughout, Katie Hale’s work displays that rare quality – vivid moments of lyric stillness that hold their own whilst carrying the weight of a wider personal, social and political narrative." - Kim Moore

"This poem [‘The Gallery of America’] is amazing in its ability to speak to and through itself given its own history.  But there is much more than just syntactic technique going on in these lines of definite desperation." - Jericho Brown, Palette Poetry Prize judge 2021

" ‘Bugs’ unsettles and haunts its reader. There is a well-wrought quality to the poem which is illustrated in particular by the endurance of the central metaphor, the poet’s confidence in the reader’s capacity for interpretation, and the propulsive flow of the poem’s syntax. I cannot get the image of a ‘gauntlet’ of bugs out of my head." - Kayo Chingonyi, Oxford Brookes Poetry Prize judge 2018