In Ghost House, seekers of all stripes—philosophers, pilgrims, video game characters—“travel through rooms and corridors, / through palaces of memory, / through stadia and fora” in search of answers to big questions: What are we meant to hear? What are we meant to see? Readers join in this search, immersed in poems exquisitely crafted, infused with whimsy, unafraid of enigma.
As the book’s title suggests, ghosts abound, their presence spiriting us into absence: “I write this for you who will never read it.” Loss and longing are palpable, too, in such artifacts as old books, small-town streets fallen into disrepair, microfiche machines, or a broken Sega Genesis console (“Our hands remember the feint and jab / but nothing works the way it used to.”). Absence and brokenness are not the same as hopelessness, however, as Notess asserts in her poem “The Curse”: “Sometimes the crown of the horned baby’s head / just slides into the world. Sometimes / the blighted tree bears fruit.” Indeed, as Yoshi says in Notess’s pastoral titled for the green dinosaur of Mario games fame: “And though I cannot consume / your ghosts or enter the ruined / palaces of your memory / beloved I will wait for you / always in the roadless shade / as proof of my devotion.”
Who else would want you to die a thousand times by plummeting into bottomless pits and being consumed by carnivorous plants and crushed by giant anthropomorphic bullets but some old wronged crone from an old Hungarian story?
— Paul Constant, in The Stranger
In one poem of Hannah Faith Notess’s outstanding chapbook, Ghost House, she inhabits the voice of the classic video game character Yoshi and declares: “I will devour everything / that wants to harm you.” Notess’s work, too, is omnivorous: she takes topics as disparate as video games, theology, family history, witches, ghosts, and a multitude of other inspirations and turns them into sophisticated poems that always add up to more than the sum of their parts. This is a smart, nimble collection from a poet with skill and grace to spare.
— Ryan Teitman, author of Litany for the City
In Hannah Notess’s remarkable debut collection, Ghost House, we follow a sure-footed guide through the ruined palaces and dying towns of history, memory, and imagination. But the ghosts we encounter are not menacing, appearing, as they do, in the warm, lantern glow of sympathy that brightens every page. Taken together, these poems show us that, like heaven, the past is a house of many rooms. We are never alone.
— Jennifer Maier, author of Now, Now and Dark Alphabet
I never imagined that such exquisite work could be crafted at the intersection of video games, folklore, and theology. In such poems as ‘To the Ghost Who Put His Arm around Me at the Camp Meeting’ and ‘St. Augustine Enters the World’s Largest Pac-Man Maze,’ Hannah Faith Notess melds her subjects with elegiac beauty and uncannily cool precision. ‘What is the soul,’ she asks, ‘but a point of light / propelled by desire?’ Well before you have reached the end of Ghost House, that point of light will desire its way within you once again. Hats off to a fine debut collection.
— Paul Willis, author of Say This Prayer into the Past
A lot of these poems pack something of the one-two punch of comedic tragedy; titles like “Yoshi (A Pastoral)” and “St. Augustine Enters the World’s Largest Pac-Man Maze” will have you giggling before they land the real blow. But the blow will knock you backward: these poems repeatedly investigate human isolation and connection as Notess’s characters struggle to reconcile their pasts and futures.