Thistleton, Clay, Noisesome Ghosts, Blart Press, 2018. ISBN: 9780244406844. £13.
Noisesome Ghosts by Clay Thistleton consists of mostly found poetry that explores the paranormal voices and writings of ghosts and poltergeists. Thistleton draws from documentation spanning the recorded history of such supernatural occurrences, from biblical ghosts in the second millennium BC, to the present day.
Thistleton throws together the historic and contemporary from the off with an opening quote from the US television show F.R.I.E.N.D.S, and a few pages later writes of the Bingen Poltergeist (858 AD).
A lot of the uniqueness of this collection comes from the extremely experimental formatting that Thistleton employs. Font variation in size and shape, strikethroughs, complicated alignments, page orientation and non-linear structures means the reader must really pay attention to the words on the page. Some poems are much more abstract than others and this can make their meanings difficult to determine. However, others in the collection do a good job a communicating the eerie, unsettling and incomprehensible supernatural dimension. In ‘A Glaswegian Ghost Family (21st Century)’ Thistleton conveys to the story of a house haunted by an entire family. The new home owner witnesses the children playing, converses with the father, and then the ghost family stand and watch him trying to eat his dinner:
The continuous and persistent presence of these beings is demonstrated throughout the collection. In ‘Demons in Seattle (2012-)’ Thistleton tells the story of a man who found ‘Die LK’ (his initials) written on his lawn, but also ‘the office wall / the hall, the car’. He writes, ‘everywhere the paint is are the words / “Die KL”’. This poem also uses text blackouts, a device used throughout the collection to signify absence, emptiness, or the unknown.
A key example of this is in the poem, The Crisis Apparition of Bounce the Dog (25 August 1908)’. Above the poem there is a quote from the woman had taken in a stray dog: ‘we were going away and it was impossible to get a home for a mongrel like Bounce, we thought it kinder to have him shot.’ The poem opens, ‘Bounce: a stray /had been given A S Y L U M’ and ends:
Some of the poems int his collections are simply disturbing. A standout piece in this category is ‘The Disinterment of Rosa Spandoni (1950)’ which tells of a ‘call from Rosa’. She calls because,
The narrator describes the disinterment of Rosa’s body:
These darker toned poems are contrasted with the humour that also litters the collection. Poems such as ‘The Ghost of Cromwell Lodge, Cambridge (1889-1896)’ and ‘The Disembodied Voice of Thatcham, Berkshire (n.d.)’ are shorter, but this condensed form allows for the wit and humour to have a greater impact as the bizarre or comical words of the dead come forward. Yet, humour and the unsettling come together at various points throughout the collection. One example of this is in the poem, ‘The South Shields Poltergeist (2006)’ in which,
And in ‘The Stratford (Connecticut) Poltergeist (1850-1851)’:
Another element of this collection, which contains over 400 pages of poems, is the focus on ghosts speaking through technology and social media. The overlap of these two abstract dimensions -that of cyberspace and the supernatural realm – shows this digital space to emerge as a liminal landscape that both the living and dead can enter and operate within. Again, Thistleton uses interesting formatting to exactly replicate the layout and format of Facebook, the medium through which the ghosts of Anne Marie and Henry communicate.
Overall, this collection is wholly different from any other poetry collection I have read. The emphasis on found poetry serves the purpose of telling the historical and contemporary stories of ghosts and poltergeists in the words of their original documentation. Although confusing at times, Thistleton manages to capture the absurdity and uncertainty of the supernatural world. He challenges and pushes the limits of typography and poetic structure, overlapping genres and mediums in much the same way as the spirits described in the collection.
You can buy Noisesome Ghosts here.
Beth O’Brien (she/her) is a third year English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. She has published poems with Foxglove Journal and Nine Muses Poetry, and is a reviewer for Mad Hatter Reviews.She has also written articles for sheswanderful.com and the Graduate Recruitment Bureau blog.