Book Review: There’s a Ghost in This Machine of Air

BookReviewLogoThere are two epigrams to Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s latest collection of poems, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air (WordTech, 2015). The first is from twentieth century American poet Lorine Niedecker:

I walked
New Year’s Day

beside the trees
my father now gone planted

evenly following
the road



The second, a line from James Baldwin: “What Americans mean by history is anything they think they can forget.” These epigrams, taken together, might be read as wayfinders — textual signposts to guide our way through the landscape of this moving collection of poems. There’s a Ghost asks us to reflect on the long, and often painful and violent, history of human settlement within the ecology of Sonoma County.

ed8c01c241831fdcf734cdfefd80b03cThe volume is arranged in four sections, each with its own distinct flavor. In “Ghost Fruit: Gravenstein” we learn about the planting of apple orchards, the white settlers determined to bring European methods of agriculture to northern California despite the resistance of the Native communities. In the titular poem, “There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air,” an Irish immigrant pushing forward into Coast Miwok territory with his wheat fields is chased off the stolen land. “He would never return to the rolling green hills, to the dawn chorus, that had hypnotized him because after that night he understood why one might run, arms aflame, to save this,” Dunkle writes (20). Continue reading “Book Review: There’s a Ghost in This Machine of Air”