reviewed by Hannah K. Jones
Offering reflections on a collection of themes—including, but not limited to nature, death, and the writing process—Rosanna Warren’s newly published book, Ghost in a Red Hat draws inspiration from her own life, history, and the works of other famous artists. Impacted heavily by nature, many of the poems follow a format in which the scene is set with introductory lines dedicated to detailing the specific birdcall wafting through the air, the flora cascading before the poet’s eyes, and any other distinct natural features present while the poem was written. Poems such as “Mistral I,” “Mistral II,” and “Fear” illustrate a pattern of compositional self-awareness and struggle, as the breeze rearranges the words upon the page, blowing poor quality ones into the afternoon air. Many of the poems read like historical fiction, their topics ranging from the ancient Greece of Homer in the prose poem “Odyssey,” to the American Civil War. As the poems “Water Damage” and “D Minor” show, there is also a consistent fascination with the composer Robert Schumann.
Personally, I found the first poem, “Mediterranean,” to be my favorite. It reveals the moment in which a haunting, thirty-eight year-old memory of Warren’s deceased mother striding confidently ahead on a path overlaps with the less-substantial vision of her mother’s ghost walking ahead of her on the same stones, only to suddenly vanish.
My only criticism would be that some of the poems felt like an inside joke—their meaning so personal, so hidden, that I could neither tease it out nor relate to the contents. For example, the poems “From the Notebooks of Anne Verveine, VI” and “VII” were about an imaginary poet, while the historical poem “Earthworks” revolved so specifically around a Civil-war era family that I became lost in the list of referenced names, embedded quotes, and dates. Nevertheless, every poem within the book is artistically worded and constructs a rhythm as engulfing as the current of the Charles River, making it impossible for a reader to escape.