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Peter Boyle, Ghostspeaking

Winner of the 2017 NSW Premier's Award for Poetry
Shortlisted for the John Bray Poetry Award in the 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature
Short-listed for the ALS Gold Medal


Eleven fictive poets from Latin America, France and Québec. Their poems, interviews, biographies and letters weave images of diverse lives and poetics. In the tradition of Fernando Pessoa, Boyle presents an array of at times humorous, at times tormented heteronymous poets. In their varied voices and styles, writing as they do across the span of the 20th Century and into the 21st , these haunted and haunting figures offer one of poetry’s oldest gifts – to sing beauty in the face of death. In all this Boyle, their fictive translator, is deeply enmeshed.

"The range of this book is panoramic and the language, which is clear and luminous, is weighted towards exploring the light and dark aspects of human mystery. The poems take in many perspectives and reflect the self in its various modalities and moods. This is a work of sustained imagination. This remarkable book — blending the best of poetry, fiction and annotated ‘translation’ — captures the lives of 11 imagined poets (and of the 12th, the poet-translator whose voice threads itself through the whole collection). These voices, and the stories they tell, remain in the mind, haunting the reader much as the ghosts of the title — loss, grief and spectral apparitions — haunt the fictive poets. Captivating the reader with its rendition of pathos and ethos, this work is distinguished by its ambitious scope and imaginative range, its diversity of voice and its outstanding quality of craft." From the judges' comments as Winner of Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in the NSW Premier's literary awards.

"Ghostspeaking succeeds in creating memorable poetry that has the added dimension of memorable characters. This is no small accomplishment. It will leave many readers wondering how Boyle was able to create such a diverse cast of personas, such a 'galaxy of approaching worlds.' Much more than literary technique makes the poems in this book so effective. In a footnote, we hear one of the fictive poets argue that experimentation for the sake of experimentation fails to provide 'the stuff that really matters — the horror, the beauty, the delicacy, the silence.' That’s exactly what Boyle brings us in these 'translations' — the stuff that really matters." Peter Boyle's Ghostspeaking reviewed by John Bradley in Rain Taxi.

"The simplest way to describe this remarkable book would be to say that Peter Boyle has invented eleven, mainly Spanish-speaking, twentieth and twenty-first century poets and made a fictional anthology which is a selection of his English translations of their imagined work. Beyond that it’s rather difficult to describe it accurately. One could look to Boyle’s Apocrypha published in 2009, another work of great ambition and sophistication ... Ghostspeaking isn’t entirely an anthology – there is a lot of novelistic activity going on inside it as well: the lives of the eleven imaginary poets are sketched in and their relationships and interactions with the author brought to light in a way that makes you think of an author’s professional journal/diary with translations appended. And at another level, Ghostspeaking could be described as an extension of the well-known genre of what might be called 'the text-based uncanny.'" Peter Boyle's Ghostspeaking reviewed by Martin Duwell in Australian Poetry Review.

'Boyle’s book is a book of abundance; in every poem, every biography, every vignette the reader senses more identities as yet unemerged. Ghostspeaking is a kaleidoscope of experience.' Peter Boyle's Ghostspeaking reviewed by Kate Middleton in the Sydney Review of Books

'In reading the book I’d been struck foremost by the formal aspects of the writing, the beauty of the language, and the generosity of imagination behind these creations. I’d been thinking of aesthetic matters. But when I consider the political implications of Boyle’s ventriloquy: yes, he invents Latin American, French, and Québécois poets, but he does so with a depth of knowledge about the literary culture and history that these poets are embedded in. Boyle has published translations of other (real) Latin American, Spanish, and French poets, and is versed in these literary cultures. The poetry is self-aware, too, evaluating what it is doing while it is doing it.' Peter Boyle's Ghostspeaking reviewed by Prithvi Varatharajan in Cordite

'If Peter Boyle’s new and selected, Towns in the Great Desert, was a tour de force of the imagination, and a book of stunningly strange and brilliant poetry, this next book, Ghostspeaking, surpasses it in ambition and virtuosity.' Peter Boyle's Ghostspeaking reviewed by Kevin Brophy in Australian Book Review.

"As in his ground-breaking work, Apocrypha, Peter Boyle plays hauntingly and movingly with character and voice in this brilliant new collection. The often broken, dark-edged lives of his ‘translated’ poets are rendered in language that is both intimate and universal. These poems and prose pieces span cultures and contexts to evoke an intoxicating range of human feeling and experience. Boyle’s poetry confronts the dark, but it is also uplifting in its perfection of craft and for the way it radiates the enormous power that poetry has to uncover deep, surprising knowledge. I can think of no Australian poet more deserving of a central place on the world stage than Peter Boyle. His imaginative sweep is staggering." – Judith Beveridge

"Somewhere between a brief, succulent anthology of the best twentieth century poetry and a rare contemporary novel, Ghostspeaking rescues, from a world within this one, eleven poets who never existed. But that can never be said again. These lives and works are so convincing that readers will trawl the web to learn more about them. All of the writers gathered here are wonderful, some quite remarkable: what then does that leave us to say of the man who created them?" – David Brooks

Praise for multi-award winning Apocrypha:

"[Peter Boyle is] one of the best and most fascinating of Australian poets ... Apocrypha, a brilliant work – to my mind one of the pinnacles of recent Australian poetry” – Martin Duwell

Peter Boyle is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Towns in the Great Desert: New and Selected Poems. The highly awarded Apocrypha (2009) marked the beginning of his experimentation with heteronyms and the merging of fiction, poetry and speculation. Boyle is also a prolific translator of poetry with six books of poetry translated from Spanish. After working for more than twenty years as a teacher with TAFE NSW he is now completing a Doctorate of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University, focusing on the translation of poetry, the heteronym tradition and their connections.

Peter Boyle, Ghostspeaking
2016. ISBN 978-1-922181-78-7
Release date: August 2016
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