In Salem in Séance, Susana H. Case gives voice to many of the people involved in the witchcraft trials that shook Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600's. In so doing, though, she also speaks for those who have suffered similar injustices up to this very day. The fear of the unknown, fear of the "other," as well as arrogance, ignorance, spite, and prejudice are just as real today as they were then, and often with consequences equally horrific.
One of the things that set this book apart for me was the attention Case gave to research concerning the period of the trials and the people who participated in them. She does not weave her characters out of the air, instead uses sound historic sources to give them a foundation in reality. This adds dimension to them, and an element of truth that allows us to understand not only the people, but the time and situation they lived in that made what happened to them possible.
One of the things that I did find a bit jarring was when Case inserted insert an outside voice into the poem, as in "Elizabeth Cary."
"What is wrong with them, their tender meat?
[Today we'd say neurotic,anorexic—]
Who cares about such things?"
Also, I wished that I had a bit more background in which to place the individual characters, so that I could better understand some of their words. In general though, the poems were beautifully written and their messages clear and strong.
Salem in Séance combines two of my favorite things—history and poetry—in one compelling read. I simply couldn't put it down and read it one sitting, knowing, however, that I would want to come back again and again, reading and re-reading these insightful and well-crafted words.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Susana H. Case, professor at the New York Institute of Technology, has recent work in many journals. Her book, Salem in Séance (WordTech Editions) was released January, 2013. Elvis Presley's Hips & Mick Jagger's Lips is forthcoming from Anaphora Literary Press. Visit her website.
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