GHOST :: SEEDS: Poems (Paperback)

GHOST :: SEEDS: Poems By Sebastian Merrill Cover Image

GHOST :: SEEDS: Poems (Paperback)


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Winner of The 2022 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, selected by Kimiko Hahn

Set on a remote island on the Maine coast, GHOST :: SEEDS incorporates elements of magical realism and myth to explore and trouble conceptions of gender and identity. The central tension of this book-length poem is a dialogue between a trans speaker and his “ghost,” the “girl-ghost” of the self that he left behind to become the man he is today. Putting a queer spin on the myth of Persephone, the girl-ghost speaks from underworld lit by glowworms, cut through by dark rivers, and connected to the world above through a sea cave. Alternating between prose-like elements and lyric meditations, the book’s expansive form makes full use of the page from margin to margin, creating space and breathing room for complicated investigations of memory, gender, and grief.

From “Remember the first time”
Remember the first time we realized
we could choose our own name?
The name that would become my name?
In college, we played with gender in the theater,
acted as Sebastian in Twelfth Night.
One night, after rehearsal, we told our friends,
Call me Sebastian, even when I’m not on the stage.
Over ten years since we found my name,
I’m still learning myself:
I grow my hair long for the first time
since I abandoned you.
SEBASTIAN MERRILL’s debut collection GHOST :: SEEDS was selected by Kimiko Hahn as the winner of The 2022 X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. The winner of the 2022 Levis Prize for Poetry from Friends of Writers, Sebastian was selected as a member of the 2023 Get the Word Out inaugural poetry cohort for debut writers from Poets & Writers. A staff-scholar for the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2022 and 2023 and the Summer 2023 Warren Wilson MFA Alumni Residency Fellow, Sebastian has also received support from Tin House Workshop and the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. The recipient of the Rodney Jack Scholarship from Friends of Writers, he holds an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College and a BA from Wellesley College.
Product Details ISBN: 9781680033519
ISBN-10: 1680033514
Publisher: Texas Review Press
Publication Date: November 15th, 2023
Pages: 78
Language: English
"...a transgender narrative unlike anything that has come before."
Portland Press Herald
— Josh Christie

"[GHOST :: SEEDS] reimagines the story of Persephone in the Underworld. Set on a remote island off the Maine coast, GHOST :: SEEDS incorporates elements of magical realism and myth. The central tension of the work is a dialogue between a transmasculine speaker and a figure that he conceptualizes as his ghost—the “girl-ghost”—of the self that he left behind to become the person he is today."
Wellesley Magazine
— Wellesley Magazine

“Sebastian Merrill’s powerful, elegant debut, GHOST :: SEEDS, offers us the opportunity to share a complicated, beautiful place with the wide, manifold consciousness of a speaker who is many speakers at once. Likewise, the place this book makes is many places at once, reminding us of the teeming hauntedness of our world, the way all places are dense with histories and mythologies. It reminds us that time is thick and fluid, a medium we’re always wading through.”
LEON Literary Review

— Daniela Naomi Molnar

“In Sebastian Merrill’s collection GHOST :: SEEDS, there is the gorgeous clarity of the crossing—the “trans-”—as much as there is an abiding haziness by that self and certainly by others. And, for this reader, there is a haunting sense that I have experienced my own version of that dynamic. The speaker’s realizations emerge in large part through an insistent play with language. From the first poem, the point of view is plural: me with My man’s name and you ‘(my ghost),’ Girl-ghost, inverted twin, lost sister. At times, Gender is embodied: my Gender wanders in the underworld. At other times, the ‘you’ enters into a sequence ‘Ghost :: Persephone’ where the you is an interpretation of Persephone who can tell their singular story. A moment of kayaking, for instance, is set against this backdrop and yet Merrill doesn’t retell the myth so much as use it as touchstone. What is missed, found, mourned, and celebrated is a reason for celebration. Thank you, Sebastian Merrill.” 
Kimiko Hahn, author of Foreign Bodies, and final judge
— Kimiko Hahn

“Every poem happens in the body, yes, but the poems in Sebastian Merrill’s GHOST :: SEEDS are doubly embodied. This collection foregrounds the somatic nature of poetry’s choreographed language in order to make flesh an emergent speaking self who cherishes his hard-won existence. Like a muscular dancer whose soft landings turn effort to grace, these poems handle the weightiest concerns with a lightness of touch that amazed me across the book. I need a new word to name the emotion evoked by the lucid palimpsest of transformations Merrill enacts in this celebration of what can only come into being by letting go of what was—or by holding what was, even when it’s gone. Every poem is this stunning debut is an alchemical swirl of eye, ear, tongue, and lung. These poems made me breathe deeper.” 
Jason Schneiderman, author of Hold Me Tight
— Jason Schneiderman

“Sebastian Merrill’s GHOST :: SEEDS sings into a rich tradition of trans poetics while also charting its own unprecedented course through the wilds of history, myth, nature. In one poem, he writes, ‘If Spring comes, / I will know // my name.’ In another, ‘Yet always I feel you tight within, / a second heartbeat / inside my chest.’ Merrill is the rare emerging poet who possesses not just an urgent narrative, but also the unmistakable lyric and psychospiritual maturity to render that narrative into unforgettable poems that will illuminate and usefully complicate the lives of its readers. GHOST :: SEEDS announces the arrival of an important new voice in American poetry.”
Kaveh Akbar, author of Martyr!
— Kaveh Akbar

GHOST :: SEEDS testifies to poetry’s ability to make meaning of experience, to render experience into language, and to gather time, space, feelings and thought and give those elements an artful home. Before Sebastian Merrill wrote this remarkable book, we did not have this thrilling lyrical narrative of trans experience braided into myth, in which the orphic poet transits into the underworld to encounter his former self. Here, however, the myth is more than a story; it is a narrative newly arrived in our contemporary context, placed on the rocky shores of Maine, dealt with in a 21st century world of vivid, liberating self-realization. GHOST :: SEEDS is a moving, nuanced, and memorable book, and one of the most exciting debuts I’ve read in years.”
Mark Wunderlich, author of God of Nothingness
— Mark Wunderlich

“The joy of the body, the dream of the body, the myth of the body, the making. I just love this book in all its embodiments. Can a book of poems see me? It feels like this book does, in the way it marks the history of how many selves one body can hold and how history is the slipperiest part that never leaves us. How do we make peace with what is left behind in the luminous journey to become our deepest truth. What does lineage mean? What is home? In this book the land welcomes and makes a path for the bodily vessel: a kind of pedagogy the earth and the water gives us. I feel so deeply indebted to the joy, grief and, generosity of this formally and psychically rigorous book. How astonishing ordinary life is. And how hard won.”
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of Rocket Fantastic
— Gabrielle Calvocoressi

“I was thoroughly impressed with how giving this book was. [GHOST :: SEEDS]covers a lot of territory of one transgender man’s journey, reckoning with the ghost of their past as well as their future self.”
Dmitri Reyes

— Dmitri Reyes