A few months ago, Rkvry Quarterly published this devastatingly lovely essay from Matt Hart about hauntedness; if you haven’t taken the time to read it, you absolutely must. It just about destroyed me in the best possible way. For instance:
Every word is haunted by its own etymology. Its historical origins linger connotatively. These origins color the atmosphere of the language while remaining largely invisible. One doesn’t need to know, for example, that the word “haunt” derives from an old Norse word heimta meaning “to lead home, to frequent,” and yet these meanings are present in contemporary usage as a trace, an echo, a ghost. Every word is haunted by its past uses, and is also itself a haunting, a visit from the past into the present.
Poems deploy, destabilize, and explode the meaning(fullness) of language, creating fields of connotation, ambiguity, and metaphor, while playing on the history of words in the service of multiple possibilities. These are the ghosts of every line, every sentence.
Words are also haunted by other words, which in turn are haunted by still other words, and all of them are haunted by other languages, and language is haunted by human utterance as longing (a desire to meaningfully mean). This is art.
I just now caught that Mary Akers did this fantastic follow-up interview with Matt digging around further in what it means to haunt and be haunted, in poetry and in breathing wavering growling existence. This part, which sent the most chills up my spine:
I (used to?) have a recurring dream of walking down a dirt road in the woods in the middle of the night, and up on the left is an old gray house made of boards, and inside there’s a brightness, like a lantern light burning. The house is ominous, even evil. It radiates hostility and madness, something terribly gone-wrong and utterly sad— a big black negative negative. I know in the dream that whatever’s in there is going to be incredibly painful to me, that it might even kill me. And yet, I’m compelled to go to it, so I keep walking. There are some steps and a little porch. It feels like Tennessee for some reason (where my mother’s family’s from). When I get to the door, my fear is overwhelming, and that’s when I wake up.
In the broad light of day, the dream seems like a goofy Evil Dead type horror movie set, something more to laugh about than to be afraid of. About a year ago, I described it to a friend, and he immediately said that the next time I have the dream I need to make myself stay asleep and open the door—that I need to go inside the house. And when I asked him why he thought this he said simply, “Because it’s home.” I haven’t had the dream since, but before that I was having it four or five times a year. I think the dream is now haunted by me, and of course “haunt” comes from an old Norse word meaning “home.” Anyway, I will open that door the next chance I get.