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Thirty Angry Ghosts – the happy dance review

I was so excited to get this review from local poet and poetry expert Richard Whiting that I did a little dance in celebration.


Controlled Anger (5 stars)

It is as if Mai Black has summoned each of her 30 chosen historical ghosts to give testimony about their lives and listened with impartiality to each voice.

Her excellent poetic craft gets to work upon what we know, or think we know, of each character and if ever a book stops you in your tracks, demands a re-read or an additional trip through Google, then this is it.

I particularly liked William Shakespeare’s manifestation. Mai’s wonderfully playful use of Shakespearian language shows that it is perfectly acceptable to hold an icon’s ghost up to the light and indulge in a giggle or two!

The ‘Unknown Soldier’ poem is as good an example of someone writing with a vast knowledge of the material she has to hand as you could want to find. ‘Two days later, Johno got half his face blown off/ so you could see right to the bone.’

From Cleopatra ‘I was just a woman/ just a little prettier than most/ and handier with the eyeliner pencil’ to Margaret Catchpole and many others. The poems are educational and each an excellent read. I re-read them all.

There are page biographies of all the participating ghosts at the rear of the book which gives great illumination to the preceding poems.
A great read for the poetry, or to further your historical knowledge. ‘Thirty Angry Ghosts’ would make a stunning classroom companion too.

Oh that history had been taught that way when I was at school!

by Richard Whiting