How to Cure a Ghost, the debut poetry collection from Fariha Róisín, has drawn comparisons to Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. Whether that attracts or distances you, I don’t think it’s a completely accurate or even a necessary distinction. While Kaur has been obviously influential in contemporary poetry, every new release does not need to be compared to Milk and Honey. Period. Róisín’s How to Cure Your Ghost is a standalone, impressive body of work.
Róisín is an Australian-Canadian writer, now living in New York. She’s queer, femme, and Muslim, all of which are examined through her poetry. When I first opened How to Cure a Ghost, I was excited. Because along with poems, it holds lively and tonal illustrations. The art, created by Monica Ramos, is moving in and of itself, depicting animals, shapes, and bodies.
I came to How to Cure a Ghost having heard it follows and explores a self-healing journey. Which it does, but it’s also does much more. In fact, How to Cure a Ghost feels like a giant exhalation, like it’s everything that Róisín has been holding in and waiting to push out into the world. She writes about an abusive relationship, an ill and violent mother, a father’s immigration, Islamophobia, war, an abortion, mansplaining, and white feminism. And that list is not exhaustive. She asks what identity means. She asks what home means. But, spoiler: Róisín does not give many answers. But are there ever answers in well-written poetry?
Consistently, what Róisín does do, is advocate for one’s selfhood throughout the collection. In "Under the Golden Hour," she writes, “I gave birth to myself, a new beginning, a robust cycle. I rewrote the scriptures of my mother’s pasts, and her mother’s pasts. I am in the throes of survival" (94). She says, effectively, that we can continually define and redefine ourselves.
"The revolution exists in the choice to see."
She also consistently writes of worldwide pain and disenfranchisement while envisioning a reclamation of power: “The revolution exists in the choice to see” (The Women Who Have Seen, 115). The body is reclaimed, too, in her poems: “I press up, pressing into the pressed curves of my body, of those stifled blue, by you. I am no longer at your mercy” (Golden Lube, 145).
There are times or lines where Róisín dips into platitudes. These moments can feel flat, or pandering, but it’s like riding on a swing on a playground; eventually, you’ll fly back up. The highs can be very high, so it’s ultimately a cathartic read.
How to Cure a Ghost does not offer a map, nor should it. We all have our own ghosts, and often, the ghosts we must cure are multiple.