Ghost Trees
Ralph La Rosa
White Violet Press
Full Description

Reviewers respond to Ghost Trees:

Ralph La Rosa’s poems are rich with vibrant imagery and skillfully measured meter. Each poem, like living portraits, resonates with a sense of life that can only come from the artistic mastery of emotion and intellect. These poems revisit the past with sheer honesty, delicately balancing his sweet melancholy with whimsical hope.La Rosa occasionally recalls his bruised ego from childhood, not with self-pity, but with an understanding of how those moments of doubt shapes one’s character. From his father’s endeavors to provide for his family to his mother’s sly chiding, La Rosa ironically finds wholeness. Whether it was football or music, he reminds us of how a thoughtless comment can have a lasting effect. In a crisp moment of clarity, he brings us back to a time, when working in a record shop, he realized that the quality of a jazz musician was not measured by his masterful ability to squeeze out a series of colorful notes, but by the color of the artist’s skin. An American Literature scion, La Rosa brings into focus his love of the transcendentalists, recalling Thoreau and Emerson. Better still, he keeps alive the ghosts of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson through imagined dialogues. These poems are a delight.
—John Orozco, author of Delano and Eddie and the Inmates

A dazzling variety of subjects and poetic forms, Ghost Trees admirably demonstrates La Rosa’s command of craft: from lyrical evocations of joyful and wrenching episodes of childhood to odes commemorating young manhood’s attentive acquaintance with the natural world to the mature artist’s sonnets paying tribute to writers influencing his sensibilities as he observes the world. The wit and wisdom of Thoreau can be found in playful puns and rhymes and in deliberately detailed expressions of the natural world’s beauty and destructive power. Religious paradoxes abound, worthy of Dickinson who makes her quaint, abbreviated appearance, yet who boldly challenges Whitman’s expansive attempt to instruct her. Faith and doubt, piety and skepticism have no doctrinal solution in poems that look back to pagan Greeks and pay respect in turn to Catholicism and Transcendentalism. But paradoxes might be said to constitute a running motif in the collection: tenderness/strength, joy/sadness, family/isolation, celebration/grief, love/disillusion, life/death. La Rosa is literate, but that should not intimidate anyone, for his poetry is not obscure. He has taken Thoreau’s advice to heart. Simplify. Good poets do that. And so La Rosa is like Frost, alluded to here, who suggests subtlety and depth with simple words.
—Frederick Newberry, Emeritus Professor of American Literature at Duquesne University.