Book Review: Dancing with Maria’s Ghost: Dark Encounters with the Ghost of Maria Callas by Alessandro Manzetti

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Title: Dancing with Maria’s Ghost : Dark Encounters with the Ghost of Maria Callas

Author: Alessandro Manzetti

Release date: December 28th, 2021

Alright – first things first – I Googled who Maria Callas was before diving in. I wasn’t sure if this was a name Manzetti made up as this spectral siren that will be haunting these pages, or if she was a real historic figure.

Much to my surprise, Maria Callas was in fact a real person. She was an American-born Greek soprano who was one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century (thanks, Wikipedia!) and she lived from 1923-1977. I am a massive fan of music, but I’ll be the first to admit, my knowledge of Opera and that entire world of music is incredibly limited. I did spend some time listening and watching her perform on Youtube and her voice is divine. What a talent she was.

But, after having read his poetry collection, ‘Whitechapel Rhapsody,’ I was non-the-less intrigued about how this story would be revealed, the layers pulled back through each poem.

What I liked: Manzetti is a fantastic writer (both fiction and poetry) and it shows when you look at his numerous award nominations and wins. It came as no surprise these poems would be dark, but that a solid story would be told throughout. A few of the stand outs for me are below.

The opening poem, ‘First Seeing,’ sets the stage and gives you the feeling that something is crawling across your skin. This reminded me a lot of the first moments when the ghost reveals itself in horror movies.

‘Hand in Hand’ is a stunning work of pure creepiness, a way of showing how this spectral being has arrived and the power she has over our protagonist.

The poem, ‘The Queen’ is filled with harsh phrases and even harsher concepts. A more visceral piece than the proceeding ones, I really liked how this worked to engage the reader.

‘Isolde,’ for even with its shortness, is filled with grief and wonder. This was almost like reading a piece of flash fiction with its deep ideas behind it.

Throughout, the artwork that is interspersed between the poems also does a great job of heightening the experience while acting as a visual medium to really connect the poems with the imagery.

What I didn’t like: Admittedly, I’m not familiar with Callas’ story, so if I went into this completely blind, the descent our protagonist takes as the poems move along would’ve felt foreign and strange. Having read through her biography, the geographical changes definitely made more sense to me.

Why you should buy this: Manzetti is a fantastic author and his poetry can move you in ways you never really expect. This was a heartbreaking look at a figure who ultimately fell from grace and seeing this connection between her and the protagonist made it all that much more sorrow filled.

Definitely one to check out for those who love dark poetry.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Dancing with Maria’s Ghost: Dark Encounters with the Ghost of Maria Callas by Alessandro Manzetti

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