1) What is something not known or obvious about your book Inside the Ghost Factory?
Some, but by no means all readers, will recognize that the “ghost voices” that rise up from under the line at the “end” of many of these poems is a device originally used by Jack Spicer in the “Homage to Creeley” section of his book Heads of the Town Up To the Aether. It has also been employed, with a somewhat different twist, by Nathaniel Mackey (in Mackey’s work, the text below the line is often as long as the original poem, and serves almost as a rewriting or a different “take” on the original). Once I got into it, the device offered all sorts of possibilities, and intensified what I understand to be the dark comedy of the poems, a comedy also based in discursive code switching, ellipsis, non sequitur, and ironic allusion.
2) Please share some responses to your book that’s surprised you, or made you happy or disappointed. If your book is relatively new, share some of your hopes for how readers might respond or how the book finds its way in the world.
Since my feeling about Ghost Factory is that the poems inhabit a space somewhere between humor and terror (at least, that’s how I felt while writing them), I was surprised to hear recently from a new reader that he found the book consoling after suffering the loss of a beloved mentor. Needless to say, I was very moved by this response, and it has led me to reflect on what exactly is going on in these poems, which are often as mysterious to me as to any of my readers. Perhaps there is something comforting about finding out that you’re not alone in the dark—even when whatever is there with you is not necessarily concerned with your best interests.
If you had to choose a favorite poem or a poem to highlight from the book,
which one would you choose and why?
I have great affection for a lot of the poems in Ghost Factory; I find them weirdly companionable and charming years after having written them. And they opened a door on whole new dimension in my poetry, which continues up until today in the series I’ve been working on recently, From the Files of the Immanent Foundation. I guess my favorite, or one I would highlight, is “Advertisement.” It was the second poem in the sequence, but the first in which the possibilities of that particular kind of discourse really opened up. And not incidentally, it came to me as one of the purest instances in all my years of writing of what Spicer calls “dictation.” I was alone in the house, I had poured myself a glass of wine, I opened my notebook, and in an instant the poem began to write itself. Looking back, I see that the poem is dated 11/16/06. The draft is absolutely clean. A gift.
We thank Norman Finkelstein for participating in this Q&A. Please visit him at his website: https://sites.google.com/site/normanfinkelsteinpoetry/