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 call this phenomenon “Soul Sleep.”
It involves placing the elbows on the table
while the table levitates. It involves
tables, tax tables and tables with
claw and ball legs. It involves the legs
and the arms, one of each, on either side
of the body. Do you see this lamp?
It is guaranteed not to break unless
you break it. It is guaranteed to shine
but only on missing objects, objects which
have disappeared from sight. It is a singing lamp;
that is how it attracts the lost objects.
I do not know if it works for lost children.
I do not know, madam, but I suspect
that there is an oil, there is a balm,
there are certain pillows, certain fabrics
which exude scents known to have
restorative properties. These properties,
these estates—and the fields, and the
horses in the fields—all are at your disposal.
We have arranged for you to sleep there
but only for a little while. We must ask you
to leave at three. We must ask you
to leave three articles in the house,
if the house is to win. And the house must win;
it is urgent, for the funds must be restored
to their proper owner. Please behave accordingly.
I have one good eye and one
brown eye. I like to read
brochures about bees, invisible
bees or bees of the invisible.
Gold honey. Red honey. Black
honey, produced by black bees.
This was on the train with the buffalo hunters.
We thank Norman Finkelstein for participating in this Q&A. Please visit him at his website: https://sites.google.com/site/normanfinkelsteinpoetry/