We got to speak with Michael T. Smith about his piece in “Paper Airplanes“ in Issue Seven!
How would you imagine a mechanical ghost and how do you think you’d react to one?
To me, there’s something ghost-like about the mechanical in general. The mechanical moves; these movements can have intent (to create something, to move something, etc.). Yet, there’s nothing “living” within them that actively, consciously maintains this movement. There’s something of a residual haunting within the machine – who once programmed it, designed it, found a use for it, placed it where it was. The machine follows directions, always following the script it was given, entering the stage as it was instructed to do if you will. Hence, the mechanical is a ghost. Inverting this idea, can the ghost be mechanical? Ghosts can be (and often are) envisioned as the continuation of life after death. However, they are also envisioned as a residue of life. This latter conception is much more metaphorical in how ghosts haunt us, how ghosts are reflections of something unfinished, how ghosts are merely the image of life. In this sense, they are like a machine, haunting with some kind of regularity. The reaction we might have to this could be no reaction at all. The last conception I’ve had of this is seeing a machine as a ghost. For instance, a ghost robot or even a ghost washing machine. Perhaps, this is funny, but then the humor is worth considering. Would we be mad seeing a mechanical ghost? Would it be a sign that much of what we’ve conceived of the world would be wrong? For instance, even if we do believe in ghosts (real or metaphorical), of course there’s no mechanical ghosts? Or, perhaps, there always is a ghost in the machine.
What did you enjoy most about writing this poem?
I most enjoyed writing in a surrealist style. Instead of communicating a message directly, the poem relies on a general aura created through the imagery, the objects described, and the specific word-choices made throughout. Hence, the abstraction communicates a message that is unified but unbounded. This construction is meant to be enjoyable. It’s meant to create discussion – lines written or unwritten as the poem describes.
What’s the most rewarding thing about writing a piece?
I feel like writing is an addiction. I enjoy it, but…there’s plenty of stress associated with it: finding time for it, rejections after submitting it, self-judging your own work (especially after you spent so much time on it when you could have done other “productive” things in life). Yet…I don’t think I could be happy not doing it. Writing a piece feels like something that has to be done. It’s like breathing, but being fully aware of the sublime pleasure of breathing even if you get sick occasionally (which may only highlight that pleasure).
How does poetry make you feel? To read and write and share it?
I think poetry runs the gamut of emotions – both reading and writing. Poetry can make you feel joyous, sad, confused, stimulated, etc. I might sum it all up and say poetry makes you feel alive.
Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?