Ben Mirov's Ghost Machine
(Caketrain, 2010)
reviewed by Jon Cone

The ghost is spirit, immaterial, beyond the boundary of what lives. The machine has a mass; it is made from parts and moves though it remains stationary. Thus Mirov's poems move like parts, yet remain immaterial; they describe a world of the spirit where we see moving parts. The sentence rules. The imagination is based upon a foundation of parataxis. If the poem is lineated on the page like a poem, if the poem is given the contours of a prose poem, this means almost nothing: these poems explore the sentence in its simplest, most marvelous form. 'My ideas are boring. She bleeds on the sheets.' We have boring ideas, this is called living. And when she bleeds on the sheets we want to know why: is this an ordinary bleeding or a more sinister flow? Mirov doesn't tell us. We have imaginations. 'I act like myself at a coffee shop and try not to shake.' I remember something called phenomenology, an excruciating inventorying of every noticed moment and its content. These are phenomenological poems. The ghost of Jack Spicer presides. Daily life is both plague and joy. 'I just want a job with an income.' And 'The earlobe is wet.' The ordinary collides with ecstatic renewal, something. The narrator of Ghost Machine isn't writing a novel though he might as well be. 'I go to the shop where they sell machines that keep you up.' In our dreams the machine is what helps us live; in our nightmares it is something other, a low hum of menace. It seems as if the ghost in this machine is an elementary school teacher, or works with children in some capacity. 'My kids fall asleep in dirty t-shirts.' We don't ever know for sure. People go to clubs. 'I arrive late and don't buy a drink.' People have relationships. They are sad. 'I get nervous about dating.' It doesn't matter. It does. This book feels like a novel. One can read it as a novel, quickly. One is absorbed in tracing the connections between various points, as one does in a story. Mirov might well be a novelist hiding in a poet's skin. The lines are often beautiful. 'I plan to be another language in the body of a deer.' The spirit can move from body to body, poem to poem, line to line. Everything is moving, existence a river. Echoes are heard throughout. Lines are given a variant drift. One thinks one hasn't read a poem, only to discover one has. The context shifts. The pressure is urban, like New Wave French cinema. These poems seek love, that great vast emptiness. These poems seek an impossible authority. 'The streets are filled with outlines coated in rain. I have to erase what I compress. I can't get to the end of the block. I turn around and hear a voice.'
Ghost Machine exhibits an elegant sense of design -- font, page layout -- and a wonderful cover. If you are willing to buy one book of poetry this summer, make it Ghost Machine and take it with your wherever you go.