Thanksgiving in a Gold Factory
One of the worst things that can happen to you at the hands of an interviewer is to discover—too late—that the interviewer has read nothing more than your book jacket. This is never the case with WAMC’s Joe Donahue in Albany, New York. When he interviews me at his popular Roundtable, as he did November 19th, 2018, he has questions I’d better be prepared to answer thoughtfully, and I often leave the sound studio intellectually and emotionally richer than when I came.

We had a lot to discuss. My 10th volume of poetry, The Seas Are Dolphins’ Tears and my fiction trilogy, Light Piercing Water. I read two of the shorter poems from Dolphins’ Tears, poems that declare we are not data clusters—data bombs, if you will—nor are we our names or our clans or our tribes or our nations. No, we either transcend those convenient—and perilous—notions, or we help humanity devolve, as we’re witnessing today at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Joe asked me to interpret the title of the three novels—Guest Boy, Crowds of One and The Gold Factory.I said that Guest Boy describe a marine archaeology adventure. I said light penetrates water only to a certain depth, and it seemed to me a metaphor for our search for meaning, for enlightenment. I said Crowds of One is set in the Hudson Valley, familiar territory to WAMC’s listeners. And then we came to The Gold Factory. What could that mean, since no one manufactures gold? Well, I said, the medieval Persian and Arab alchemists—remember, they made no distinction between chemistry and alchemy, and our word chemistry comes from the Arab word al-Khemiya—needed a cover story to tell their patron-rulers to assure the continued flow of money to their Persian Gulf laboratories, so they said they were planning to turn base metals, like lead, into gold. But in truth the best of them were working on the ennoblement of the human spirit, transforming its more base elements to something transcendent—and they were doing it in their fabulous gold factories. Some rulers understood this, but most hankered for gold they could spend, not better spirits.

It was a kind of alchemical interview in itself, and several days later the astute writer Kevin Swanwick called me to say how much he had enjoyed the interview, especially because I had spoken of the essential oneness of all sentient beings when the President of the United States seeks mightily to divide and splinter us. Kevin said he was grateful for that on this Thanksgiving.—DM, November 23, 2018
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