A book-length narrative poem, or a novella-in-verse if you prefer, How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic is a novel-poem with a literary sci-fi bent, a shadow-text to Oedipus written in a style that is up-to-the-minute. With wit, dynamism, and cutting senses of urgency and humor, Iowa Prize winner Peter Jay Shippy tells the tale of Isaac Makepeace Watt, a melancholy man living in a Thebes that is much like contemporary America. The House of Cadmus still rules (and will fall), but they only appear in the poem as media white noise. Isaac’s concerns are personal, his father’s illness and his own moral decrepitude. There are talking monkeys, plagues, oracles, and nano-robots—the usual agoramania.
«Peter Shippy’s verse novel begins as all novels should, with a cow crashing through the ceiling of its first-person narrator. Other delights ensue. Pound said “Mauberley” was his condensed version of a Henry James novel: How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic operates under similar depth pressures and aspirations. The triadic stepline pioneered for U.S. poets by W.C. Williams is here employed with vigor and narrative impetus; the rhythms are propulsive and captivating. This is above all an enjoyable book, fantastic and funny throughout. It can be read straight through, and I mean that as high praise. Shippy’s “polyglot reality” where “history is hence” held me bound for 80 pages.»
«Peter Jay Shippy is my favorite poet. No one else that I know comes remotely close to capturing—with extraordinary wit and grace and insight—our experience of being alive right now. How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic is shockingly alive and rich. Shippy “wades in time” in order to catch our lives for us—what else is art for? This is a wonderful book.»
«His aesthetic boundaries are blurred in the most delightful and surprising ways and have opened new ground for lyric expression. His hybrid has infused contemporary poetry with dynamism.»
«In dexterous lingo, the argot fraught with gumption and gusto, Shippy’s new poem dazzles. Fathers, mothers, sphinxes, and seers populate this wild hyper-Classical world, one made wilder by the poet’s searing wit. How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic astonishes, the ideas everywhere: read it and leap!»
Alan Michael Parker
Peter Jay Shippy is the author of two previous books of poetry, Alphaville (BlazeVOX Books, 2006) and the Iowa Poetry Prize-winning Thieves’ Latin (University of Iowa Press, 2003). He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative American Poetry. He teaches at Emerson College. More about his work can be found on his website.