This week’s Last Word features an interview with Marc D. Goldfinger, Spare Change News’ resident writer and poet and the newspaper’s poetry editor for the last ten years. With the help of the poet Lee Varon, Goldfinger is currently putting together a poetry anthology featuring work published in Spare Change News over the years.
Writing has done a lot for Goldfinger. It was thanks to the dissemination of his writing on the Internet that he reconnected with his children after 22 years of not seeing them. Due to his lifestyle when he was hooked on opiates, he says he was a “fugitive and went to prison in different places.” As a result, he lost touch with his children.
However, due to the fact that his writing has been published all over the world and on the Internet, his daughter was able to find him and get a sense of who he really was.
He says: “My daughter, Jasmine, who is a teacher, saw my writings on the Internet and she emailed me in November 2007 and told me she would like to engage in dialogue with me. She said that she could tell that I was not what she was led to believe and, obviously, it would be too late to be a father but she wanted to get to know me.
“Well, I was blown away with happiness. We wrote back and forth, a book of e-mails; and now we are in touch all the time. Jasmine works as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates so we don’t see each other much but we are very close,” he adds.
As well as allowing him to reconnect with his family, it was writing that helped Goldfinger survive as a highly creative but under-stimulated adolescent in school. His earliest writing memory is from 10th grade and concerns his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who had assigned the class homework to write an essay on any topic they wanted.
“I was a cut-up in class,” he explains. “I used to hate diagramming sentences and all the boring stuff they teach in English, or did … Anyway, I wrote an essay on the changing of the seasons. When it came time to hand it in, I could see her reading it and looking at me. She said, ‘Who wrote this for you?’ I replied, ‘I wrote it.’ She didn’t believe me, and I said that I would sit right down and write an essay in front of her while she waited. Well, Mrs. Baker realized I was telling the truth and she said, ‘I can’t believe it! All this time you cause nothing but trouble in my class and you are a writer.’”
What Mrs. Baker did next was a blessing for this fledgling writer. She made sure Goldfinger’s desk was at the front of the room and began giving him special assignments. She helped him get published in the Livingston High School paper, The Lance, as well as the high school poetry magazine. As Goldfinger points out, “I had always chosen a back seat in class so I could read or do what I wanted,” but Mrs. Baker changed all that.
Although Goldfinger has published many pieces of writing, most recently in Harvard Bookstore’s Mitochondria II anthology, he singles out Junkies, Angels, & Demons: Tales of the Troll as the creation he’s most proud of. He describes it as a book in which heroin addicts are the heroes, saying: “It has about 38 chapters and all of the chapters have been published in a variety of places, including Spare Change News.”
As a writer, Goldfinger is also a huge bookworm. If you’re ever looking for advice on reading material, you could do worse than asking him for some tips. He lists Jack Spicer, the poet Martin Espada, Stephen King, Paolo Bacigalupi, Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) and Neil Gaiman as among his favorite authors. And if you’re interested in a good book on homelessness, Goldfinger recommends Dire Means by Geoffrey Neil.
He says: “When I read that book, I actually remembered in my Spirit what it was like to be homeless. There is no glory in being homeless; the thought of it happening to me again just terrifies me. Being homeless was worse than being in prison. At least in prison there is a strange type of security that I would have trouble defining.”
Finally, Goldfinger tells me about his plans for the Spare Change News poetry anthology: “My plan … is to work with Lee Varon and make it the best poetry anthology we can possibly make it. Lee Varon is the lead editor for the book.”