LUNA NEGRA GETS THE ANSWERS TO A FEW QUESTIONS ABOUT OLIVER BENDORF
Oliver Bendorf was born in Iowa City. He received an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin and currently lives in Madison. His poems have appeared in Blackbird, Indiana Review, jubilat, Ninth Letter, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere, and anthologized in Best New Poets and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. He has received fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Lambda Literary Foundation.
What Was It Like To Create Your First Published Book?
I Didn’t Know I Was Writing A Book, I Was Just Writing One Poem After The Other And It Turned Out To Be A Book. It Didn’t Seem Like A Book To Me Right Away And It Still Doesn’t In Some Ways, Even Though It Obviously Is! I Don’t Mean To Keep Evacuating It Of Meaning, But It’s A Hard Question To Answer. I Wrote Most Of The Book In Bed During Miserable Wisconsin Weather. Some Beautiful Weather, Too.
What Advice Do You Have For Young/Beginning Writers?
I Think That We Are All Young/Beginning Writers If We Are Doing It Right. Mainly What My Students And I Talk About (In My Current Writing About Color Class) Is How We All Think That We Are Either Too Weird Or Too Boring To Write About Our Lives, But We Just Throw That Out The Window And Write Anyway. And Write The Things That Feel Alive. Someone Else Out There Will Always Be Writing More Than You, Getting Published Sooner Than You, Having More Outward Signs Of Success And Recognition-- But Someone Else Will Always Be Writing Less Than You, Too. It Doesn’t Matter. Just Work Hard.
What Is Your Creative Process/ Do You Find That Doodling/Drawing/Painting Enhances Your Work/Writing Process?
I Don’t Have A Lot Of Free Time So I Have Had To Get Better At Working In Small Pockets Of Time. Even Though I Like To Bike To Work When The Weather Is Nice, Sometimes I’ll Take The Bus And Bring My Composition Notebook And Travel Paints And Do A Quick Self-Portrait. Usually Because I’ve Rushed Out Of The House Without Looking In The Mirror So I Draw Myself Instead, To See Myself For The Day. Sometimes I Just Ink It On The Bus And Paint It Later, But Sometimes I’ll Have Enough Time To Paint It On The Bus As Well. Also The Other Day I Somehow Had Eleven Student Conferences In A Row And I Worked On A Poem In The Few Minutes Between Conferences. Sometimes When I Feel Stuck, I Write In My Composition Notebook Left-Handed, Which I Did Out Of Necessity Last Summer After I Broke My Right Hand, But Which I Now Do Sometimes Just To Slow Things Down. I Like To Work Late At Night As Well Although I Require More Sleep Than I Used To.
What Do You Love Most About Being A Writer?
Wild Card-If You Were Given A Cameo On A Season Of Lost And Were Trapped On A Freakish Island And Couldn’t Bring Any Poetry Writing Tools (Chapbooks, Pencils, Paper, Coffee) With You, What Would You Bring?
A Hat, A Hammock, And One Of Those Machines That Makes Seltzer Water.
Here In Kent, It Snows A Lot. Do You Find That The Wintery Landscape Of Wisconsin Helps You To Focus On Your Writing? Or Do You Go Out And Make Snow Angels?
My Boundaries With The Winter Landscape Are Rather Porous. Last Year For Example I Was Obsessed With The Ice. There Is A Kind Of North Woods Suffering In The Winter (For Me Anyway) That Creeps Into My Poems. I Do Like To Ice Skate. Last Year I Got A Pair Of Used Ice Skates Which Meant That I Could Skate At Night, After The Rental Lodge Closed. They Light The Ice Up And It’s Gorgeous. I Haven’t Skated Yet This Year And I’m Not Sure Why. If You’re A Person With Depression, Winter Is Mostly A Closing In Of How You Feel Already: Grey, Dark, Everything Is Difficult. But There Is Some Comfort In That Too. This Year I Am Trying Out One Of Those Mood Lights And It’s Awesome.
You’re Also Teaching Poetry At The University Of Wisconsin-Madison. Has Teaching Changed Your Perspective As A Writer Or Your Approach To Writing?
I Love To Teach. I Have Taught Creative Writing And First-Year Composition At UW-Madison. Last Fall, My Composition Class Was Called Writing About Color. We’ve Been Talking About Race And Art And Media And Practicing Research And Drafting And It Forces Me To Remember. I Tell My Students All The Time To Write What Feels Alive And It’s A Good Reminder For Me As Well. It’s Hard To Forget When I Say It 3x A Week With Them. So, I Try To Follow My Own Advice.