BWW Interviews: Writer Ben Brindise
WRITER BEN BRINDISE
Ben Brindise is an award winning poet/writer who performs nationally and all over Buffalo and Canada.
MCL: Do you write prose or just poetry?
BB: I started writing fiction. I always wanted to be a novelist, but I started with short stories. It wasn't until I walked into Pure Ink two years ago that I ever considered writing poetry as well.
MCL: How did you get into poetry?
BB: A friend had just come back from New Orleans where he saw his first live poetry slam. When he came back, he searched and found Pure Ink here in Buffalo. He asked me to come with him and even though I had studied and grown an appreciation for the poetic movements in college, it was just... different. It was engaging and personal in a way it was hard for the page to match and I didn't think about it like a writer. I thought about it like a kid who just realized what a ball was for.
MCL: How did poetry slams come about?
BB: Poetry slams started in the 80's. However, how they came about is not nearly as important as why, so I'm going to redirect to that. At the time poetry features were exclusive. If you weren't "in the circle" than good luck getting a feature somewhere worthwhile or with any kind of audience. Also, readings were seen as formal affairs where the poet was the lecturer and the audience were their unobtrusive students. A poetry slam was created solely to break this structure. It was invented to create democratic environments where literally anyone could sign up to read. Didn't matter if you were a college professor, poet laureate, if you stumbled off the bus half drunk or any combination of the three, you could read. It was meant to create an inclusion of voices, not a silencing of them. It was meant to level the playing field. And of course, no one ever wants to get behind that.
MCL: What's the difference between poetry and poetry slam?
BB: What's the difference between dill and sweet pickles? Maybe that's not a good analogy. There is no difference. It's a misconception to think of "slam poetry" as a genre because "slam poetry" doesn't exist. A Poetry Slam isn't a type of poetry, it's the name of the competition. It's not Sports:Football. It's Football:Football Game. The people who participate in a Poetry Slam are just poets who write poetry. Some of those poems are able to be performed or would "do well" in a slam. Some of them wouldn't. The thing is, no one writes a poem with the competition in mind. Or, at least, they shouldn't. If they do it's comparable to writing fiction for the trend. If you do it people will know you're fake. They'll see right through you.
MCL: What makes a good slammer?
BB: Being a good poet helps. A lot. Outside of that there are things you can be aware of during a competition that will separate people who are basically the same at the top, but 'we do poetry for points, but the poetry is the point'. Meaning, winning a slam is arbitrary. You can have 23 slam titles. Who cares? Did you get better? Did you become a better writer, a better poet? If not, what did you really win?
MCL: Some poetry influences?
MCL: What is it about those poets you find interesting?
BB: Some people reading this will see those names and roll their eyes, but each of those writers did two things really well. They said a lot and sometimes in very few words. They were, or are, their messages.
MCL: Describe your poetry?
BB: What's the Buffalo, New York scene like?
I was new to it as of two years ago. I literally knew no one in the Buffalo literary community until I walked into Pure Ink in June of 2013. Two years later I get to represent Buffalo in Nationals, have been a part of a number of the biggest art festivals in Buffalo and get to play a large role in ELAB's City of Night this year. I say all that to illustrate my point: there is a ton of opportunity right now. You just have to show up and do the work.
MCL: Any local poets who helped you grow?
BB: Eddie Gomez, Solomon Dixon, Irving Finks, Brandon Williamson, Thomas Panzarella, Sam Ferrante and Bianca L. McGraw
MCL: What are ome of your favorite venues and why?
BB: The Gypsy Parlor is up there. It kind of became a home to poets. They opened their normal open mic to us, let us do the slam there. I have a lot of love for that place. A close second is Shea's Smith Theater. They took us on for Living Poet Society: One Year Anniversary and it was a huge success. They made it really easy for us to make the most of our event.
MCL: If you could go back in time and be a poet when would it be and why?
BB: I know it's a novelty question, but I don't like it. I think there's something really weird in fantasizing about being a different artist in a different context. You wouldn't be you. Also, everyone hates the time period they live in. The grass is always greener in someone else's time, as they say.
MCL: You recently won two Artvoice awards. Please tell us about them.
BB: Well, I won Best Local Writer and Best Poet, but... I don't know. It's done on votes, not quality of work. I'm not a super humble person, so when I say, "I think there are better writers and poets in the city" I'm not saying that to humble-brag or whatever weird term they use for passive-aggressively bragging, I'm just being honest. That being said, I got pretty drunk at the party and get to put those little labels on the resume, so that's cool.
MCL: Finally, promote yourself. What's going on in 2015/2016 for you?
BB: In the next couple months Pure Ink will be at the Elements Music Fest to support Hearts for the Homeless, we'll heavily involved in City of Night, we'll be at the Gypsy Parlor the second and fourth sunday of every month, as always and then we'll be heading to Oakland, Ca to represent Buffalo, NY in the National Poetry Slam (the first time Buffalo has qualified since 2008). Personally, I'll be teaching a poetry program at BASCS running from the last week of July through the first week of August. I'll also be out and about during Buffalo Infringement Festival. Because we're frequently adding dates and performances feel free to keep in touch with me:
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