BWW Interview: Writer Nathanael William Stolte

BWW Interview: Writer Nathanael William Stolte

Nathanael William Stolte is a madcap, DIY, Buffalo poet. His first chapbook "A Beggar's Book of Poems" published by LastFirstPress-PrintCollective came out in the summer of 2015. He has been a featured poet at Third Wednesday, ECC, and Buffalo State College. Also, in Cleveland, Ohio at Guide to Kulture Book Store. He is one of the founding members of Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective. CWPCollective Press is the kitchen table press he and the Cringers started this year. His second chapbook "Bumblebee Petting Zoo" and small collections of poems "9 By NWS" and "8 By NWS" were published this year (2016). He is currently working on a summer tour with the Cringers and John Dorsey, nine cities from New Jersey to New Mexico at the end of July. He travels to Kent and Cleveland Ohio for readings as well as Rochester New York. He hopes to expand to Syracuse New York and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. He describes his poetics as cathartic confessional or nostalgic reverie. He also co-hosts a monthly poetry circle at Rust Belt on Grant Street, every first Thursday of the month, always at 7pm.

Nathan was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

MCL: What area of Buffalo were you born?

NWS: I was born in Olean. About an hour and a half from Buffalo, as the crows fly.

MCL: Many artists are either really shy or really out going. Talk about what you were like growing up.

NWS: Growing up is a threadbare patchwork quilt of memories. I don't remember much of it. More like images and feelings. I am an emotional creature so maybe I have experienced life as a series of feelings as opposed to a series of memories. But I was neither a shy nor honest child. I would trick people and steal from the churches where my father was a minister. I've outgrown these for the most part.

MCL: When and how did Poetry come into your life?

NWS: I was turned off by poetry in primary and secondary school. It was all antiquated language and rigid form. I classified it away with things that didn't apply or appeal to me. At times I can be rather ignorant. I was in college at ECC City when Professor Schue read us poems by Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas. This stirred something deep in me and ignited the lighthouse of the spine. Later that year I was so emotionally broken, once again life had driven me to my knees for divine help. I sought comfort by pouring my secret heart on the page. It helped to excise the demons that were washing my life in duress. I shared the poem with Professor Schue and he said it was good. I took a creative writing class with him and that produced more poems. This was all at the end of 2014. I kept writing and ECC's Honors program afforded me a chance to put out my first chapbook. I got three college credits for my trouble. I delved into the arena of reading aloud in front of people. I have just enough ego to truly enjoy the cathartic exercise of speaking my soul in front of an audience. My friend John Dorsey (look up his poems, he is among my favorites) told me that a poet needs just enough ego not to kill themselves. I am still learning what this means.

Anyway, once I got a taste of poetry in all its splendor, I am hooked. Have poems, will travel.

MCL: You seem to have a good grasp on being comfortable in your own skin. Am I correct? If so, what's your secret? Many Poets are not.

NWS: I don't think it is a secret or something I could teach you. I used to live in fear and was inundated with angst. I almost died when a car hit me in 2011. I used to do the most dangerous drugs. Needles and stems, drowning in booze. I've been sober since 2009. I guess that when you have spent most of a lifetime dancing with bedevilments and come out the other side, people just don't seem as scary as they once were. I've been dead, what can you do to me? Hurt my pride? Good luck with that. I'm also a gregarious, social creature. I like people and attention. It's the Leo in me.

MCL: Have you ever written a Poem that made you step back and realize you do know how to write and you are going to keep writing?

NWS: In Beggars Book there is a poem called "Rant in the Key of Absurd." The first time I read it was at ECC South Campus when I opened for Cornelius Eady (another amazing poet). When I read it, I felt something. After the reading Cornelius came up to me and told me the poem was brilliant. I came home one night angry and finding fault with the world. The Rant poem just poured out of me. Another example is when I wrote "Spare the Rod, Spoil the Poem," I thought it was good, I read it at Lynn Ciesieski's Third Wednesday Series at The Screening Room. Again, I felt something when I read it. The people there that night seem to have felt something also, or at least some of them told me so. Spoil the Poem is in The Bumblebee book. So yes, I have felt, at times, that maybe I am not a bad poet and that perhaps I should keep going. I write for relief, so even if I only wrote crap poems I suppose I would keep pouring the trauma out.

MCL: Explain the feelings you get when someone tells you your Poem meant something to them.

NWS: Sometimes it is not easy to take a compliment. It always feels good to know that something in my experience and perception has an effect on someone. That kind of vindication is nice. I believe that poetry is spiritual in nature and if mine made an impression on someone that is better than any kind of publishing.

MCL: Who are your Poetry influences? Why?

NHS: Maj Ragain, John Dorsey, Noel Black, Dorianne Laux, Gregory Corso. There are many. The one thing they all have in common is they all speak the same language as me. By that I mean, they write poems that cut right to the marrow. We are of the same ilk.

MCL: Who's mentored you locally? There are many great Poets in Buffalo, New York.

NWS: In Buffalo, Mike Rio has been my greatest mentor. Lynn Ciesieski has been an amazing ally. I have been forming a friendship with Maj Ragain in Kent Ohio. I go see him about once a month and he has been a boon in my life.

MCL: At a recent reading you talked about a car accident you were involved in. You talked about how it changed you for the better. Please explain?

NWS: I mentioned that before. I was almost killed. I was nearly crippled. I was told I may never walk, yet today I dance the fools dance, I saunter and ambulate. My gait was not even noticeably changed by the pulverization of my tibia and fibula. This experience has helped me cultivate a deep gratitude for life, for breath. It is my belief that gratitude and anxiety are mutually exclusive. So, a grateful heart cannot be anxious. They simply cannot exist together. As Maj said in one of his poems, "I am learning to live a life of magnanimity, simplicity and trust." I too am learning this.

MCL: You have gone into the world of small press publishing. Please talk about the small press you are involved in. What's the ultimate goal?

NWS: Mistral, the Brains of CWPCollective Press, and the Brains of Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective saw what chapbooks are and decided that she could do that herself. She shared with Julio and myself this alchemy. We started making our own books. Recently, I have sat down with some other young poets who are interested in their own chapbooks. We have seven titles so far and are working a several more of our own and our friends, as I mentioned. Our goal is still being discovered, like any good artists, we are evolving. So far our mission has been to make poetry more accessible and approachable for younger people. There are many talented young people out there and the poetry scene can be intimidating and difficult to navigate. As you mentioned, not everyone is as comfortable in front of a crowd as I am. Ground and Sky (The Rust Belt monthly reading) is an answer to that. No mic, no list, no podium, no pressure. We are still hashing out the details of what it is that we are doing exactly at CWPCollective Press. I hope that we never get to a place where we think we have all the answers.

MCL: Nathan, you are a groovy dude. Yes. I am from the 60's!

We have reached the part of the interview where I say "Promote yourself"!

What's coming up? What do you want people to know about you?

NWS: We are doing a summer Tour this July. From NJ to NM. I am working on a new chapbook called "Fools Song", which should be done well before the July tour. We made an Etsy account that I frankly don't know much about, Misty is the Brain. I am the Face and Mouth of the Cringers. My strengths are in networking and people skills. We play to our strengths and rely on each other. Julio and Misty are my best friends, my editors, my sounding boards, my critics, my loves. I hope they know how much I value them.

For more information on Nathanael William Stolte:

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