Wednesday, May 26, 2010

6 questions with Lauren Bender

1) When did it occur to you as a budding poet that you felt compelled to be more “performative” than others?

I don't think I ever thought to be more of something than someone else. Part of it was probably insecurity in my writing as just writing. Also, I didn't start writing creatively until I was out of college. I was a painter, and was seeing a lot of "performance art" work, and so I don't think it was possible for me to move in a binary way from a completely visual world to a completely verbal one. I had tried to work text into painting but felt disappointed and limited probably by virtue of the object. It made more intuitive sense in my mind to "perform" a text--I think there's more subtlety to be explored there--than to be an illustrator.

2) Who were your influences as you started to write?

My influences were my friends! I started going to readings not knowing anyone, but then little by little I found myself amongst some amazing artists and writers. Here are some names of folks who were instrumental in me feeling more comfortable and finding my way: Justin Sirois, Aaron Cohick, Rupert Wondolowski, Ric Royer. Now there are so many more, which is great.

3) It seems that you make a point of avoiding the traditional “coffeehouse and bookstore” reading circuits, any validity to that? If so, why?

Validity to your question, or to my avoidance? There is probably more validity to your question. I'm actually at a point with my work where I'm trying to reconcile this intentional obscurity, or conceptual veiling, in a way, with unencumbered appreciation for overtly traditional forms. I'll let you know how that works out. In the meantime, I see any reading as a performance (how can it not be)--and I don't mean that in an "all the world's a stage" way, I mean it in a "there is so much tension" way--so to not comment on that by reading in a more performative way and add some context seems like it's missing something to me. That said, there is something comforting or maybe just necessary in bringing it all the way back around to a straight-up reading, in terms of ultimately subverting my own personal...stuff.

4) How has Baltimore itself affected your development as an artist? (Support systems, interesting artists, etc.)

Baltimore is so great. Of course, I have no context--I've lived here all of my adult life. But when I travel and meet other artists and writers, I realize how lucky I am. I think Baltimore's scene is at a really interesting place--so much truly interdisciplinary and collaborative work, so much crossover between little pockets and hives of people making interesting things. I think the artistic culture here has really allowed me to explore in a more profoundly fun way than I might have elsewhere.

5) To you, what is “the ideal audience”?

I've never really thought about that. I like a reactive audience, a human audience. I don't like forced collaboration, and it's really difficult to ask your audience to participate. There's always this imposition. Conceptually I get it but it hardly ever works well. I like an audience of like-minded folks but realize that this is somewhat unhealthy and incestuous, but it kind of goes back to #3, above (feeling out of place or misunderstood, or like a weirdo). The ideal audience realizes their fundamental necessity, and is critical, and forgiving. They are there with me.

6) Can you name the book of poetry that have graced your bookshelf the longest?

Leaves of Grass, probably. To be honest, I really don't read a lot of poetry. I've been working on that reconciliation thing (again, #3) and so have been reading Walden for the past couple of weeks.

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