Monday, August 25, 2014

Michigander Monday: Benjamin Landry

I'm pleased to welcome Benjamin Landry to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Benjamin, please tell us a little about yourself.

Benjamin:  I grew up in New England, the son of a registered nurse and a high school history teacher.  My brother and I were both Scouts, so we spent a lot of time swimming, sailing, fishing and camping.  I went to college at Brown University, where I met my future wife, Sara Schaff, in an English literature survey course.  We’re both writers and teachers, now, and we taught in the United States for four years before going abroad to teach in Bogotá, Colombia, and Beijing, China.  We landed back in the U.S. when Sara enrolled at the University of Michigan for graduate school.  In addition to writing poetry, I review poetry collections and keep an occasional blog on my website,

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Benjamin:  Particle and Wave is structured on the periodic table of elements.  It came to me as a happy accident while I was working as an administrative staff member for the University of Michigan College of Engineering.  Each day, I walked to my office through the long corridors of the engineering complex and passed research posters containing the elemental abbreviations for materials being used in laboratory experiments.  The symbols must have gotten under my skin because I began to sound them out as though they were phonemes.  These sounds led to memories, fantasies and associations that became poems.  So, the structure of Particle and Wave is more linguistic than chemical.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Benjamin:  I have a second manuscript, Mercies in the American Desart, which I am hoping to place in the near future.  ‘American Desart’ is a term Cotton Mather used to describe the wilds of New England, which he considered fraught with mortal—and moral—dangers.  The work is a send up of that idea, with some nods to Transcendentalist traditions.  But, really, there are all kinds of poems in the collection, including a section of poems in response to filmed movements.  I do have a third manuscript in the works, but I’m feeling a bit protective of it, at the moment…

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Benjamin:  I’ll be reading with Sara in Oberlin, Ohio, on September 24th.  It’s really exciting.  We’re often each other’s first reader, but we have never had the opportunity to juxtapose our work aloud in quite this way.  I hope there is a psychologist or two in the room who can give us some insight!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Benjamin:  Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor is my home base.  The owners, Hilary and Mike, could not have been more supportive in the launching of Particle and Wave.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Benjamin:  Sleeping Bear Dunes is tremendous.  Also, I've whiled away many perfect minutes floating in Pickerel Lake.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Benjamin:  Not an event, really, but my wife and I love Eastern Market in Detroit, as well as the DIA.  Closer to home, we have seen some wonderful theater and dance at the Power Center.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Benjamin:  I see that you have already interviewed Keith Taylor, and he should be at the top of everyone’s list.  He’s an accomplished poet, a generous teacher and just a nice person.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Benjamin:  Michigan sometimes thaws out nicely.  Also, don’t count out Detroit.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Benjamin:  Since I wasn't born in Michigan, my predilection should be considered with a grain of salt…but I definitely favor ‘Michigander.’

Debbie:  We'll add you to the Michigander column!  Benjamin, thank you for joining us for Michigander Monday!

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