Please enjoy this overview of Oliver Baez Bendorf's work. Here you will find biographical information, links to poems and interviews, and writing prompts for you to explore.
Oliver Baez Bendorf was born in raised in Iowa and later moved to Wisconsin where he acquired his MFA in Poetry and MA in Library & Information from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Bendorf now lives in Michigan where he works as an assistant professor of creative writing at Kalamazoo College. In 2013 Bendorf published his debut full-length poetry collection titled The Spectral Wilderness (Kent State University Press), which was selected by Mark Doty for that year’s Stan and Wick Poetry Prize. In 2018 Bendorf published his second collection of poetry titled Advantages of Being Evergreen (Cleveland State University Poetry Center). Bendorf is the recipient of many awards and accolades including a fellowship with CantoMundo, the 2016 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, and the 2020 Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award. Much of Bendorf’s work deals with the experiences of being queer and trans while making his readers feel as if they are taking a long walk beside him.
POEMS & PROMPTS
What still grows in winter?
Fingernails of witches and femmes,
green moss on river rocks,
lit with secrets…I let myself
go near the river but not
the railroad: this is my bargain.
Water boils in a kettle in the woods
and I can hear the train grow louder
but I also can’t, you know?
Prompt: What, in your life, home, community, and/or inner world is evergreen? Can you answer the author’s question “what still grows in winter?”
And I think he must be drunk, from the sweet way he.
Brother. I think about his XX all the time. It’s like a joke,
that we’ll start dreaming of men once we. My favorite
version is the one where we. We ate citrus on river rock
while others swam out. Stern lady cop found us out-of-
towners naked, our clothes scattered around pine root.
Dampened for days. But he. Inclination surges
through window screen – that wind, you’d think
we’d found ourselves in beach town.
Prompt: In this poem Bendorf leaves a lot to the imagination by ending sentences abruptly and prematurely. Write a poem that says more with less. Alternatively, write a poem finishing Bendorf’s sentences.
Moon river, swollen river, river of starhole
and bright, harness river, lichen river,
river we velvet with our filth.
River of butter and river of witches, river
cracked open careful like egg, or burst
apart, unleashing its violet load.
River mouths, river beds, every back
forty creek, every crick, made of
trickles, made of synth, river of sound
as vibration, river where we all get free.
Prompt: Pick a word, as Bendorf has chosen “river,” then write a repetitive poem, using your word to form a rhythm.
It’s true that I’m im-
patient under affliction. So?
Most of what the dead can
do is difficult to carry. As for
gender I can’t explain it
any more than a poem: there
was an instinct, I followed
it. A song. A bell. I saw
deer tracks in the snow. Little
Prompt: Try your hand at writing a ghazal that exemplifies how you see yourself.