Poet and former Madisonian Oliver Baez Bendorf reads from a new collection, "Advantages Of Being Evergreen." Info
Poet Oliver Baez Bendorf's new book, Advantages Of Being Evergreen, often places the reader in lush corners of the natural world, using their fertility, beauty, and even their menace to talk about the transformation of the human body and the perils of navigating the world as a queer person. This set of compact but structurally complex poems consistently evokes the feeling of a journey—through wild landscapes, to places of refuge, through evolving understandings of the self, and, in a few interludes titled "Breath I," through alphabetically sequenced barrages of words, disorienting but dense with interplay.
Many of the poems in Advantages refer to a river, which might have a few different meanings but always creates powerful imagery: "What I want from the river is what I always want: / to be held by a stronger thing that, in the end, chooses mercy," Bendorf writes at the show-stopping conclusion of the poem "Who Spit Into The Pumpkin, Who They Waiting For." Bendorf often overtly references his own experiences as a transgender man, weaving together actual physical change with explorations of shifting identities and a gathering sense of resolve. "Because we've known / ourselves as throwaways/ already, we do not dispose," he writes in "After A While, We Stop Asking." Bendorf, currently a professor at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, finished the book while studying at UW-Madison's Institute for Creative Writing and working at Everyday Gay Holiday, a short-lived but vital studio space on Atwood Avenue. He visits here to share poems from Advantages. UW-Madison art history professor Jennifer Nelson will also be reading at this event, from a new poetry collection titled Civilization Makes Me Lonely. —Scott Gordon