Saturday, 7 December 2013

Interview with a Poet - Ben Ditmars.

I wanted to start with something about origins - what made you want to be a poet? Was it something you decided, or was it more something you sort of discovered about yourself?

I think it was something I discovered. I started out writing stories, and then poems that were a lot like stories. Eventually, I came across Frost and other poets, and decided that was something I really wanted to do.

And how long ago was that, roughly?

I was about 15 or 16 when I really got into poetry. I'd probably been writing stories since I was 8.

And Frost, that would be Robert Frost, right? Would you say he was a major influence?

Definitely. I think he was the first poet I really read besides Tolkien. His ideas seemed so true about nature, life, and where we end up. I memorized Nothing Gold Can Stay at one point.

Why that poem particularly?

I read it in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and there was a beautiful theme around that poem. Especially the line, "Stay gold, Ponyboy."

What were other influences on your work? Writers or life events?

I've always liked poets who made a strong point, or taught me something beautiful. Life can be hard to understand, and poetry helps. I think life events in general, being turned down by a girl, struggling to find myself in the world, losing my grandma and grandpa... all these things I think about on a daily basis.

That's very true. Do you find it makes a difference also to people that you meet? For instance, were you mocked as a young boy for writing poetry? I can imagine that happening at schools I went to.

I was never mocked, actually. I think everyone has been supportive for the most part. They seem to enjoy stories more, however. I think it matters so much as sparking their interest in the art of poetry. People's conceptions of it can be that it's beyond them, or should rhyme, or should be very structured.

Is there one overall message that you would say your poetry carries?

I think there are many messages. I'd like to think more of broad themes such as love, understanding, and expressing things that cannot be easily be said in structured sentences.
I think it's the difference between telling something and showing it. You can explain something clearly and it can elude me, but if you put into words, metaphors, and emotions, it really is clear.

And have you a particular favourite among all the poems you've written?

There are some poems I've not shared yet with anyone that I feel really say something about myself. Metaphors and emotions I get when I reflect on where I am. Want me to share one?

Yes indeed! That would be super if you wouldn't mind.

Dark Hearts
I feel our dark hearts
 shadow night stars
easing desperation
with cool sweat
in the magic air
between us.

Exhale the Dawn
Exhale the dawn
Breathe crimson sky into the night
Transform the stars and melt the moon
Bleed life into a sleeping earth;
Our bed becomes the galaxy.

Those are beautiful, thank you so much for choosing to share them for the first time on my blog!

No problem. I'm really glad for the opportunity.

Now, Ben, you've been a major contributor to the Quillective Project, would you like to tell my readers a bit about that?

I would! The Quillective Project is an anthology of poetry I created with Amber Norrgard, Scott Morgan, and Rob Zimmermann, with a lot of promotional help from Kriss Morton. Each year we plan to help fund a different charity. This year, contributions went to a no-kill animal shelter in Dallas called Dog & Kitty City. It's very near to my heart, as the idea of shelters taking in animals and killing them has appalled me for a very long time. To know there is an alternative to something so senseless is an amazing thing.

Is there anything else you'd like to say before we close?

I'd like to thank you for the interview. I love the chance to get a few poems out there, talk about writing, and how it can help others; especially those with no voice to help themselves.

Well there you have it, readers! Ben Ditmars - poet, animal activist and all-around nice guy. A true man of our times. And if you'd like to support the Quillective Project, you can buy the book here.

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