Mini-Interview with Benjamin Niespodziany

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write flash once the poem begins to grow arms and legs. Almost all of my first drafts are done in lined stanzas, and if I feel like there’s more to be said and I need to expand the story or mold a proper narrative, I’ll form paragraphs and run with it. That being said, I always keep it brief. It’s rare that I write something more than 500 words and my comfort zone is 200-300 words. I suppose the divider between prose poetry and microfiction and flash within my writing is less like caution tape and more like a fishing line dropped in a swampy bathtub.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

My lifejacket is a deflating air mattress blown up with internal rhyme and tongue twisters. I love creating pieces around how words sound: like a piece I’m working on called ‘The Indelible Relative’ or another called ‘The Kenosha Poet’. From there, after my mattress has deflated or exploded with words that curtsy in a hearse, and once I begin sinking to the bottom of the sea, I start to (briefly, spastically) pay attention to character and plot.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Very quick and very messy. I write 5-15 tiny pieces every day, most of which I never revisit or revitalize. At the end of every month, with about 250 pieces in the vault, I skim through all of them and print out 25 or so pieces and fine tune them with a hypercritical pen. Then I edit the pieces back into a Word doc and proceed to touch them up 1-10 more times before reluctantly submitting.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Working at a library! Not only do I imagine what would happen if someone walked in with a licensed therapy snake, or if someone pulled back a book and unearthed a hidden dungeon, but I also check out (and read) numerous books a week. My library has 4.5 million books and a percentage of those are always found resting by my desk, helping me when I hit a speedbump or crash into a thick brick wall. I’m also inspired/influenced by visual artists (via Behance or Instagram) and surreal films (watch everything by Alex van Warmerdam).  

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

The list would be endless! Okay, instead of mentioning members of the community we all vacate (hi, Cathy Ulrich and Noa Sivan), I’d rather mention those I’ve discovered elsewhere. The short stories of Sabrina Orah Mark and Jen George, for example. Seriously, go read Wild Milk and The Babysitter at Rest. The fairy tales of Kate Bernheimer, for example. Amelia Gray! Also, I know it’s not flash, but please read the new novel by Sarah Rose Etter. She has a great short story collection Tongue Party if you want something briefer, but her debut novel is flash-esque and works so well in short spurts and compact fragments. It’s also devastatingly relentless. Ten thumbs up.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I wrote a piece about ‘Dr. Sky’ in the Spring issue of Gone Lawn that I really enjoy. It’s one of the earlier pieces in my manuscript-in-progress, and while I’ve tinkered with it a bit (with an updated ending), I really like the version over at Gone Lawn. Much love to them.

Bio: Benjamin Niespodziany has had work published in Fairy Tale Review, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and a batch of other ‘reviews’. Originally from Mishawaka, Indiana, he now works in a library in Chicago and runs the multimedia art site [neonpajamas].

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