Poetry and Prose: Interview with Writer Ben Nardolilli


Author Ben Nardolilli has appeared in numerous publications, including Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, The Northampton Review, Local Train Magazine, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. Residing in New York, Ben has dabbled in acting, and is attempting to have his novels published. Ben recently discussed his career via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in writing and do you gravitate towards any particular genre?

Ben Nardolilli (BN): I’ve always been interested in telling stories for as long as I can remember. They involved toys I had, computer games I was playing, and TV shows and movies I watched. Eventually the stories in my head made their way to paper here and there. A book I had about the lives of famous authors probably also inspired me. It at least showed what a career in writing might look like, with alcohol, opium, and consumption, et. all. I was also interested in history as a child, which made me interested in alternative histories. I don’t gravitate towards any particular genre writing, as much as the distinction means anything. Some of my shorter work has elements of science fiction and speculative fiction in it.

MM: What books have you written and what are they about?

BN: My main published book is a chapbook called “Common Symptoms of an Enduring Chill Explained” from Folded Word. It is a collection of poems inspired by a job that involved reading medical encyclopedias. There was a work I put out with Walter Ruhlmann of mgv2>publishing with my poems and some friends of mine in it too. I’ve been in some collections and anthologies, but that’s it.
As for my unpublished works, oh boy. I’ve got novels up whatever a wazoo is. By and large they are part of an extended universe I call “the Human Sitcom.” The main characters are based on aspects of my personality, but broken up to emphasize different parts of it. Certain situations with them have been changed, such as age, sex, religion, and residence. Hence the situational aspect to the works. Yet they keep repeating certain parts of my own journey and thoughts through life around the turn (we’re still at the turn, right?) of the millennium. In addition to them, there are characters which they themselves have dreamed up. That is why I liken the whole unfolding process to creating fractals of myself. There are also works based on minor characters who get their own novels, short stories, and poems. In a sense these are “spin-offs” hence the use of the term “sitcom” to describe it all.

MM: How are you going about looking for a publisher?

BN: Occasionally, when I’m feeling adventurous, I send out a thing or two to an agent. I’ve put out enough poetry that I should probably collect it and send it to a press. I was about to jump start all this by going to an MFA program this fall, but that fell through. So now I’m thinking of just Xeroxing things and sliding them surreptitiously onto the shelves of bookstores.

MM: How do other aspects of your life—like your childhood and day job—influence you creatively, if at all?

BN: A lot of my jobs have exposed me to different kinds of texts which I wouldn’t normally read in my personal life. Legalese and that sort of thing. It’s made its way into my poetry especially. For instance, I wrote a series of prose poems using the language of criminal indictments and trials. Some of the poems have appeared online. The droning nature of office work has been referenced in many of my prose works, and strangely enough it can inspire the creative process. In a roundabout way, of course. Things are so dull the mind wanders to make the waking life interesting, leading to new ideas for poems, stories, even whole novels…when I’m lucky.

MM: You’ve also had experience as an actor, so how did that come about?

BN: Well, my experience is pretty much limited to high school theatrics. I took drama for four years and did two years of technical theater, though most of my time there was spent doing office work. It was a premonition of things to come, I guess. The office work, not the stage time. I enjoyed my time in the theater world immensely and even wrote a one-person show about the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I do believe that it helped me appreciate poetry more. It’s just a short step from the speech on the stage to the dramatic monologue on the page.

MM: How have you been keeping yourself entertained during the coronavirus lockdown?

BN: I’ve been working from home, so that takes up a large bulk of the time. There’s been reading, writing, some dancing, and listening to podcasts in the meantime. During the peak of quarantine, I wrote a novel about Reconstruction.

What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

BN: Publish, publish, publish. Follow me at my blog: https://mirrorsponge.blogspot.com/