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Author Spotlight: Oliver Baez Bendorf

Buy: Consider the Rooster by Oliver Baez Bendorf | Nightboat Books| September 10, 2024 |

ISBN: 9781643622385


What are some key themes present in your book?

Consider the Rooster explores nature, nurture, rebellion, and transformation within the context of queer ecological thought. It’s about searching for a sense of home and self in a fraught world, amidst the impacts of colonialism, capitalism, and transphobia. At the same time, I wanted to portray a vision where, despite systemic violence and environmental peril, joy persists… expression persists… care persists. The poems dwell in the interconnectedness of all living things, as a source of guidance and strength. They also navigate the necessity of resistance and the continuous path of becoming. I hope the book encourages readers to honor not only their own neighborhood rooster, but also the rooster within.

Can you describe the environment(s) where you wrote your book?

I wrote Consider the Rooster in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on the native land of the Potawatomi people. My writing environment included an ever-evolving garden, where I grew a wildflower meadow and kept chickens. The crowing of my pet rooster, Walter, woke something up in me, inspiring the book’s themes.

This period was also pandemic quarantine, widespread demonstrations against police brutality, and major societal upheaval. Complaints on the basis of the city's stringent grass height regulations and the rooster added to the tension. That summer of CantoMundo teach-in’s (virtual, of course) inspired me and raised my consciousness. These experiences, along with my academic work and the broader political dumpster fire, shaped what became this book’s awakening to alternatives.

Writing from that contentious yet blooming environment allowed me to go deeply into these questions of peace and belonging– who is permitted such things, and where, and at what (whose) cost? The book mirrors the perpetual motion that I’ve come to know as one characteristic of trans life under the United States now as we seek ever safer ground. 

What’s your favorite line(s) from your book?

Here are a few of my favorite lines:

  1. “When the song crashed into glass as invisible waves / at last I began to vibrate.”

(from “Becoming Particulate”)

  1. “I step out / to the deck in my trans masc robe / because in the end, no one will / remember. All that I’ve named / has a life outside of me.”

(from “All I Have is the Woods Inside My Head”)

  1. “Who reminds all in earshot that like it or not another day has come and gone.”

(from the title poem, “Consider the Rooster”)

  1. “I’m done being good!”

(from the poem “Michigan”)

Outside of writing, what are some of your passions or hobbies?

When I’m not writing, I love drawing, painting, playing basketball, watching basketball, talking about basketball, and doing jigsaw puzzles. I find solace and inspiration in colors, shapes, patterns, statistics, the stories behind statistics, making, and movement. Going for walks is another favorite activity, as it gets me fresh air and helps create a rhythm for things to happen. I also love catching up on the group chat with my coven. 

How did you get into writing? Can you pinpoint a memory where it all began for you?

Born and raised in Iowa City, it could be in the water. My parents brought my sister and I to the public library frequently, and I was allowed to check out as many books as I could personally carry. I clutched towering stacks of them, from comics to chapter books.

Also, I was a young keeper of sketchbooks, which taught me early the pleasure of keeping a notebook. I loved to draw, especially haunted houses. More than anything specific I drew, it was this practice of turning toward the page that began it for me. Reading was my other true friend. That and basketball. Have I changed at all?

I love rhythm and repetition on a visceral level. So, yes, poetry sings to me. Even now though, I go in and out of writing. Language sometimes moves away from me and comes back when it wants to. So it is almost like I’m beginning again all the time. 

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Have You Been Long Enough at Table by Leslie Sainz, which recently was awarded the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award. It’s an immersive, insightful exploration of what it means to be a Cuban American woman. As a collection of poems, it stands out for me because of its resonant voice and innovative forms. 

A few additional books I’ve been keeping nearby recently: Faltas by Cecilia Gentili, Poem Bitten By a Man by Brian Teare, Listen to the Golden Boomerang Return by CAConrad, Things You May Find Hidden In My Ear by Mosab Abu Toha, and Song of My Softening by Omotara James.

Do you have a new project that you’re working on? Could you tell us a bit about it?

I’m over the moon that Consider the Rooster is coming out this September. This book is an offering to the idea that we can transform the landscapes of our lives into the ones we dream about. I'm excited to learn about how readers connect with its poems.

Looking ahead, I’m working on a manuscript tentatively titled what to do w/ this freedom. This collection asks what it truly means to be free.


Oliver Baez Bendorf is the author of Consider the Rooster, forthcoming from Nightboat Books in September 2024, and two previous collections of poems: Advantages of Being Evergreen and The Spectral Wilderness. He has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Publishing Triangle, CantoMundo, Lambda Literary, Vermont Studio Center, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. His poems have been featured across various anthologies including Best American Poetry, Latino Poetry: A New Anthology, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Born and raised in Iowa, he now lives along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado.

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