B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collection Zeller’s Alley (White Gorilla Press, 2016). His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, FLAPPERHOUSE, Words Dance, and other venues. When he is not writing, you can usually find him at home, hanging out with his cats and/or feeding his social media addiction.
Hi B., how does it feel to be March’s Poet of the Month at Cultured Vultures? It feels nice! I wanted to submit a request to be Poet of the Month last year, but I kept on forgetting. I have the memory of something that definitely isn’t an elephant. I like Cultured Vultures a lot.
Can you tell us some more about yourself and what poetry means to you? My name is Brandon Diehl. Most people know that, but I felt like I should mention it. When I decided to go super public with my poetry in 2014, I opted to use “B. Diehl” because I wanted people to know who I was, but at the same time I didn’t want to make it too easy for my at-the-time boss to find me and be weirded out. (Especially since I wrote a lot of negative shit about my workplace back then, haha.) Anyway…the name stuck.
I was born in Phillipsburg, NJ…and I still live there. I was diagnosed with major depression and social anxiety when I was 12, so music and literature became part of my coping mechanisms. Instead of people, all my best friends were punk-rock records and angst-filled novels. I was the vocalist of several bands that went nowhere, and I was obsessed with journaling. I liked pouring my emotions into lyrics, and I liked documenting everything that happened in my life. I had (and still have) a somewhat-irrational fear that my experiences will ultimately be pointless unless I write them down. (I don’t recommend this way of thinking to anyone. It’s unhealthy and stupid, but at least it keeps me writing.)
In my early 20s, I got tired of trying to find committed musicians, and I turned to poetry. Poetry just seemed like the perfect way to blend music –– well, lyricism –– with literature in general. I knew I wanted to be a poet before I even started reading poetry.
And what does poetry mean to me? It seems hard to answer this in words that haven’t been said a million times, but I’ll try. Poetry is why I’m still alive. When something horrible happens to me and I feel like life isn’t worth living anymore, I’ll always say, “Well, shit…at least I can write a cool poem about this.” I don’t necessarily believe in fate or that “good things come from bad things,” but I do believe in taking what’s ugly and crafting it into something beautiful. Plus, for the small but loyal fan base I have –– I like to think I’m inspiring them, or, at the very least, giving them stuff to read when they’re bored.
Is there a particular theme or style you stick to most with your poetry? I really like writing narrative poetry, but sometimes I’ll take more of a lyrical approach…or land somewhere in the middle. Narrative poetry definitely does not translate very when you’re reading it to an audience –– definitely not the way most slam poetry does –– but I don’t mind. I’m far more interested in the literary aspect of poetry. The performance aspect is secondary –– or maybe it’s just not an aspect at all for me. I don’t think about it much.
What’s the best poem you think you’ve written and why? (post below or link to it) The best poem I’ve written is probably something no one has seen yet. I’m in a weird limbo right now where I have way more than enough poetry for a second full-length book, but I’m not sure how I want to go about releasing it yet. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my poem, “LOCKPICK.” This is one of my favorites because it has my signature over-the-top angst and also my gallows humor. This is usually the poem I show people when they want to “see what kind of poet I am.”
And the worst? Are there any you look back on and they make you wince? Oh, absolutely. I had this weird one about Holden Caulfield slitting his wrist in my backyard. I had this other one about my cat standing up on two legs and having a conversation with me. I made most of the unbearable poems disappear, though. Like I said, I knew I wanted to be a poet before I even started reading poetry, so…my first attempts at poems were horrendous. The more poetry I read, the better I got. That’s usually how it works. I’m still reading and still getting better.
Do you have any advice for new poets? Try not to use too many clichés or abstractions. Experiment, though. And be persistent. Don’t let people tell you how to be. But if you don’t have the drive to keep writing and keep submitting despite rejection after rejection (and unreasonable criticism once you get bigger), stop writing poetry and do something else.
Where should we be searching to find out more about poetry? Are there any groups or websites we should be aware of? Dig deep into the world of underground poetry. Check out indie magazines like HOBART and FLAPPERHOUSE. For a live experience…come to New Jersey and go to Damian Rucci’s POETRY IN THE PORT. You won’t regret it.
Any other poets we should be looking at? I’d be here all week if I were to list all of them, but…lately I’ve been reading William Taylor Jr., John Dorsey, Justin Booth, and Heather Bell. Check ‘em out.
And finally, what’s your favorite poem? “LOVE IS A DOG FROM HELL” by Charles Bukowski. Yes, I know…Bukowski was a piece of shit. Dope writer, though.