Benjamin Niespodziany’s debut book of poems, No Farther Than the End of the Street, limits itself to scenes set within the space of a single block. It is equal parts domestic and dream, love letter and daily grief. In lieu of a traditional review, what follows is a “review” limiting itself to text contained in the book. It is meant to replicate the sensory experience of reading Niespodziany’s book for the first time. As such, it is not singular, but one snapshot among the many possible illustrations of the book’s emotional resonance.
Dreaming like a boat, I found pound cake in my mouth. Whenever I removed a slice, another took its place. I asked him over to talk.
He’s knocking on our door and holding a load of roses. His wife knocks on the door with even more flowers. Flowers in the wife’s pockets. Flowers in the wife’s hair. It’s late. I’m turning into glass. I let him step inside.
I hold my smile like a serpent squeeze. We approach the tallest cow we’ve ever seen. What is the meaning? We’re safe here, the fog in our mouths like ghosts.
The lung in my backpack is in my backpack because I need a third lung to breathe. I’m wishing in the well for a well whale.
From a cloud above, an angel and a piano fell. “I didn’t order this,” I tell him. The weather is a metaphor dreams refuse to explain. The sky with hundreds of balloons pleading for a hand. I loaded the flare gun and fired into the sky.
I’m meditating. Coughing wrongdoings. A camera crew is filming my internal concerns. Out crawled a sloth holding a doll.
The ghost doesn’t know us. We both noticed and wept. You held me how a giant might lullaby a lightbulb and everything breaks my heart.
I have asked Niespodziany to complete a centoview, and he has graciously agreed. Part-interview, part-poem, the centoview asks authors to answer a set of questions using only answers given in interviews by other artists. The aim is for accomplished artists to define their practice by or against the work of others. Without further ado, Benjamin Niespodziany’s centoview:
Please define your discipline/form/genre as you see fit.
I’m not a storyteller. I’m more an expresser. It’s only a language to open the unconscious. That is all. It’s to work with the dreams. Each art has its own rules and different forms, nothing more. All art consists of the same content—a human being expressing himself. The difference is only in the form, the content is all the same. All of my work consists of works of initiation. It’s the complete opposite of Shakespeare. Like cartoons, they can be anywhere and in any time and I like that very much, because if you are too close to reality from our time you lose the weight of the scenes very soon.
Theater is heroic. It disappears. I am often very jealous of painting. I’m trying to show we have to care for the little we have left. I want to show the vulnerability, and the weakness we carry. Existence is so rich and so full of surprising things, sad things and good things.
What’s beyond the end of the street?
I think they’re very interconnected, and you don’t know where one stops and the other begins. People want to understand everything, they even get angry if there’s not a clear plot. In a complex and troubling world, who wouldn’t want to simplify? Everybody does. Everybody wants to simplify and put up a picket fence. In this world I invented, it’s a way of telling the experience of a life without using a classical narrative.
Alternatively, What’s beyond the end of the street? A magic tree, inspired by one of my favorite fairy tales. The set is a garden, and there’s a pond. Maybe there are clouds painted, and then I walk about the garden and talk about the fables.
If your life were a silent film, what would be the score?
Your question makes me laugh. I think music is the most beautiful part of life. I hope to make a film one day that will be music.
If you pickpocketed a big top, how would you do it and what would you steal?
A music box that can only be locked from the inside, by the ballerina. Fragile little things. I brought a tiger, a monk, actors, all that. I connect with protagonists that are either ghosts, aliens, AI’s, holograms, or like Pinocchio. Rainbows, manic flowers, lightning bolts, angels, strange weather, and unicorns. It’s the loneliness. Real spiders came out there.
What do you think about most often?
Very few artists are good at talking about their work. I’m tired of all that now. You’re forced to become a businessman. Nowadays, I accept very few commissions for books and I can get up in the morning wondering what it is I am going to do next.
You put a small group of people in a hothouse situation and watch them react. We make observations about the way we live and organize our lives — and structure our societies — so what we like to do is push those situations to extremes in order to reveal the absurdity behind them, behind things that we consider normal in our everyday life. They get entangled, and they have to figure out how to get untangled, and while they’re doing that, they might be doing their lines, so the lines get distorted. It’s not you. And that’s why it works.
Please say goodbye as you see fit.
I’m not a messenger. It is sufficient for me if they have a good time. Even better is if they are still working on it afterwards. Someone says it’s so simple a kid would understand it, so bring your kid. And finally in the editing room we throw out a lot.
With lines and answers from Roy Andersson, Quentin Blake, Leos Carax, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Yorgos Lanthimos, Meg Lionel Murphy, Sophie Page, Gary Ross, Julio Torres, Alex van Warmerdam