The poet/publisher/semi-recluse B. Diehl sent me his latest poetry chapbook, Temporary Obscurity. In this interview, we discuss social media, the collaborative chapbook, and Indigent Press’s idiosyncratic business model. Diehl also talks about getting dumped, tweeting about cats, and avoiding Robert Frost.
What inspired you to write Temporary Obscurity?
Just so that my answer to this question makes sense, let me tell you a little about my background. At the end of 2012, I got dumped by a girl I was dating for almost 3 years. On Christmas Eve, I was driving home from a friend’s house. I hit some ice, and totaled my car. At this point, I was like, “Well, I’m single. The person I thought I’d end up marrying is gone. And I don’t even have a car now. What the fuck am I going to do with myself?” Well, what I ended up doing was becoming a reclusive bookworm. I discovered Charles Bukowski, and his stuff made me go insane in the best way possible. It made me want to write.
Flash-forward to mid-2015 –– I have a full-length poetry collection in the works and I’m shopping it around. (This collection is called Zeller’s Alley and I’m stoked to say it has been accepted by White Gorilla Press. It will be out later this year.) Basically, Temporary Obscurity was just me itching to release something. I was getting impatient. I had some poems that didn’t seem to fit into my full-length collection, so it just ending up making sense. Charles came to me with the opportunity, and we’re great friends now. We do reading together all the time.
How did you creative partnership with Charles Joseph develop?
It was actually pretty funny. Charles and I didn’t know each other at all. I was on Twitter one day, and he just randomly tweeted at me and was like, “Hey, man. We don’t know each other, and this is incredibly forward, but would you ever wanna do a split-chapbook with me?” And honestly, I was like, “No, but thanks. I have no idea who you are.”
What happened after that is Charles mailed me free copies of his first 2 chapbooks, which he published by himself using the name Indigent Press. The day I got them in the mail was the same day I hit him back up and said, “Dude, your chapbooks look legit as hell. And I love your writing. Shit, you wanna do a split-chapbook? Let’s do it!” And we did.
Tell me about Indigent Press? What are the challenges and rewards of publishing poetry chapbooks?
After Charles and I released Temporary Obscurity, we didn’t know if there would ever be another Indigent Press release or not. It wasn’t until we met Damian Rucci that the idea of publishing other people even came up. Damian is another Jersey poet who came out of nowhere. He reached out to both Charles and I on Twitter, and friendships were formed. He was one of the first people who ordered a copy of Temporary Obscurity –– and I remember that vividly because he ordered it at like 6:00 AM on the day it came out.
Damian has the passion, and his poetry is out of this world. So when Charles told me he wanted to publish Damian…and that he wanted me as an editor, of course I was all about it. (Damian’s chapbook is called A Symphony of Crows and it’s fucking perfect.) All three of us are a team now. Charles makes the big decisions, I’m the nit-picky editor with OCD, and Damian handles social media and also coordinates events. We’re a real chapbook press now and we’ll be publishing as many great poets as we can. We make absolutely no money from this. We do it for the love of it. Everyone we publish receives 100% of the money generated from selling their chapbooks. Crazy, right?
In your poems, you mention things like Tinder, OKCupid, and Twitter. What is your opinion on modern American culture and our obsession with social media?
I’m a complete social media addict. Sitting in a restaurant and trying to maintain a conversation with me must be the most irritating thing in the world. You could tell me you’re in love with me…and I probably won’t even hear you because I’ll be tweeting about cats or something irrelevant like that. Social media is the devil, but I also realize that there’s no escaping it –– not if you’re a writer/artist in this day and age. You could still do events, but how would people even know about the events if you aren’t posting about them on Facebook? This doesn’t explain why I tweet about cats in restaurants, though. I really have no explanation for that.
“True Humanity vs. The Information Age” – what inspired this poem? Is humanity being eroded by all the information available at our fingertips?
I wrote this poem after my cat disappeared for 3 days last year. I was so bummed, but in reality, I probably spent more time complaining about the situation on the Internet rather than actually looking for him. (He came back, though. He forgives me.)
I’d say humanity definitely is being eroded. Honestly, I feel like I could get hit by a car in front of someone, and that person would just Google “what to do when someone gets hit by a car” instead of just walking over and trying to help. I wish I could say I wouldn’t do the same thing in that situation, but I probably would. We’re all insane.
Why should people care about poetry?
People should care about poetry because poetry is in all things. It goes much deeper than the awful/rhyme-driven stuff you see on Tumblr, and also much deeper than those slam poems which contain the word “trauma” every 10 seconds. The day people are able to look at a pile of dog shit on the side of a road and think of it as “poetic” is the day people truly understand poetry. It’s everywhere, man.
Is “all art accidental”? Can you explain this in more detail?
If you asked Charles Joseph, he would probably say, “Yes.” In Temporary Obscurity, he was the one who wrote the line “all art is somewhat accidental.” As for me, I’m not sure. I think some of it is accidental and some of it isn’t. There are times when I treat a poem like it’s a math problem, and other times where I just rant in a Microsoft Word document and then suddenly realize I just wrote one of my best poems of my life.
What’s New Jersey like this time of year?
Too cold. As I type this in my bedroom, I’m wearing huge sweatpants and two pairs of thick socks. I have not left my house today. I didn’t even go outside to get the mail. I just want to bury myself beneath a mountain of cats and remain there until April or something.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring poets and writers?
Go to as many literary events as possible and never read Robert Frost.