"The mind won't hold certain facts, not willingly, & all my life I've tracked their disappearance, swept out of view in folded waves," wrote poet Ben Friedlander in the epigraph to his 1991 collection "Time Rations"(O Books). About the slim volume of post-Cold War lyrics written by the son of a Nazi death camp survivor who remade himself in America into a leading historian of the Holocaust, poet Susan Howe wrote: "Ben Friedlander remembers what wounds of World War he was born after. Days can't cover words at the fact gate. Lines to the end of myth begin at the middle. This is intelligent, passionate writing. The poems in 'Time Rations' are fragments, splinters, and pilgrim staves."
Friedlander, who Robert Creeley once wrote, "speaks with a survivor's humor and ungainsayable clarity of what we had thought to forget," returns to Buffalo to read from his work tonight at the Western New York Book Arts Center, 468 Washington St. (near Mohawk St.) as the featured guest of Just Buffalo's BIG NIGHT series. The program begins at 8 p.m. General admission is $5, $4 for students, Just Buffalo members, and members of Just Buffalo's affiliate organizations.
An important contributor to the Buffalo poetry scene in the 1990's , Friedlander was born in New Orleans in 1959 to parents who were both educators: his mother, an elementary school teacher and his father, a college professor and historian. He was raised in Ontario, Missouri and New Your City, where he completed high school.
Following graduation he moved to California, where he lived in the San Francisco Bay area for fifteen years, acquiring his B.A. and M.A. in English from UC-Berkeley while immersing himself through his work as a poet, editor and scholar in the San Francisco Poetry community. Among his principal achievements of this era was his edition of a volume of Larry Eigner’s critical prose, "Areas Lights Heights: Writings 1954-1989" (Roof Books).
In 1992, he moved back east to enter the Poetics Program at the University at Buffalo, where he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Emily Dickinson and the Civil War, became a pioneer in various early digital and web-based writing experiments that are widely viewed as precursors to Conceptual Writing and Flarf, and collaborated with legendary New American Poetry editor Donald Allen on an annotated edition of "Charles Olson's Collected Prose" published by the University of California Press in 1997.
In 1999, Friedlander joined the English Department of the University of Maine-Orono, where he is now an Assistant Professor and serves as a member of the editorial collective of the National Poetry Foundation. He is the author of over a dozen books of poems including “The Missing Occasion of Saying Yes: Poems 1984-1994 (Subpress Collective, 2007) and “A Knot Is Not a Tangle” (Krupskaya Press, 2000). His critical and scholarly works include “Simulcast: Four Experiments in Criticism” (U of Alabama Press, 2004) and “The Selected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-2005” (U of California Press, 2005), which he co-edited. His ongoing book-length poem "One Hundred Etudes" continues in progress.
Joining Friedlander on the BIG NIGHT program are Tammy McGovern, a Buffalo-based artist working in film, electronic and digital art, and interactive media, and singer-songwriter and guitarist Erin Verhoef, a co-host of readings and performances at Rust Belt Books. As with all BIG NIGHT events, the culinary creations of BlazeVox Books publisher and gourmet chef Geoffrey Gatza will be a focal point of the festivities.