POET INTERVIEW – BENJAMIN THOMAS
One of our favorite Bloomers has somehow avoided being interviewed, until now. We all know Benjamin Thomas as a prolific poet and encourager extraordinaire. It delights me to no end to finally get to chat with this handsome gentleman. Welcome, Benjamin!
Let’s start with a very different and fun question. They say you can learn a lot about someone by what is in their refrigerator. Go peek in there, tell me what you find, and write me a short poem about what you would do with it.
BENJAMIN: Plain yogurt, blueberries, soy milk, walnuts, honey etc. just to name a few. Hmmmm … yummy huh?
THE KERNEL OF MEMake me a blueberry of bite size insignificant hue Or an extract of soy essence of the bean digested by you If perhaps unpalatable plain yogurt, I’d be sweetened by you Or if a walnut retained whole, please, crack me all the way through Unto the incredible edible kernel of me
Copyright © 2014 Benjamin Thomas
MARIE ELENA: Now THAT is creative word cooking! Maybe “they” should change the saying to, “You can learn a lot about someone by what they WRITE about what is in their refrigerator.” I can also tell much about someone by learning what their favorite quote is. Do you have a favorite?
BENJAMIN: I don’t have a favorite quote, but I love a good one. None come to mind honestly. Whoops. One just came to mind. “Why do we work so much, and pray so little, when we can accomplish much more by prayer than by our work?” ~ Watchman Nee
MARIE ELENA: Wow. Watchman Nee … a long-past favorite of mine. I haven’t heard his name in so long. Yes, that is a great quote! I do believe God desires us to use the skills and talents He gave us, and to work hard at what we do. Colossians 3:23 comes to mind: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Or perhaps not “hard,” but “enthusiastically?” And certainly pray, pray, pray.
BENJAMIN: I appreciate this quote so much. To me it speaks volumes. I’m often reminded of it. Simply put, it’s work versus prayer. Many times we are “unturned cakes.” Work-centered and no prayer. Or all prayer and no work. But the fruit of the quote is this: “we can accomplish much more by our prayer.” Today, I don’t trust in anything I can do. Except by prayer. It’s not that we pray until our knees are bleeding. But dependence on the Lord is key. Profound.
MARIE ELENA: Profound indeed, my friend. Now, when did you begin writing poetry, and what (or whom) prompted you to do so?
BENJAMIN: I began writing poetry in the fall of 1995 many, many moons ago. Although I did write a very short story about a mosquito named Stanley when I was in high school. But my first stab at poetry wasn’t until 1995. The experience that caused me to write poetry was a dynamic spiritual salvation. Quite difficult to put into words what actually happened to me. But in all simplicity, I accepted Christ into my life. I dare not say that poetry was my gift. I just needed a medium to express what I was experiencing. Something that was very difficult to articulate with words. I’m not preaching, but just stating the facts of what happened to me. This seemed to open the door as far as poetry and writing goes. I probably wrote around 20-25 poems in this time period.
MARIE ELENA: Benjamin, you KNOW I love that answer. You and I share the same faith.
How much time do you spend writing, generally speaking? And how much time do you typically spend on any given poem?
BENJAMIN: Hmmmm … this varies greatly. This I love. I love to sit and ponder over words, or things that seem to spark the muse. If I’m in the habit of writing, it could be several hours per week easily. If I’m in a “funk,” like I am right now, I’ll spend very little time writing – maybe 1-2 hours per week. It all depends on the day and inspiration. Sometimes I can whip a poem out very quickly 5-20 minutes (probably not a good one 😉 ), but usually average about 30-45 minutes to hours at a time. I have spent hours writing one poem before, if I feel like it’s not gelling very well.
MARIE ELENA: Please share with us one of your favorites.
BENJAMIN: This poem is not truly my “favorite.” I don’t have a favorite poem overall, and honestly, I hate picking my own poems for anything. But if I had to pick one I’d pick Old man Jack. The reason why I chose this particular poem is that I think it best describes me as a writer/poet wannabe. Unfortunately, I’m very subjective, and there are many things I can’t utter audibly, but have the potential to become “audible” in poetry.
OLD MAN JACKOld man Jack lays his toil to rest settles his troubles then expands his chest and sprays his thought in muse secluded away happily simmering in the wayward back country tucked astray in his haggard old shack set in ruins His vibrant old mind still a little cracked but keen as a whip thwarts the decay nagging atrophy encompassing him He sits in silence basked in solitude with pen in hand mortar in the other builds his peace letters his soul to the wind pens his pain commands the ink then and again imports his joy in prose to the page flows his sorrow runs his rage in verse whether blessing or curse until the end when heart runs dry the ink subsides and his old story is finished Copyright © 2014 Benjamin Thomas
MARIE ELENA: A temperamental, thought-provoking piece. The lack of punctuation and line-break choices creatively carry the reader through the old man’s methods and moods. Well done, Benjamin.
I have to admit that I had a difficult time choosing one of my favorites of yours. There are so many over the course of our interactions that I admire. I finally decided on one of your newer poems, Lesson two: Principles for Your Journey. You may already know that I am drawn to poems that pack a punch in few words. Principles wholly fits the bill. I stand in awe of the wisdom of your words, presented in a manner that is proverb-worthy, in my opinion.
Principles for Your JourneyTake two grains of salt for your journey. The first, is for dealing with untruths. And the second, is to preserve the real McCoy.
Copyright © 2014 Benjamin Thomas
MARIE ELENA: If you could read only the works of one writer, who would you choose?
BENJAMIN: Yikes, another tough question. That’s a hard one, because I don’t have a favorite poet or author. Nor did I grow up reading classics and novels like most. I read the incredible Hulk and the X-Men. But if I had to pick one … maybe George Lucas? (Star Wars). I love science fiction and the whole Star Wars series. That could keep me entertained for a long time!
MARIE ELENA: So I understand you are a physical therapist. What made you decide on that career choice?
BENJAMIN: I am good friends with a physician who helped steer me into the medical field when I most needed direction. Started taking classes and loved the science behind everything. The human body is awesome!!
MARIE ELENA: Cool. How long have you been in this field?
BENJAMIN: I’ve been in the field about thirteen years now.
MARIE ELENA: What do you most like about it, and what do you least like?
BENJAMIN: What I like the most is working together with people. Helping them and enjoying the social interaction. Whether co-workers, family members or patients. Especially the one-on-one interaction. What I like the LEAST, is all the paperwork that comes with it. UGH.
MARIE ELENA: Generally speaking, Benjamin, is there anything you struggle with?
BENJAMIN: Yes, there’s always something isn’t there? I wouldn’t be truly human otherwise. Although I’d love to be a cyborg of some sort. At times perhaps, without emotion. A mass of stoic steel would be my suit. Just give me a cool weapon…anyhow…sigh…My struggle is low self-esteem, confidence, timidity, clumsiness. Need I continue? Which I believe are all related. I utterly hate them, but they have helped me depend on the Lord for his rich, ABOUNDING grace! In today’s world, who really needs God? So I guess you could say low self-esteem. I’ve realized somewhat recently that I don’t need HIGH self-esteem either! I NEED CHRIST!! I need MORE Christ-esteem.
MARIE ELENA: “Christ-esteem.” I love it. Absolutely love it. I have to tell you, it strikes me so strange how it seems to be the sweetest, most talented people who struggle in this area of their lives. Can you tell me why this is a problem for you?
BENJAMIN: Well, I didn’t realize that I had low self-esteem until late in life. Just within the last couple of years even. This I believe, stems from my childhood and how I was raised. My parents divorced when I was too young to remember. So I grew up with a single mother struggling to raise two boys on her own. She was very strict, but there was one particular instance, where she went too far and lost her temper. I’ll spare you the details. But this would have a profound effect on me later in life. My older brother also would fight every day (or he beat me up every day). But I would try to heckle him in retaliation. Looking back, this is the root of fruit of my low self-esteem. I love my mother and brother and have zero problem with them. That’s just how the cookie crumbled if you follow me. Much later in life, I realized even somewhat recently, that I don’t need HIGH self-esteem. In all simplicity I just need the Lord. I don’t need anything of myself to make ME feel better about myself. What has helped me the most is enjoying Christ and realizing that he is with me like two conjoined twins are united as one. I’m not preaching. This is my experience and ever growing deep realization.
MARIE ELENA: Benjamin, I have to tell you … I have had a great deal of respect for you simply from getting an idea of who you are through your poetry and comments online. But now? Now my respect has increased greatly. I’m so, so sorry for what you have been through, and I’m impressed with your reaction to it all. You amaze me. Truly. Are you that forgiving in general? Or is this capacity for forgiveness specific to them because they are family?
BENJAMIN: Well I don’t know honestly. I’m no superhero, I’m just a very simple person.
MARIE ELENA: Simple and humble. Can’t beat that, Benjamin. Okay then, since you are obviously uncomfortable bragging about yourself, go ahead and brag about your family. 😉
BENJAMIN: I love my family. My wife and I have been married for seven years. We met at a bible school in California, but our relationship didn’t start until we saw each other again in Virginia and while she was residing in Connecticut I swept her off her feet to Ohio! Whew-hew!!!! She was born in Malaysia. Lived in India for 11 years with her grandparents then moved to Philadelphia with her mother in high school. We have two little wonderful whippin’ tornadoes that keep us busy. Benjamin and Timothy. Benjamin is serious like his mother. Timothy is goofy and laid back like his poppy.
MARIE ELENA: Your wife is from Malaysia, and you are black. Those boys of yours must be handsome beyond belief, I’m guessing. I wish you could share a photo of the family, but I understand and respect your reservations.
Do you have any pets?
BENJAMIN: We don’t have any pets. But the closest is a gigantic spider I found hanging out in my front yard one startling evening (this is by far, the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in my life). I’ve only seen him once (that was enough). I’ve named him Fred ever since (yes, we’re on a first name basis). But I honestly hope I never see him again.
MARIE ELENA: *shudder* I’ve heard there is a spider in Ohio that is the size of a human palm. I never want to meet one.
If there was only one thing about yourself that you could share with us, what would you want us to know?
BENJAMIN: I LOVE TO BE CREATIVE!!!!! This is the root of why I write. The bare bones behind the skin. The possibilities are endless!!! I’ll insert a short poem here from the April PAD to demonstrate: All poetry is POSSIBLE.The potential energy exists deep within. It becomes kinetic, ravenous, as you move your pen.
Creativity and the love of language are my two feet. Spoken and the largely unspoken aspects of language that sometimes that seem to go unnoticed. Facial expression, idioms, intonation, sayings, phrases, quirks – you name it. That’s why I like to compose poetry. This seems to billow over into other areas such as photography and music compilation. Music wise, you can check out my other blog at www.brickheadindustries.wordpress.com. There’s a little bit of everything over there. Reggae, Classical, 70’s funk, Latino, Hip hop, R&B, Club/dance, Jazz, Relaxation, Rock (let me know if you have a request). Fun, fun, fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In addition, more of Benjamin’s poetry may be found at his poetry blog, Poetry Shack.