Bensko won awards such as Cezanne’s
Carrot’s, twice, Iowa Journal of Literary Studies and Academy of
American Poet’s Award, plus a nomination for the Pushcart
Prize. She teaches Experimental Fiction writing through
with Tantra Bensko
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Tantra Bensko: I'm pretty prolific, sporadically,
so this chapbook, Watching
the Windows Sleep, doesn't represent the full lot of what
I have. The oldest one one in it I wrote probably 20 years ago.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
always planned on collecting
my short stories, and these are all part of a full length manuscript
called Lucid Membrane.
Most of the stories in that collection are published, and I have
another one as well, very different, which also has most of the stories
published, called Free
Range Mystery Spot. However, I've decided to turn that one
into a novel, as it's all chronological, following the life of one
While I didn't picture a chapbook so much, when writing the stories, I
had the full length one in mind, though, most definitely. I'm going for
an effect that is cumulative, and I feel in some ways, the chapbook may
accomplish that more succinctly, and cohesively than the full length
book, without distractions from the core Lucid Fiction vision. That has
to do with sabotaging the plot arc, expanding the idea of what a person
is, and thus a character, and at times, covering topics that are
considered taboo to talk about because of the trickery mass media is
using to create illusions about our world.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
TB: I looked at Lucid
picked ones that would be easy to understand in terms of Lucid Fiction,
which explored consciousness on many layers, and also, ones which would
not be offensive to people in rural Alabama, where I am living
currently. I started with a mystical poem, and all through it, I
included some of my art to highlight that feeling.
Then, the first story I chose to let people enjoy themselves right off
the bat, and it's a complex concept of lucid windows, which it deals
with, but the story is fun, has had great success at readings, so the
liveliness of absurdity of it I figured could make friends. Then, the
stories that ask a little more of the reader, to expand into different
levels of the self, to relax into the interconnectedness.
So, I included next a Magical Realist story as that may be
style to people, and then went from there into others that I hope
readers have been prepared for by that point, moving into Theta
brain-waves. The ending is with a poem again, to form a closure, and as
the first poem is about opening, the last one is about enclosing. There
is a kind of beginning and ending with silence that those poems create.
So the non manifest is represented as is the manifest which pulses out
does the word "story"
mean to you?
Excellent question for
me, as I like to redefine that term. Personally, I feel our society is
a little addicted to the traditional story's plot arc based on rising
tension due to a problem, which creates an adrenalin rush in the
reader. So, I like to write stories, and articles, that question the
necessity of that for us to be entertained. We tell each other stories
in real life, anecdotes about things that happened that can be fun,
inspiring, bizarre, but don't have to have that dramatic conflict for
us to enjoy them.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
So, I feel we've been told short stories need them, but they don't. And
I think we're healthier to have some stories out there which don't have
them. I do write some stories with terrible conflict, and others that
have nothing of the kind. The progression in the story may be about the
character getting AWAY from such things, into silence.
I like to move out of linearity, so may describe a character's life
that is more like a hive of multiple lives from parallel to past to
levels of the self. I may tell a story in concentric circles. Or a
fountaining up into the airy realms that aren't so concerned with the
limited viewpoint of mundane reality, but which have a broader
I do write them to be read, and often, am inspired by a particular
magazine as an audience. In general, I'm writing for an obscure, small
set of readers who aren't fulfilled by mainstream fiction, who like it
to share more of the aspects of poetry, with motifs layering, echoing,
deepening. People who like foreign art movies by Jodorowsky, Guy
Madden, The Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer, or Sergei Paradjanov. People
very often say my art and writing remind me of those directors. People
who get a delicious sensation when reading about concepts based on New
Physics. I guess I write for magazine editors, as they are so
enthusiastic about my stories; normal life doesn't often bring many of
us into face to face contact with many people who read Experimental
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
it put you in an altered state
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
It's touching, when they do. It
really means a lot to me when anyone reads my work, any time. And I
have a lot of respect for my readers, as they are a kind of elite bunch
who care about the trends of Experimental Fiction, what new directions
we can push our visions of reality into, exploring consciousness
through breaking out of the default ways of approaching it. Of course,
some of my work is just plain fun, playful whimsy, rollicking
adventures, or realistic portrayals of 3D events. But this particular
little book emphasizes the more spiritual expansion inherent in Lucid
Fiction, looking at multiple layers of lives at once, or a relationship
between humans and stones, sharing love together.
What are you working on now?
TB: I'm writing a third collection, am
already well into it, and that has happened quickly, as I'm writing
every day. The stories are similar in many ways to the ones in this
chapbook, Watching the
Windows Sleep. You will find a lot of elements of New Wave
Fabulism and Absurdism. You could call it --- fun with loss and
isolation. They are like dreams I induce while awake, all coming from a
deep level of myself that presents the motifs from the beginning of the
stories, without me knowing what I'm going to write. It's like in
dreams, when the beginning sets up the ending, in some brilliant way
our conscious mind wouldn't necessarily be able to manage.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
in the Dark
by Calvino was the last one, and though I read others by him too
recently, I'll include the two others I read last instead for variety.
I also read Miracle Boy
by Pinkney Benedict, and Flash Fiction.