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The City and the Writer: In Buffalo with Noah Falck

By Nathalie Handal

If each city is like a game of chess, the day when I have learned the rules, I shall finally possess my empire, even if I shall never succeed in knowing all the cities it contains.

                              —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities


Can you describe the mood of Buffalo as you feel/see it?

Buffalo is a city bubbling with possibility and wonder. On most days, there is an electricity in the air, a constant thrum coming from every corner cafe, tavern, and bodega. The skyline is crowded with cranes, and every other city block there is some sort of rehabilitation project taking place. There are freshly painted bicycle lanes running throughout the city and people reclaiming the waterfront. The mood of the city is inviting and infectious.

What is your most heartbreaking memory in this city?

Though I’ve only been in Buffalo for three years, what is most heartbreaking about this city is the decision to replace Humboldt Parkway with a highway. From what I have read and what friends have told me, Humboldt Parkway was one of the most beautiful, grand streets in all of Buffalo. It saddens me to think that this tree-lined parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted was destroyed for the automobile and suburban lifestyle.

What is the most extraordinary detail, one that goes unnoticed by most, of the city?

There is so much to do here in the winter. I know most people instantly equate Buffalo with blizzards, and mountains of snowfall, and sure it snows here, but by no means do the people just hole up and disappear for three to four months. There are snow festivals, art crawls, and/or poetry readings almost every other night. The people of Buffalo are a hearty bunch, and some of the most positive, generous people I have ever met.

What writer(s) from here should we read?

There are too many amazing writers in Buffalo to mention, and a literary history so rich it could fill up most personal libraries. But three of my favorite writers living in the city today are Sherry Robbins, Joe Hall, and Rachael Katz.

Is there a place here you return to often?

The place I return to most often in Buffalo is Silo City, a cluster of abandoned grain elevators that tower over the Buffalo River. There is something awe-inspiring and downright magical about these decaying megaliths. These photographs by Catherine Linder Spencer are stunning, but I don’t think it is possible to capture Silo City’s size and feel in a photograph. These concrete cathedrals need to be experienced in person.

Is there an iconic literary place we should know?

Everyone should know about Just Buffalo Literary Center, a literary non-profit organization that is celebrating fortyy years of creating and strengthening Buffalo through the literary arts. It is the one organization in Buffalo that puts literature and poetry front and center. It hosts readings by both local and emerging writers, and brings to Buffalo writers of international acclaim. It puts writers in the schools and last year opened a free after-school writing center for teenagers. It also provides an ongoing literary events calendar to showcase the vibrant literary scene.

Are there hidden cities within this city that have intrigued or seduced you?

There is a rich community of artists who inhabit Buffalo. Everywhere you turn in this city you will notice a new art installation or gallery show opening or some sort of collaborative event. I love learning more about these micro-communities of artists and musicians, and being seduced by their creations.

Where does passion live here?

Passion lives inside the artists and musicians who continue to create and participate with wild abandonment—inside the nonprofit organizations that support and fuel the next generation of artists and citizens—inside the neighbors who continue to put their money where their mouths are in moving to the city and rehabilitating the once grand old neighborhoods that make up Buffalo.

What is the title of one of your works about Buffalo and what inspired it exactly?

“January in a Jar” is a poem I wrote this summer. The title is a riff off a text message sent to me from my friend and poet Joe Hall, who was inviting me to write water poems with him and his wife, poet Cheryl Quimba. He was referencing a snowball he had kept in his freezer since last January. It made me think of Buffalo, and how brutal it can be in the winter, but also how stunning and magical the landscapes can be. It inspired me to write a sort of love poem about this place that I now call home.

Inspired by Carlo Levi, “Outside Buffalo does an outside exist?”

There is an outside of Buffalo, but it is definitely not the suburban sprawl. 


Noah Falck is the author of Snowmen Losing Weight (BatCat Press, 2012), and several chapbooks including Celebrity Dream Poems (Poor Claudia, 2013) and Life As A Crossword Puzzle (Open Thread, 2009). His work has appeared in Boston Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Conduit, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, and, among others. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, he now lives in Buffalo, New York where he works as Education Director at Just Buffalo Literary Center and curates the Silo City Reading Series.

Published Jan 20, 2016   Copyright 2016 Nathalie Handal

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