#56. Noah Falck

Noah Falck is an author, poet, and educator. He was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, and attended the University of Dayton. He is the author of the poetry collection Snowmen Losing Weight as well as several chapbooks including Celebrity Dream Poems, Life As A Crossword Puzzle, and Measuring Tape for the Midwest. He has received fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, The Ohio State University, and Antioch Writers’ Workshop. His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Poets.org, and has been anthologized in Poem-A-Day 365 Poems for Every Occasion (Abrams Books, 2015). For ten years, he taught elementary school and currently spends his summers mentoring young writers as a faculty member in the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. Now living in Buffalo, New York, he works as Education Director at Just Buffalo Literary Center and curates the Silo City Reading Series, a multimedia poetry series in a 130-foot abandoned grain elevator.

How did you get to where you are today?

I am originally from Dayton, Ohio, a small city in the southwestern part of the state. As a child, I remember wanting to be Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson at the same time. I spent most of high school in high tops on sports fields or on basketball courts using the mechanics of my body. I went to college at the University of Dayton and studied Education and English. In college, I took a part time job working at a child care center, and spent most of the days reading Charles Simic and William Carlos Williams poems to three and four-year-olds to lull them off to sleep during nap time. It was around this time that I became fascinated with language, and specifically the inventiveness of poetry. When I graduated college I took a teaching job in the Cincinnati Public Schools, and later at Northridge Schools back in Dayton. I earned my master’s degree in literacy and my reading and writing classrooms became laboratories of language experimentation. I found poetry to be the only genre that all students, no matter the reading level, could find success. Somewhere along the way, I discovered Just Buffalo Literary Center and found the work they were doing to be extraordinary. It mirrored a lot of what I was doing in my classroom. I was blown away at the fact that they were using creative writing as the core principle of growth, community, and education.

Several years later, I married a girl from Buffalo and Just Buffalo Literary Center had a job opening for the Education Director position. I was hired in the summer of 2012, and immediately immersed myself in the vibrant arts community of Buffalo.

What is the Silo Reading Series?  How did it get started?

Just Buffalo’s Silo City Reading Series is a summer multidisciplinary series, which includes musical acts, visual art installations, and poetry. Its goal is to bring together the best of Buffalo’s arts and cultural community to interact with some of the most dynamic poets from Buffalo and beyond.

The series began in May of 2013, unintentionally when my friend and poet Joe Hall asked if I could help organize a release party for his book The Devotional Poems. Around that time, I meet Rick Smith and “Swannie” Jim Watkins. “Swannie” shared with me the story of the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko who visited the silos and was so taken with the sound and the space that he broke into a poem. It’s the sort of space that will inspire such an act.

I asked Rick and Jim if we could hold the book release party in the Perot Grain Elevator. Rick was very gracious and excited to have poetry in the silos. We later added the band Ahavaraba and hung the stunning silo photographs of Thomas Bittner. Though we only had around 25 – 30 people at that first event, it felt like a huge success. Since that first reading, we’ve done three events each summer. The series currently attracts between 100 – 120 people per event.

photos courtesy of Noah Falck

How do you find your artists?

Because Buffalo is basically a community of artists and writers, it hasn’t been too difficult to find amazing local talent to fill the silos. As far as finding the visiting poets, I do my best to read what is being published today and stay open to the necessary new voices reshaping the poetry landscape, and bring them to Buffalo. We’ve been very fortunate to host some of the most exciting poets writing today including Natalie Shaperio, Ocean Vuong, and on Saturday, July 22, Morgan Parker. I should also mention that I receive a tremendous amount of support from everyone at Just Buffalo and my friend Kevin Cain, who helps curate most of the musical acts.

Why the silos/ what is it about the silos venue that pairs well with this event?

What makes the silos such a perfect venue is a combination of many things. It is the sound, the natural reverb of the voice, of the music echoing. It’s the attention you must pay as both a performer and an audience member. It’s a place that captures the history and the architecture of Buffalo. It’s the overwhelming size of the silos and the feeling you get when you sit down and let a poem or a song reverberate through you. It’s all these things and the people who are there sharing this experience.

What can the community do to help out this project?

We invite the community to come out to a Silo City Reading and decide in person if poetry, music, and art can play a more active role in their lives. On a broader sense, support the literary arts, read more books. Literature can help you slow down and appreciate your life in new ways.

What do you enjoy /what do you find unique about Buffalo?

The people. Specifically, the musicians, the artists, and the poets. How the entire community gives off that energy of purpose.

What do you think Buffalo needs to work on?

Diversity and inclusion. At the same time, working with the young people at the Just Buffalo Writing Center, a free after school creative writing hub, I’ve observed that the next generation of Buffalo artists and writers seem to be all about inclusion and diversity. So there’s hope.

What would you tell a younger version of yourself?

In terms of writing advice, which I always need, I would tell my younger self to enjoy the struggle, it’s really all there is.

Nominations for future Y!B features:

  • Brian Pawloski
  • “Swannie” Jim Watkins
  • Barrett Gordan
  • Robin Jordan

What do you think?

Written by Beth Insalaco
Beth is co-founder of Yeah! Buffalo and owner of Beth Insalaco Photography. Instagram: @bethinsalaco