Thursday, October 09, 2008

Reader Meet Author

David E. Oprava

"My words are not meat. I am a literary vegan. And, it scares me." ~ from "Modern Blues"

They wouldn't call them creative outlets if they weren't vents, but there are moments when they are more freeing then others. It's that moment when you have poured everything, every ache, every joy, every tear into a poem or song or painting, and you look down and realize how simple and magical the whole process was. It all seemed to click while still expressing so clearly your soul, your sadness, your essence, the valve was opened. That is the essence of creativity and art, releasing your demons, your desires, the thoughts you may not speak, upon a blank page or canvas. This is also why the act of sharing your work can be so conflicting, and praise so rewarding.

Poet David E. Oprava knows these feelings well, and as he releases his first full-length collection and shares his struggle with the world he is beginning to understand on a whole new level. VS. (Ebracce Press) is a series of poems focusing on life's journey through love, sadness, regret, war, and adventure. David's outlook on the world he is experiencing is raw yet maturing as he continues to search. He is searching for answers, security, love, and a some sense of understanding and purpose. Until he finds all of this (until we all find this), he continues to dig, to vent, to release words, and fight for it all.

Recently, David was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): VS. is your first collection. What can you tell us about this group of poems as a whole?
David E. Oprava (DO): VS. is pretty much summed up by the title. Most of the poems are about struggling with oneself and the places we find ourselves, mostly through decisions we have made and circumstances we couldn’t anticipate. It is also a collection about everyone’s vices, and sometimes virtues. These poems are often times expressions of what I am dealing with in life in general. I mean, the human condition is a pretty shabby state of affairs most of the time. Whenever I write a blurb to send off to editors, I always say, “I write, because I have to. I am scared of what will happen otherwise.” This is very true. I am scared of what will happen. I spent the first thirty-plus years of my life not writing enough and as a result, I was backing myself into a very small dark hole. These poems are me clawing my way out one verse at a time. When I write, that’s when the light comes on.

OA: You open the collection with a near epic poem told from the casket. In a way you begin with the ending. How did you selection the order of things for VS.?
DO: The order was based more on feeling rather than rationale. I like the poem Segue that opens the collection, it is about as close as I have ever come to a magnum opus and it is a good introduction to me as a person. It is a very personal piece and whilst mostly autobiographical, I think it has a feel to which many people can relate. It’s honest, if not tinged with a bit of hyperbolic conceit (I am not dead, yet). The poems that follow it are a trip up and down various styles, techniques, moods, and realities in everyday life. I chose poems that I hope will grab the attention of a wide variety of readers with the ultimate goal of engendering some form of empathy. Otherwise, what the hell is poetry for? I mean, if I had my God-complex way in this life, I would ultimately turn people on to poetry as something accessible, real, and so damn relevant. If you are ever truly, in every sense of the word, alone, read a good poem and you will realize that someone out there, at some point, was in the same damn place as you. That’s what I am reaching for.

OA: You painted the image for the cover yourself, and the title of the piece is "Flesh Bottle Bukowski". In fact, the main contributors of the "Beat Generation" have all appeared in your paintings. How did you first get into painting? Would you say the Beat Poets have influenced your work as a poet and an artist?
DO: For me, painting, just like writing, is a vent. It is what I do because it keeps me sane, gives me a sense of being, and lets me know what I am here for. I could point to my parents as artists, which they are, but I don’t think it came from them in a nurture-kind-of-way. Maybe more so on the nature side. Probably for the better, I don’t have any formal art training, so they are what they are. As for the Beats, their poetry was the first verse that actually made sense to me. So much classical poetry hurts my head and leaves me not feeling anything but frustrated. Ginsberg, Corso, and especially Burroughs all made me feel something. It is from that root that I took my cue. To make people feel was the key. In some of my poems I emulate their style, but that is constantly evolving. As life keeps beating my panels, so will it shape my poems until they look nothing like anything but my own, I suppose.

OA: Poet Justin Hyde has a poem called "i know it's been said, but don't show your poems to your wife". Reading through VS. this poem came to mind mainly because of your subject matter. Do you show your wife your work?
DO: My wife is an amazing mom and spends most of her energy making sure our kids don’t end up like me. If she had time, she would read them. There are a lot of references to a “wife” in my poems and they don’t always necessarily mean my wife in particular. Actually, most of the time they don’t. Reading back through there are two poems where I can imagine people saying, Jesus, I hope to hell she doesn’t read THAT. To put some perspective on it, my observations are about our interactions with other people in general, especially the ones we are really close to, or even scarier, ones we have willingly bound ourselves to. I like to use the analogy that letting yourself love someone is like strapping yourself to a chainsaw. Sometimes it ends in tears. I write what I have to write. She knows me and my hope is that readers will think, yes, I know that feeling, that could just as well be me, and not necessarily take the words literally. If I impart that, then I am happy. Mind you, not a phrase I use lightly.

OA: Why do you chose to live abroad? What is your perspective on the current state of affairs here in the US?
DO: I first moved abroad when I was eighteen, because I had this conviction that life needed living beyond everything I was supposed to be. This led to numerous sojourns in various different countries and stints at a variety of universities, which royally screwed my chances of ever getting a proper job. One look at my resume and employers thought, this guy can’t sit still. They were right. Oh well, it happens. But I think I have always looked at America as a two-headed beast. On the one hand there is the ideal, and on the other, the reality. I can’t always cope with the reality, and although I fervently believe in the ideal, not seeing it in action is sanity-destroying. So being abroad gives me perspective and lets me breathe. As to the current state of affairs, my first Master’s degree was in Politics. So, I am optimistically pessimistic about the fortunes of the US. Empires fall, just depends on when. I hope that people will come to their senses and elect the right person who then will do the right things to bring this avalanche of poor policy under control. Who knows though, it might be too much for one person, let alone a nation, to handle. And I am not even sure what the right thing is anymore. I just know the wrong thing and tend to see it most everywhere. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, because whatever happens in the US, happens to everyone else on the planet in some shape or form, whether we like it or not.

OA: What's next for David E. Oprava?
DO: Tomorrow, the next day, and so it goes. I have an art show opening and two book launches coming up, one in New York and one in the UK. The New York one is pretty exciting. It’s on Nov. 13th at the Cornelia Street Café in the Village. Come to think of it, the UK one on Nov. 20th at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea will be exciting too. After that, I have some readings in various places as far away as Prague and I am also almost done with a second collection of poems which should come out next year. But, in the mean time, I aim to try and do what I do, be a husband, dad, and battle with all my usual mortal foes, idealism, sobriety, etc...

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, where can you find the best cup in your area?
DO: Living in the UK, coffee is not a traditional delicacy. In fact, it has only been the last five years that Great Britain has been invaded by all the usual Seattle monsters. Here in Cardiff there is a little café called Garlands that has good coffee, as well as good Welsh food, and is pretty much the only place in town that offers free refills. It’s where I go when I am not busy mainlining the stuff at home.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy, and who are a few of your favorites?
DO: I have become more and more picky about music over the years. Whereas I used to listen to almost anything and look for merit in it, well, almost anything, now I listen to what I need to listen to at the time. Depends on the hangover, but if one were to put it in a spectrum, I suppose the Pixies would be at one end, the late-great all-time-favorite Minnesota band Trip Shakespeare in the middle, and Billy Bragg at the other end. Scattered in between would be Metallica, the Grateful Dead, Weezer, Bob Dylan, Dinosaur Jr., Greg Brown, and Everclear, on a good day.

For more information on David E. Oprava please visit his website.


CHARLAX said...

Vegans and Vegaterians

Vegans and Vegaterians
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Half-baked lies and friendly flies , is what most poor people eat.
Lemon drops and candy and choclate kisses aer too sweet.
Eye eat MEAT.I like the burgers AND the dogs,
sandwiches of all kinds , but BEEF is best for me.
Chicken I have found elimanates from me,
I place it on the ground,when eye am early bound for the Bus Sun Tran.
The Chicken finds no place in me.
It does not slide away; but drops from me almost perfectly,
in the form of one hard cylinder.
My brother always tells me , Chicken would be the main course
iff he could have chicken every day.
He is still a villager.
I was never guilty of being part of my own family,
whatever I had always belonged to me myself and eye,
and now yew tew.
Eye have to feed all four of me.
It takes a lot of meat,and sometimes a little bread instead,
to feed the whole of me.
Eye am dead.
That death is certain eye no longer fear.
My own destruction will just aid me in my journey to the Heaven.
Simple minds aer best,and ladies finery aer best,
carrotts and celery and spinach is best,
and corn and beans is the best substitute for the meat.
Daniel in the Lions Den,was eating PUCE , a vegetable.
He was a Vegan disdaining the King`s venison.
He could not and would not face corruption.
Astounded by the Revelation , the Book Of Daniel tells
of nations , torn asunder by the sword,
plundered by the soldiers eating meat.
Not the Vegans or the Vegaterians.
Non-pulsed is what I am when I am eating meat.
Daniel of the Bible is a Vegan to all the Vegaterians.
They have no meat , and no corruption.

stevefinbow said...

Nailed it, mate... Onward... Oh, and it's 13 beers next time and JR' s coming...

Bill S. said...

David E. Oprava also appears in the forthcoming Kendra Steiner Editions anthology chapbook
KSE LAST POEMS, available 15 November 2008, along with Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal, Edward Churchouse, Glenn W. Cooper, Aleathia Drehmer, Dorothea Grossman, Melissa Hansen, Jack Henry, Adrian Manning, and Ryan Smith.