OPPERTOBER: Festivities with the Pumpkin King: An Interview with K. A. Opperman

Greetings from the Ether,

To conclude our series with K. A. Opperman, we had the honor to interview the young, prolific poet. We delve into his collection (find the link below!), his writing process, and his love for the festive season. Find this interview, and the review of Opperman’s collection in the next issue of the magazine, releasing on the 1st of November! Pre-order it while you can!

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

crimson tome
The Crimson Tome by K. A. Opperman

CP: You are the devilish fiend responsible for G&H’s interest in poetry, and you’re the first poet we ever published. We had a conversation back before Hinnom 005 about poetry and how a lot of publishers seem to neglect this field of literature. Can you delve into this a bit for our readers? How important is poetry in the grand scheme of things?

KA: Poetry is an incredibly important literary mode, and one that is unjustly neglected. The first literature was poetry, and it may be that poetry will be the last. Much of the greatest writing ever set to parchment by humankind is poetry. I think a lot of readers eschew poetry because they think it is “difficult” or “boring” to read—a problem which I believe stems from how it is taught (if at all) in the school system. Students, as was my experience, are really not shown anything very cool—save, perhaps, for the works of Poe—and then they go on thinking that all poetry is a bunch of dusty love sonnets, or a load of absurdly abstract confessional nonsense. I am here to show you that that is not true. I am here to show you how very damn cool poetry can be, and is. When you realize that poetry can be about literally anything—vampires, monsters, pumpkins—that is when the fun can begin. . .

 

CP: The Crimson Tome is one of the most unique pieces of work I’ve ever read. Throughout the collection, it was so interesting to me how it was almost an amalgamation of every aspect of Halloween imaginable, while also being a sincere, honest inspection of your own heart. The horror melds wonderfully with erotica, and the multitudes of monsters, demons, etc., blend perfectly. Why do you think erotica and horror are so compatible? What is it about Halloween that interests you so?

KA: Horror and the erotic have always gone hand in red-nailed hand. There is something about the fear of death, and the rush of lust, that complement each other, as two sides of the same coin. The erotic, passionate instinct, in all its primal vigor, is directly at odds with the cold call of the waiting grave—and yet, somehow, through an unholy union, they are entwined, like black and white serpents who entangle and strive to prove their venom the sweeter.

What interests me about Halloween?—oh, just about everything. In many ways, it is the summation of the seasonal cycle of life and death, all wrapped up in a bizarre carnival of weird traditions and symbolism. Halloween is the focal point of my year, and the lens through which I view life and time. It is a link to the dim lands of my childhood. It is very dear to me.

 

CP: Do you have any specific section, or poem, that is your personal favorite? Why?

KA: Hmmm well, that’s a tough one. . . I am rather proud of my sonnet cycle, “The Land of Darkest Dreams,” which comprises the first section in “The Crimson Tome.” Inspired by Lovecraft’s “Fungi from Yuggoth,” and Donald Wandrei’s “Sonnets of the Midnight Hours,” it details a macabre dream-narrative rife with Halloweenish imagery. It is also the birthplace of a character I call The Nightmare Muse, a personification of Night Herself—my actual muse, in many respects. And it is in these twenty sonnets that the mythical Crimson Tome, which exists in dream, but which is also whispered of by waking day, is first realized.

 

CP: I found the intimacy of this collection to be its most daring feature. A writer of fiction can tell a genuinely terrifying or heartbreaking story, but there’s something more personal about the ways in which you described inner desires, depravity, etc. Have you ever had any reservations at the thought of publishing one of the more personal poems? Were the emotions difficult to put into words?

KA: I used to be a bit nervous about writing the sort of sordid stuff I write, which is in large part the reason I write as K. A. Opperman, rather than spelling out my first name (I figured this would give me at least a thin veil of secrecy against the prying eyes of coworkers and other folks whom I would not want to discover my nocturnal identity. . .) Eventually, though—I stopped caring. I wouldn’t allow myself to be limited by inhibition. I had things I wanted to write about—dark, sensual things—blasphemous things—forbidden things—and I would not let anyone stop me, especially not my own self! I threw caution to the wind and let loose. The more I wrote, the easier it got. The less I cared. It was all rather cathartic. I have learned a lot about myself by writing poetry, and it has really helped me to come into my own as a person. It helped me to become the person I really am, deep down inside; the person I was always meant to be.

 

CP: I really wanted to ask this for myself, as I couldn’t shake the curiosity. I loved the illustration of fellow poet and Sorceress Ashley Dioses in the collection. Were any of the other illustrations based on real people?

KA: Various random images from the internet were sometimes used by the artist as aids or guides or inspiration to help achieve a certain look, but aside from the portrait of Ashley Dioses, none of the other artworks are intended to definitively portray any particular persons. They serve only to put vague faces to the phantoms that float forever through my dreams and poems. They are but arbitrary masks affixed to tenebrous forms.

 

CP: Is there anything on the horizon that readers can look forward to from the great Pumpkin King? Any new collections?

KA: Well, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, my second collection, “The Laughter of Ghouls,” is due out from PS Publishing next year. It is in many ways a sequel to “The Crimson Tome,” and contains some poems that very nearly made it into said volume, only having been excluded because they were written a little too late. It will include about eighty poems, and is divided into themed sections. I believe it is even darker than my last book, on the whole.

I am also putting the finishing touches on a book of all Halloween poems. . . This one will include fifty poems, all closely related to Halloween itself. This will not simply be a compilation of generic spooky poems. This will be a Samhain hymnal; black and orange words to be read by candlelight. . .

 

CP: If you could give one tidbit of advice to a starting poet or author, what would it be?

KA: My usual top pointer is to be Yourself, no matter what; to write what you want to write, and not to compromise. But I’ve used that one already, so let me expand upon it. . . In light of some of what I said in the above interview, I would also advise any aspiring writing of any sort to listen to their Muse, carefully, and to know that they will not be denied. Certain stories or poems will demand to be written, and you might hesitate or be afraid, for whatever reason—you might worry what people will think; you might think no one will like it—but you must write it. Because only you can. My muse made me write a poem called “Hymn to the Great Pumpkin.” Some people laughed at me for it. Others were favorably impressed. At the end of the day, it got published (in The Audient Void #6), I got paid for it—enough to buy several pumpkin spice lattes, love ’em!—and it gained me recognition. I am now known as that weird guy who writes way too many Halloween poems. But at least, I am known. . . And that’s because I’ve followed my Muse.

 

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K. A. Opperman is a poet of the Gothic and the grotesque hailing from Southern California. He has been published in a wide array of contemporary horror and dark fantasy magazines, journals, and anthologies, including WeirdbookSkelosRavenwood QuarterlyThe Audient VoidThe Weird Fiction ReviewSpectral Realms, and many others. His debut book-length collection, The Crimson Tome, is available from Hippocampus Press, and a second collection, The Laughter of Ghouls is forthcoming from PS Publishing. While not drinking a fine ale or writing morbid poems, he can often be found tending to his pumpkin patch. He has a religiously zealous, year-round devotion to Halloween, and some people have called him—The Pumpkin King.

Read Opperman’s debut poetry collection HERE!

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