We meet again: David Oprava on “American Means”

Hey David,

glad we meet again, we didn’t know where, we didn’t know when, but we did meet again … under this golden rainbow of dust and prayer. Dust for the desolation of the American Society, Prayer to encourage hope to enflame people’s hearts after reading your work and a golden rainbow for having the opportunity to meet and talk to you about a topic that lies so close to both our hearts.

For those that missed our first encounter, who are you and what do you do?

 I am an expatriate American poet who lives and writes in Wales in the United Kingdom.

 What does American Mettle Books (an imprint of Grievous Jones Press) represent and how can one find this vision and mentality in ‘American Means’?

American Mettle Books is an idea I had, to focus on contemporary American poets who speak in raw, honest words about and within the American experience. But, in so doing they are hitting on the broad themes of being human, just through a slightly provincial lens. I have chosen this avenue, not only for my own book American Means, but for the forthcoming books from John Dorsey, Karl Koweski, and Misti Rainwater-Lites. There is something special, captivating, and worthy in the writing that is taking place right now in the USA. I want to push this good verse forward in the hopes of starting a new landslide in the poetry scene that moves beyond the closed circle of writers-reading-writers and to put verse back in the hands of the people. That being said, “American Means” is just that. It is a book for the common, written in the mean.

What is ‘American Means’ about? What effect and emotion do you hope to evoke with your readers?

“American Means” is a 90-odd page epic poem about modern America now, in the moment. It is a rambling avalanche of imagery, commentary, and hope that addresses all aspects of the polity. It works hard to encompass the vastness of the country and each person’s individual experiences as they are shared by the mean. I wrote it to try and transcend the poetic, the political, and purely academic and make it an accessible read for everyone. It’s about my home.

The general tone of the work is quite dark for most people, it’s the way I like it, but how does this reflect the message of hope?

America is in a dark time right now, perhaps imperial decline, perhaps a re-alignment of definitions, dreams, ambitions, no one is really sure, yet. But, I think the only way to get through this is to be honest about it, show the present in all it’s rusting bloom and dispel the gloom through a return to core beliefs; simplicity, honesty, necessity, ideals. It may be dark in places, but then so is reality. Ultimately, it is about finding what we’ve lost, our commonality.

When did you start this project mentally and how did you prepare for it? After all, writing such an amount of poems on one subject and one goal, it is a premeditated act.

The project really began in the summer of 2008 amidst the heated presidential race in the US. I was back visiting home and came across a barn in the middle of nowhere, a dilapidated old thing barely still standing, but affixed to it’s entire north wall was a huge sign, white on blue, and all it said was, HOPE. This brand new sign on the old barn said volumes to me and I kept it in mind until March of 2009 when I started to write “American Means.” Originally each chapter of the poem began with a quote from that day’s news story and I intended on writing it as a poetic diary of current events. It had a very rambling, Ginsbergian feel to it all and I wrote constantly for a month. It was only after the third or fourth edit that I dropped the news quotes and spent another five months tooling the verse to fit the message to be what I wanted to say. In the end, it kept coming back to that sign on the side of the barn.

Does this book reflect or reconcile an inner battle between a feeling of defeat and the strength to carry on? 

I think it does both. Much of the book is about the defeated nature of America, portrayed in the two protagonists, “he” and “she.” In the first drafts the lead figures were name Blossom and Gloom, hence the tag-line for the book, but I dropped those to be more general, more accessible. As the poem progresses these two “defeated” characters begin to re-discover America, to see it for it’s beauty and it’s disgrace, and to personally change within. So at first I think it reflects the despondence many Americans feel, but as it comes to the conclusion, I hope there is a sense of that reconciliation that is sorely needed these days.

 As the mission of Grievous Jones would suggest, did you battle your demons, have a cup of tea with them or …?

In some ways this book does battle my inner demons by addressing my own misgivings about my home country. I am an expat for a reason and I think it is important for me, at some point, to come to my own reconciliation with the reality of America versus its ideal. They will never be one in the same, if they ever were, but I’d like to think that somewhere in the middle of the American psyche is something that is striving for what has almost become a hackneyed and jaded dogma: life, liberty, etc….

That being said, there is a reason why this book is printed under the American Mettle imprint and not the Grievous Jones label. The focus of the former is slightly different than that of the latter, it is less cathartic and more commentary, I hope.

 What would you say to someone who’s doubting to buy the book, what message should convince someone according to you that this book should be bought?

I think it is an audacious book, a unique poem, and unlike any other writing I have read over the past few years. It comes with its own flaws, but in general, I feel this book not only provides the perspective, escape, and emotion a truly good poem can deliver, it also means something. It is about living free, honestly, and finding lost dreams. This book will make you think, feel, and help people who aren’t American to understand this confused country all the better, but even more so, I hope it will help Americans to find themselves again.

Well ladies and gents, a pleasant encounter as always, hopefully for you too … we may say goodbye to David: “David, we will meet again” ! But for the readers there is a special treat: not only did I interview the author, I read his book and thought you might find it worthwhile to know what my opinion was … so you can find the review of the book in question below the interview.

Later Gators and sweet dreams!

Lena Vanelslander

Published by lenavanelslander

Lena Vanelslander swam many waters. History, Comparative Culture Analysis, Languages, Mythology, Literature, Poetry, too many to sum up. After a life of tribulations the turning point came in her mid twenties: she started to write actively poetry in English. Her melancholic and darkminded nature colour her poems to an individual signature in both time and space. Poems got published in the Stray Branch, Savage Manners, the Delinquent and The Sylvan Echo. Her first chapbook ‘Ma Chanson de Rien du Tout’ has been released in September this year. Her first book of poetry, written with Marilyn Campiz, Quills of Fire, will appear in November 2009. Currently she edits writers' profiles for http://www.gloomcupboard.com and http://www.outsiderwriters.org

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