[This issue, we sit down with poet KA Opperman. A widely-published author of horror and weird poetry, Opperman has released one collection of his work, The Crimson Tome, and is hoping to have his second, Halloween-themed collection out in the coming year. Here, he discusses his folk spirituality, his poems, and his upcoming projects.]
Eternal Haunted Summer: How do you define your personal spiritual path? Do you belong to a specific tradition, or are you more eclectic?
KA Opperman: I do not belong to any specific tradition. I have a strong tendency to view the entire year as it relates to the agricultural cycle, as our ancestors did, with a special emphasis on Halloween/Samhain as the focal point and culmination of the entire year’s cycle. I grow pumpkins and other vegetables every year, and the planting, tending, and harvesting of them — combined with little personal rituals along the way — make up for me something that verges on some kind of pastoral spirituality. I keep a year round ‘Halloween Altar,’ and attempt to always work in harmony with the spirits of the land. I suppose mine is a sort of ‘folk spirituality’ — close to the earth, and simple.
EHS: Your poetry collection, The Crimson Tome, includes sonnets, quatrains, and rhyming couplets. Which poetry form do you find the most difficult to write in? Which is the most satisfying?
KAO: The villanelle is probably the most difficult pre-existing form I have attempted. In years past, I used to enjoy exploring complex forms, but as I mature as an artist, I find myself returning to the simple forms. Nowadays, I often utilize quatrains in plain old ABAB rhyme, which some might consider elementary or boring. There is real power in simplicity, and I find myself discovering why these forms have endured the centuries, utilized by great poets over and over again, never going out of fashion.
EHS: Among the poems included in The Crimson Tome is “The Crimson Unicorn.” How did you come up with such an unusual take on a classic mythical creature? And have you similarly tweaked other creatures in other poems?
KAO: Many people seem to enjoy that poem. I thought it would be fun to take such an innocent seeming mythological creature and make it horrific and gruesome. I figured that any creature with a sharp horn would surely use it as a weapon, and things went from there …. I have also taken the classic figure of the nymph and made her into a deadly, fungus-infected seductress, in my poem “The Fungal Nymph.”
EHS: You recently completed a collection of poetry focused on Halloween. First, why Halloween?
KAO: As might be gleaned from my answer to the first question, Halloween is a very important holiday for me — the day most dear to me in all the year, in fact. All year long, I wait for autumn, for October, for Halloween. I feel a deep spiritual affinity for the harvest season, the season of commingling abundance and decay, and it moves me to poetry more than any other subject.
EHS: Second, how did you go about composing the poems for this collection? Were you able to include everything you wrote, or did you have to set some aside for a future volume?
KAO: Every autumn, it is my tradition to write at least one new Halloween poem, usually more than one. Over time, I began to write more and more of them, even in the ‘off season,’ and eventually it became apparent to me that I needed to assemble a whole book of them. This forthcoming collection, Past the Glad and Sunlit Season: Poems for Halloween, will include virtually every Halloween poem I have ever written, totaling 51 poems. Many collections that claim to be books of Halloween poetry are in fact largely just collections of generic spooky poems, but mine will have a close focus on the holiday of Halloween itself, and directly related subjects.
EHS: Where and when will curious readers be able to find this collection?
KAO: I don’t yet have a publisher finalized, but I am currently shopping the book around to some potential venues. If all were to go according to my desire, it would be available in time for next Halloween — but it is too early to say for certain, and that is somewhat of a long-shot considering the usual speed at which the publishing world operates.
EHS: Many of your poems could be classified as horror or weird. What do you find so compelling about those genres?
KAO: It was a huge revelation to me to realize that poetry can literally be about anything — even the strangest, most fantastical subjects. Writing within such subject matter allows me to push the limits of what poetry is and can be about. It allows me to express myself to the fullest, whether for pure escapism, or for examining my own personal experiences through a lens of metaphor and symbol. I have always had an especial affinity for the horror genre, so naturally my poetry reflects this.
EHS: Which authors would you recommend to those interested in horror and weird poetry?
KAO: A few poets who have influenced me, and whom I consider to be canonical to the genre, are: H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, George Sterling, David Park Barnitz, and Donald Wandrei. Some contemporary names that also bear worthy mention are: Ashley Dioses, Adam Bolivar, D. L. Myers, Ann K. Schwader, Fred Phillips, Wade German, and Michael Fantina (R.I.P. June 7th, 2018).
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
KAO: I am not currently working on any specific projects. However, I do have another collection — The Laughter of Ghouls — due out from PS Publishing sometime in the hopefully nearish future, though there is no set release date. It will contain 83 poems, mostly of a pointedly Gothic atmosphere.
EHS: Which book fairs, conventions, or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
KAO: I will be attending the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show on March 24th, 2019— though whether in an official capacity, or simply as an attendee, I do not yet know.
Thanks for having me!