Interview Spotlight: K. A. Opperman
Happy Wednesday! Today Halloween Haunts features an interview spotlight with poet K. A. Opperman who penned The Crimson Tome (2015, Hippocampus Press) and who has a poem in the newly released Black Wings of Cthulhu Volume Six (2018, Titan Books).
Halloween Haunts: Welcome Kyle! What was your first experience with poetry?
K. A. Opperman: I can’t recall my first ever experience with poetry, but the pivotal moment was when I discovered the poetry of Clark Ashton Smith sometime in my early 20’s. It was the discovery of his work that first awoke in me a deep appreciation for poetry, and a desire to write my own.
HH: What was it about poetry that resonated with you?
KAO:I was first mesmerized by the possibilities of language—the musicality, the rhymes, the images, the forms. This was all quite exotic seeming to me—something I hungered to experience more and more of. I then fell in love with a poem’s ability to tell a story or convey a feeling or image in a compact space. All of these elements combined proved quite bewitching to me.
HH: Was your focus initially horror? If not, what led you to the horror genre?
KAO: Originally, I was interested in science fiction and fantasy as well as horror, but it was my discovery of the works of H. P. Lovecraft that seemed to steer me firmly down the path of horror. I have an appreciation for many literary genres, but horror holds claim to my twisted heart. I favor it above all other genres by far.
HH: Which writers/poets have inspired you over the years?
KAO: There are too many to name…but some of my stronger influences have been Clark Ashton Smith, George Sterling, H. P. Lovecraft, E. A. Poe, Ernest Dowson, David Park Barnitz, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and A. E. Housman.
HH: Looking at your Amazon profile, your poems have been included in several weird fiction publications. Can you talk about elements of weird fiction that you write about in your poetry?
KAO: Weird fiction has an emphasis on atmosphere over character and actual plot, and poetry lends itself to accentuating this. Poems, more often than not, rather than following a plot like a prose fiction piece, will detail an image, or a thought, or a feeling, or an atmosphere, without being as concrete or definite as a short story, so as a medium it is innately well suited to evoking the Weird. It has also been said that ‘Weird’ literature by definition should contain a supernatural element, and a great deal of my poetry deals with supernatural or otherworldly themes.
HH: Shifting focusing just a bit, I find that people shy away from poetry as being difficult to connect with or understand. Do you see this as an opportunity to educate and change skeptics into fans or at least appreciators of poetry?
KAO: I have always said that people who don’t like poetry just haven’t found the poetry they like yet. (Incidentally, I say the same thing about people who don’t like beer….) Before I discovered Clark Ashton Smith, I was one of those people. I believe that poetry should be accessible—not obscure and impossible to understand or relate to. Poetry is for Everyone, not just the intellectual elite. I try to write material that is ‘fun’ and entertaining, a far cry from the dusty verse your teacher forced you to read in high school. In short, I am trying to make poetry cool again, and I will take every opportunity and make every effort to convert more readers. Poetry can be about literally anything—from monsters to warriors fighting dragons to spooky scenes to a rhyming recollection of what you did on any given day—and I think if more people realized that, then more people would be fans and writers of poetry. The first poem I remember making a real impact on me—”Amithaine,” by Clark Ashton Smith—is about an imaginary city. The possibilities are literally endless….
HH: Kyle, what three tips would you give our readers who are interested in writing poetry?
KAO: 1) Read TONS of poetry. Find what you like, and read, read, read. Count the syllables, note the images—study it under your mind’s magnifying glass. 2) Study and experiment with the various approaches to writing poetry. Learn the different forms and techniques, and over time, learn what suits you best. Trying diverse styles may help you to find the path that leads to finding your own unique Voice. 3) Make friends with other poets. Being a poet, unfortunately, has somewhat of a stigma attached to it—we are misunderstood, or dismissed as not being real writers. Some people laugh, even. Belonging to a close group of poets will foster a sense of community, and offer encouragement, not to mention the helpful insights your fellow poets might discover along the way and share with you. I myself belong to The Crimson Circle—a tight-knit group of four poets who all write in a somewhat similar style and submit to the same magazines. We live far apart, but convene once a year, and keep ever in contact, sharing our latest works, ideas, market leads, writing blurbs or intros for each other, and providing all manner of support. If I did not belong to this group, I don’t know if I’d be as far along in the craft as I am today.
HH: Are there poets and/or writers that you recommend horror/weird fiction poets should have on their reading list?
KAO: In addition to the names I’ve been mentioning here, I would advise all of you to investigate the works of Ashley Dioses, Adam Bolivar, and D. L. Myers, my fellow members of the Crimson Circle. Ashley wrote the book “Diary of a Sorceress,” Adam wrote “The Lay of Old Hex,” and D. L. Myers’ uniquely grotesque verses can be found in the hallowed pages of Spectral Realms magazine (all publications available from Hippocampus Press). These poets are on the front lines of establishing poetry’s rightful and widely accepted place in horror literature, and any aspiring dark poet could do worse than to start there.
HH: As we wrap up, where can readers find you on social media and what new projects are coming up for you in the next few months?
KAO:I have been known to haunt Facebook, where I am known for posting way too many pictures of pumpkins, and other Halloween images…. You’ll find me under KA Opperman. As for new projects…It may or may not happen in the next few months, depending on how you define a few, but my next collection, “The Laughter of Ghouls,” will be published by PS Publishing sometime next year. In the more immediate future, the October issue of Hinnom Magazine is an Opperman issue, containing 3 of my Halloween poems—for which I am especially known—and a review of my first collection, “The Crimson Tome”!
HH: Kyle, thank you so much for your time and insight!