Interview: Poet David L. O'Nan
An Autumn Scarecrow
If my song for you is Autumn
From the roof I shall sing to a soft chill
My voice is an earthquake quivering out
these little sonnets and trails of letters
Coming down faster than the snow
We soon stand still in the early season blizzard
It will blade through all of the farmland
The prairies ruined with guillotined scarecrows
bleeding straw like a hydrant
This is our beauty, this is our moment
Will you say I love you back from this Midwestern view?
And we can warm each other in praises
In the hills of sleet where we shared our first kiss
your hair falls over my body like the stars tonight
And magnetizing our hearts together in our newly found love.
Let us birth the Winter Solstice in the death of leaves
I really never cared much for all the scarecrows
they were nothing but a lie
To keep the dying birds on the street
I know, I know I can love you
At least for awhile in this arctic shift
as my heart beats lazily the colder it gets
Well, do we escape together?
Before all the tornadoes of Spring
hunt for fresh meat
to begin the hunt for a new shelter
Share this breath with me a little longer
before I have to think of the potential hazards.
-- David L. O'Nan
I love poetry. It's hard, in the wild world that is publishing these days, to know where to look to find poetry that stirs your soul. David L. O'Nan has not only written volumes of poetry and short stories, he seeks creative expression, drawing together poets, artists, musicians, and more. To be inspired, to perhaps share your work, or if you're searching for something new, drop by his website, Fevers of the Mind.
Welcome, David. I have so many questions. It was hard for me to know where to begin, but I think it must be with yourself and your poetry. You know (of course you do) that the name of your website and press – Fevers of the Mind -- grabs a person. It certainly caught my attention, and I wondered how you’d come to think of the name/title. That was before I’d read much of your writing. Now that I have, I think I understand a little better. Your poetry is astonishing, beautiful, and more often than not, heart-wrenching. What it’s not is light or simple.
So, David, what is poetry to you?
Poetry to me is an expression of art through words, it is a therapy for me, poetry is just a rattling compulsion of words that train through my head and purges its way to forms controlled, hazy, or whipped around tornadic.
When did you start writing poetry?
I began writing poetry in phases. First, I would listen and read what my older brother wrote when they were a teenager. I would always be a sucker for lyrics in music. I grew out of the Everybody Dance Now and Metal music from the 80’s and began listening to The Beatles around 12. I wrote 2 blah songs around that time, that in retrospect might have been okay for a 12-year-old boy.
How has it changed through the years?
I wrote many goofy, weird dark humor and otherwise nonsense short stories through high school, which when I would turn in during “Creative Writing” some English teachers didn’t understand. Around 18 I began to feel a little more depressed, frustrated by how my single life was going so I would right more angsty, frustrated poetry. Eventually, I began writing more serious, tapped in imagery material around 23 after another relationship, and then becoming entranced with another which I was unable to fully materialize due to circumstances that were out of my hand. Since then I’ve written on and off for years. I took several years away from writing and then the passion fully came back when my father passed away in 2016 on Christmas Night. Since then, I’ve written more and finally put out through self-publishing work from years before.
Digging even deeper, your poetry is complex as well as profound. Emotions often tangle, even emotional extremes. Do you draw from inner or outward observation or both? Please, tell us more about yourself and your work.
My poetry isn’t complex to me. The words and imagery may not be there at all at times, and other times it rushes out in a hypomanic story that has to come out quickly. With Generalized Anxiety/A.D.D. and whatever else I encompass all of my emotions at that time to the highest degree my mind will take me without (for me) being over the top. Sometimes the poem will be there ready for me to add in imagery, and other times I will have to refocus my mind to that energy through music or thought. I will form short stories that become poems (or forms of writing) and will work some real life feelings and in other moments I will add in how a character in my poems would feel. It is psychological really. I am a natural empath and can pick up on emotions well and it affects me in one way that in a poem usually that comes out.
I’ve been reading The Famous Poetry Outlaws Are Painting Walls and Whispers. I don’t read books of poetry all at once. To me, that’s usually counterintuitive. What I’ve read so far is fun and – this is not flattery – brilliant, but… I wouldn’t even call it dark humor. Sometimes, it’s just dark. Is it that I don’t the right sense of humor? Or is it, in fact, meant to be dark? What are your own thoughts on this wild ride of verse?
Well, the first thing I want to say about this book is I re-worked this book this year (2021). It has been scrambled about since I first put it out in 2018. I have updated to look almost like a Coffee-table sized book. I have added photography to the poems and some have been updated since the original incarnation of the poems that were published years ago.
I try to stay thematic in putting together a book, but that is when my attention deficit issues might strike. This book is meant to have some dark undertones of confused humans, the characters in the poems could almost come across as selfish or wannabe heroes. It is a book about confusion in life. To not be sure if you’re doing the right thing, or maybe have a very hard time doing the exact right thing because you’re always trying to make yourself better or a different version of yourself. Sometimes that is scary, sometimes it is humorous & sometimes it is in between. If you can’t decipher who you are, the hope is that someone cares enough about you to decipher your coding enough to carry you through our current infinity while hopeful for what is after.
Beautiful. Thank you.
Inspiration... Clearly, Leonard Cohen’s life and work has inspired you. Am I correct in my understanding that you are compiling a Part 2 to Avalanches in Poetry, Writing, and Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen? Will the collections remain only online? Do you find it hard to believe that there are many people out there who don’t know about him? What about his life’s work is so special to you?
I sort of learned more about Leonard in my early twenties. For awhile it took me awhile to get him until I really began reading his books and his lyrics. I wasn’t fully sold on his songs post 70’s and that was what I was mostly first hearing outside of Suzanne. Then I really began soul searching during some hard times and meditated in his “Songs of Love and Hate” and they tapped into my current emotions at the time, and over time I became infatuated with his whole story and his first 4 albums often resonate with me the most. I feel like a misplaced in time soul and he puts me there through his words. That is what I strive to do when I write. To put the people reading it into the mindset of a time and place. As of right now the Second part to the Avalanches in Poetry Series is only online on the www.feversofthemind.com website in blog postings. They are usually titled “Before I Turn Into Gold” in lieu of Avalanches in Poetry 2 however, since I had thought about putting a personal book out before with that title. A line from “A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes” by Leonard Cohen. My anxieties currently are too much for me to handle curating in a book form of this at the time. I also have a full time job, being a father of 3, and a husband without a vast amount of time to fully put my creative endeavors on the forefront. I am also hugely influenced by music, retro culture in general. I have always been a fan of The Beatles esp. John Lennon & George Harrison, Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits (mostly earlier work), Bruce Springsteen, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Elliott Smith and thousands more. I think people don’t fully understand the poet that Leonard was. They focus on 3 or 4 of his songs and to them that is it. They think of covers of Suzanne, Everybody Knows, Hallelujah.
I must admit, I love Hallelujah. Are there any other inspirations that you'd like to mention?
I almost forgot to mention how the poetry of Plath and Sexton developed my early writing. Also, reading Kerouac and Ginsberg helped me transition from diary angst poetry to more storytelling. confessional poetry & character driven work. Two poems in the Famous Poetry Outlaws book actually derived from a novel I had written a few hundred pages and then gave up " The Bible Belt Bachelor" circa 2005. This was heavily influenced by Kerouac's "On the Road" and "Dharma Bums" with some Salinger " The Catcher in the Rye" thrown in.
You share your appreciation for artistic expression through your website and anthologies. You and your wife HilLesha are the editors of the anthologies. Would you call yourselves co-editors? That is, do you work on the same project at the same time? Do you always agree on what’s to go into a book?
With the anthologies my wife has a lot of input with imagery of how the look of the books are presented. She has been a blogger/writer for 20 years and she knows what looks well cosmetically for book covers with our photography as the cover art. As for all the editing of poetry lines and inclusion into the books that would be me mostly. My wife has a few poems in the anthologies as well. Her poetry is usually vision of dreams that she puts to words. I wished to dream my poems and able to remember the details she can for her dreams. I often dream too convoluted dreams that make little sense to put to poetry though.
The latest anthology, Overcome, is a response to the pandemic. Would you tell us about the compilation? What were you looking for in the submissions?
Well, Overcome, which is the 5th edition of Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Anthology Digest, basically was an evaluation of poems that had already been submitted to the site throughout the year by several very talented writers & poets that thematically came about since we all are fresh in this pandemic and often pandemic style poems will be a fresh strawberry on the top of our dome. The compilation includes photo accompaniment to many of the poems to accentuate the point. The poetry was submissions of not only pandemic themed poems, but social justice, hope for a better future (the hope for an ending to this plague) The picture we chose for the cover of the book is a walk down a long road, there is a curve and perhaps on that other side is where the dawn returns and we leave that dark terrain. For a list of all the poets included in this anthology I will provide a link. This link also lists all the poets in all the anthologies Fevers of the Mind has put out. http://feversofthemind.com/2021/08/27/announcements-fevers-of-the-mind-issue-5-overcome-anthology-is-out/
You do so much for the creative community. Is there anything new on the horizon or anything else you’d like to share with us?
I am beginning this week on an online exclusive write as I go blog book called "Before the Bridge Fell". It is a brand new idea. It will be made available through postings on www.feversofthemind.com and then I may print off some small books to hand off at shows I hope to perform at next year.
David, thank you for your generosity of spirit and for gifting us with your time and talent. Thank you also for sharing a few of your poems with us.
Poems and links follow.
The Poetry of David L. O'Nan
Ripped Off My Jean Jacket
As the symptomatic leaves begin to fall
I watched noiseless waterfalls -
drink in the deranged and lame
Our bodies are blush,
decorated into these parks
by the stabbing strokes of a paintbrush
Brush away these harsh devils
Wiped away all of my tattoos
My head is clammy and sweating
Watch the stars penetrate the heart
From the moon,
I have become the decorous
the ultimate gentleman -
to all that is blind
whip-in the inhales
And shoot the arrows to the waves.
If I am uncovered,
if truths are found to be false
I will carry myself like a casket
and image myself as the lifeless wooden doll
to the thundering faint, to the floor
I ripped off my jean jacket
the wild, the seeds plucked to be reborn
Long nights listening to this same rain falling
the owls are silent in their hoots
the traces of our footprints -
are known to be crazy
we are picking the serpents from our boots.
So, is this the white noise?
I live in either gray or electric shock
an impulse is easier to swallow
but sin takes time to regurgitate.
Oslo in the Heart
It was 4 seasons in Oslo
Where they greased the wheels for our eyes
when they bleached the brides
my skin has turned to purple veins,
locked my mind inside a wall of chains
all the Norwegian women bled like rubies
over a beach of shells
Candlelight on the bones inside the moon
cooking the peasants in a witch's ritual.
Oslo was in my heart
when we wed
Winter crosses full of wet lead
tuning my mind to a dripping paint
and rippling vapors whip in every corner.
Oslo was in my heart that day
we danced a fandango
through the avalanches lay bare sleighs
the mountains had broke for all the old anger in the stones.
Oslo nights in wonderfalls
heartbroken men and shallow women calling
for the moneymen to come from the big U.S. city
the commercial life
the vacations and all the models
bankruptcies in graveyards
the drifting of the wind.
You walk the streets like you are still in Tabriz
You miss the Iranian Summers
While fumbling full of wine
you feel the prickly goosebumps from the breeze.
And we begin to walk with a squint
as the sun masks the city
and quivering drunk lips.
You desire the kiss when the night stirs
dressed in scarlet red
looking for that efficacious effect
We are like the stars in the sky
celebrities in meteoric flash
We are just lost
from the waste to the lakes
trying to unlock the code
to flee us from the beams of Heaven's Gate
We can wish on these wine bottles
throw in the pennies for a little luck
we can invent beauty
out of the contagious Shenandoah muck.
Our city is just a bullet town
Our love will fall like tramps in the rain
with our hands becoming umbrellas
trying to protect us from the downpour
awake our celestial shine with this oncoming train.
And here come the dollies
and all of the sheepmen
who gather ours fossils
and they use them for swanky chaotic sin
our rose is a misery
burn the shell right off this redolent city.
The streetlamps are as dim as a yellow puddle
with a hint of chickweeds growing around the blacktop tumors.
And all we can talk about all of the music,
and hum until poetry rifles through our brains.
Studying the fallen art stuck to the limbs of trees
On the edge of what was Calliope.
When all was tame and flowery,
The strong was not frail without a care
Our frames were not broken, just skeletal grey
And we would dine on evening air
and dance to the melody of church bells
the hymns were our parade.
Drinking Blue Moons
I was burning through the poker chips
Looking eye to the cavernous eye of some demon
I see all the misleading in your passions.
If all your passions are the flaming dollars
and all shoes want to dance for the triumphs
You have a Malibu boy doll home
with wives that sashay in the golden fields
beautiful gardens and thrusting seeds
water this, burning just a little.
And we all want your suits and all the glory
the perfect hair and the ungodly White teeth
Maybe the jealousy lives in all of us
but we know you're as fragile as a toothpick -
when your way begins receding.
Drinking Blue Moons when the red wine runs low
You begin pacing like a war of pistols
when the bombs begin flashing your photos - to the world
we know you, there are truth whisperers
Your flavor of the month decisions
begin to disease with constant new kisses
After dark in powder kegs
love hearts dancing around the bones
to erode them
three sheets to the wind
and your toy world is for sale and crumbling.
Love, love, love
is in the twist of a bottle-cap
Love, love, love
Is putting your head next to the ammunition
the boattail bullets dips you in to the a round of ripples
Love, love, love
Your blondes in black in the background crying.
All the women are there
from all your hidden life messages
to a Lucy, an Alexis, a Leilani, an Olivia
From the bedrooms with White curtains
and all that money -
was never his to begin with
Will he rest in peace in a graveyard of suitcase tombstones?
All of the Miles Between Us
There are many miles between ideals
and many indecisions.
Between the straying women
Riding new wheels
and feeling weightless.
Do I feel artistic,
or just punch wildly and swing around to a phantom touch?
How can I be me?
When I am constantly feeling stalked
by the shadows, the voices, and past scars
the new wheels begin to break and roll down the road.
I see you play the actress
You play with the best of them
Just call you Joan Crawford, Just call you Mrs. Hepburn
I can't see myself in these mirrors
past the steam there you may be
Is it the lipstick or the lie?
Just cradle me
you are my melting candle
Like a mind without sympathy
Hear the wails in the air,
I'm constantly in a crawl for you
but you felt more secure by naked irises
and secure by the many miles between us.
On Rippling Streets and Possibly Dying
Inhale, exhale, now uncertainty
awoke or maybe i'm a splattered angel to the road.
In feathers like a cardinal in hot August breath
Burning away to the move of a wicked gravitational spin
I'm on a rippling street,
dust swirling like my head
covered in an old business suit, damp and frail
watching abandoned Subway trains moving once again.
I see a 1940's traveling preacher on the corner.
One moment he's for Jesus, the next he's in it for the flames.
I stare into the hypnotism of a long walk to triumph
I have to face the destruction of regret
and neglect myself in cigarette smoke that wrestles the air -
to the gray we all see in this converging heavens
From this industrial sewage drains to the tobacco fields
the trees lift from the ground funneling energy from the clouds.
I'm on this rippling street
And I think i'm lifeless
a hex to the all the beauty of colour
a hissing in my shoes
they begin to race by you to get to me
Do they see a man, a skeleton, or invisibility?
And the Wolf Shakes
In a camera's view
I am the tortoise
When hidden away I can be the hare
With whistles, dry kisses, and dangerous fixes
I can suddenly be the crushed worm.
I feel the hierarchy of changing
the wind cracks these castles to rubble
And you dream of the vicious
and you dream of the gentle warmth
in the shelters when the wolf shakes.
Eventually, the Winter will slip through
Those cracks and eternally
We feel we become the peasant's meal
The bears begin knocking and Goldilocks is illuminated
Always hiding like the scared child
When it begins thundering the war sirens.
The bullets, the bombs
Squeezing like the boa even when we run
The parades become eerie and the howling sounds like hell
Tight and abusive, the frightening smiles and nods
those demons drink in the rain
and leave us all thirsty
with endless clouds still bleeding.
Imagine the harps and flirtations of the angels
only to be tricked by the chivalry of the devil
I see the spit of poison reflecting up -
from the bottom of a wineglass.
And God can be the illustrator when you are fearful
when tasting of the bread and the Holy Bible is a straitjacket
to whisper you back to sanity.
These wars were made for men
certainly not made for love
the damages have painted a death,
for the wash.
Now the washing away.
The floods finally have come.
Wiping away the hoax of the drifters
in these torrents
to rebuild our trenches
where we can desire to live again
When will that wolf leave.
will the sheep ever get to play?
Leonard Cohen's Ghost
To dance, dance, sway, just sway
with all the Gods, the ghosts, the deities that we pray to.
Restless orbs hovering through my bedroom.
On the walls that they call home.
In their wooden eyes and popcorn ceiling shedding
I feel a leaky roof's carcass form an IV drip of falling rain
On the bed sheets, on my cold Manhattan muscles
with all the holiness, the prophets, and the seers - that surround
Drinking the electricity from my blood.
In my slumbers I see the hereafter
In windows bonded by straps
Paralyze my brain to a schizophrenic trap
Patch myself back with apologies and prayers
the Soul keeps straying to and from this thin layer
between me and the concrete sky
In this room lives the melancholia
Reflections of Orion
and all my visions, Judases, and the disease - in synthesis
My bones fail,
and muscles endlessly ache
they crack and break 'til I cease to be
Being an old man
dressed in yesterday's fashion.
I sleep in my suit, with another suit for pillows to cushion
The opium that fills me begins to possess me when it becomes night.
I may be left abandoned, yet you want to steal my soul.
You reach from the floor and present my death as Christmas Day.
I have your stains in my DNA,
And your perversions scarred in my brain
I looked to you during grief and hunger
And you, the angel, the woman, the saint - the kiss
Gave me a drink from my flask on the worst of days
I retire away from your memory.
Where can I find the safety again of family?
In New York the rats know you by your name.
And you gamble with them in Central Park
Drink your coffee with the visions of Virgin Mary
the herald angels we Hark!
I begin to dream away a crystallizing of waterfalls
the moving mountains on my deathbed calls.
My children have all left the buzzing city
I have grown skinny, skinnier every day
with this beard always itching.
The room feels like it's a melting paste.
And I sketch all the martyrs, my family, and founding fathers
And I pray to a wisp of light that shatters against the lamp post.
In all of its fury, I meditate through this path
I confess to a mass of angels lifting away the flames from my soul.
I want salvation
as I see the jetlines of Leonard Cohen's ghost.
Smoke Halos in Endless Winters
The infatuation with you was immediate
You complimented me on my style, an old shirt.
Your tanned skin danced with the sunlight for the Summer
As I sit in admiration for you in the crackling dirt.
I infected myself,
haunt myself with your routine.
Day after day
the ring on your finger seemed to be on display.
How you cried in your loneliness and longing.
And I wanted to be the shadow that meditates in your soul.
In downtown circlings we roamed
The same crowd of people we knew
I wanted to draw you closer
Your heart belonged frozen to a soldier's march in a sick hue of blue.
Even when he screams
You sat as the trophy on his shelf.
There was a line of men like me
some had love in their mind, others were just bawdy
Many admirers left blushing
at the parties and in the silence
And in the New Year's trips
I was hanging on to my sanity
from the tip of your lips I wish mine were.
And I would cry for your nomadic footprints
That I lost and battled myself to find
And every time I thought you have found clarity
The green pebbles from the red,
Then you became a borderline aurora
My body thrown in the piles of dead,
just another audit for the cemetery.
You would come home in tears, a distance
My arms still open many months for your embrace.
After months of your endless nights and dark mornings
The smoke halos above a frozen bay.
I'd hope for the energy of my heart to be revived
I wanted to charm your broken one from the ashes in your shoes.
I would hint annoyingly trying to drag out a smile.
And you would hide behind a mask of newspaper
I would write you poetry, and I bled out my blues
I would ask for a dance though I didn't know how
I would gladly try even if my legs worn to broken.
If at the end you were the ultimate prize.
I would've danced my tears to a drought
I would've lifted you up above the clouds
And touched the wings of the angels
to revive us from the Earth's shutting crust
And the younger years become a dusting.
And full of those hearts stuck paralyzed.
The strings of years form on my forehead
A husband and a father
And I know you are around
I still feel the fighting of those ghosts
I feel you are battling them also
though the nomadic walks begins to slow.
The footprints of Winter now have a home.
Here are bitly Amazon links to my self-published books & also the Anthologies we’ve put out. Since I didn’t go through college for editing, my books can be raw and have small editorial errors. If anyone ever wants to discuss putting out my personal books edited by someone who can pay attention more fully to the details let me know.
https://amzn.to/3bJsjhp for my revised updated with photo book “The Famous Poetry Outlaws Are Painting Walls and Whispers” with photo artwork by Margaret Viboolsittiseri.
The Anthology link for Fevers of the Mind V: Overcome which is only available on Paperback.
The link to my poetry book (November 2020) New Disease Streets
My book “The Cartoon Diaries” (December 2019)
My book of mini poems throughout the years “Lost Reflections” (2021)
Taking Pictures in the Dark is a book of collected poems (2021)
Our Fears in Tunnels (2018/2019)
The Avalanches in Poetry: Writings & Art Inspired by Leonard Cohen (2019) this was the original book. My poetry in this book has been revised is on both my website and some included here with this interview.
https://amzn.to/3kactkC all artwork by Geoffrey Wren whom also was a friend of Leonard Cohen.
Fevers of the Mind Press Presents the Poets of 2020 (2021) is a huge Anthology book with many great interviews, bios, poetry over the past year of 2020. The book is huge and costly on paperback but is also available on Kindle. Amazon sort of sets these prices that I’d make a lot cheaper if it was just me.
Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Anthology Issue 3 (2019) The Darkness & the Light
Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Anthology Issue 2 (2019) In Memoriam
The Original first edition of Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest Issue 1 (June 2019)
To read some of my other work featured check out these links:
https://feversofthemind.com/2021/10/09/wombwell-rainbow-book-interview-lost-reflections-by-david-l-onan-part-one/ This is a several part interview and also has some selections from the Lost Reflections book.
www.feversofthemind.com for many creative poets, photographers, artists, musicians, interviews
Twitter: @feversof and for my personal @DavidLONan1
Facebook Group: www.feversofthemind.com Poetry & Arts Group
(the Quick 9 Interview logo) from Margaret Viboolsittiseri and the wolf design was purchased elsewhere.
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A Little of This, a Little of That
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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