A mixture of poetry and prose for you this week in the form of a lilting, rhythmic collection – I Hear Your Music Playing Night and Day by Dave O’Leary. His words capture a world of greyness, of the dirge and disappointments of daily life. Inside his song-like poetry and speech-like prose are nuggets of uncut diamonds – the promise of hope, of connection, of home.
Some of his poems spill down the page in a long stream, like Again, while others are short and sharp, like a jangling chord. I wanted to find out how his music influenced his writing, the themes of home and loss and his road to publication. Read on to find out more.
The quiet success of finding a reader – ‘Minor Victory of an Unknown Author’
Your poetry is written in a very natural, spoken style. Is this something you take time crafting or do they arrive like that?
I do try to make it to sound and feel natural without being overly poetic or too dense with imagery. Most of the poems border on prose and indeed some of the rejections I received for individual pieces made note of that, but I wanted a collection that was something more like talking to a friend and telling them what’s really on your mind. I wanted it accessible and down to earth.
It seemed as though similar themes and ideas resurfaced throughout the collection – music, loss, the homeless guy – why did you find yourself drawn to these particular ideas in your poetry?
Music has been a large part of all my books and my whole life really. It’s such a large part of who we all are that for me it almost always comes out in the writing. There’s always a song playing in the background or someone has a guitar or a harmonica around a campfire or a mixtape in the car stereo while driving on the highway with the windows rolled down and singing along even if the singing is bad. The soundtrack of our lives is very important, so it comes out in my writing.
Music and the crazy nature of life – and cats, of course.
The homeless guy was part of a larger theme of the idea of home and having enough money to afford to buy or rent one, to own things like a car so as not to be confined to the bus. I’ve been through times when I lived paycheck to paycheck, and just barely at that, or slept at rest stops for lack of a place to go. When you don’t have anything, you realize how everything is locked and owned and out of reach, and it’s given me the perspective these days to appreciate the things I have and to have an understanding of the circumstances of people who have little to nothing.
Some of your poems are very rhythmic in the style and the use of punctuation. How much does music influence your poetic style?
In the simplest sense with my poems, especially the long, narrow ones, I try to take the reader down the page. I want them eager for the next stanza, the next bit of repetition, much like a listener might look forward to the next chorus or guitar solo in a song. Poems with longer lines and the prose pieces in the book for me are more akin to a song with a slower tempo, relish in the phrases, the paragraphs, the moments.
Meeting Kristen Ritter inspired the poem ‘Bonfire.’
How did you go about getting your collection published?
I shopped it around to a few indie publishers. Nightingale & Sparrow long listed it for their 2021 list of books but ultimately passed. Still, it was heartening that someone out there thought the work as a whole had merit, and finally Cajun Mutt Press agreed to publish it. They’d published a few of the individual pieces and were really a good fit for this book at this time. And they’re awesome to work with and I love the cover concept. It was my idea though to add the cats as a call out to the cats—Harrison and Pandora—in the book.
What is the best advice you could give to another writer?
Write and read as much and as often as you can.
Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician in Seattle. He’s had two novels published and has had work featured in, among others, the Daily Drunk, Sledgehammer Lit, and Reflex Fiction. His collection of poetry and short prose—I Hear Your Music Playing Night and Day—was published in May 2021 by Cajun Mutt Press.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoy my interviews and reviews, please allow me to continue writing these posts by showing your support. For the price of a coffee you can help me keep going in my creative endeavours. You can also subscribe monthly if you want to be a regular supporter. All donations get a reward!
You can also sign up to my mailing list to get a free copy of my ebook. A collection of short fiction exploring light in the darkness, exclusively for my followers.
You’ll also get weekly blog updates and a monthly newsletter full of lovely creative stuff.