A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Dave O’Leary

with Dave O’Leary

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Dave:    I made some attempts at writing poems and stories in elementary school and high school and on into college but at one point I realized I needed more life experience. I needed to read more so I largely paused. I kept writing in notebooks and always had one with me but never tried to publish anything until I started a blog at 39. At that point, I was basically living without meaning or direction, but I did have by that time more life experience so I decided finally to start writing things down in a way that others could see them. The idea was to use the blog to develop a few short stories and eventually a collection, but it instead turned in my first book, Horse Bite.

As for influences at that time, the main one was Haruki Murakami. I first came across his writing when I was living in South Korea. I read an English translation of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and it just blew me away with the removal of sound and splitting the shadow from the self and all these fantastical things while also mixing in music and pop culture references. It just made sense to me, and music has been since then a huge part of my writing as well, so much so the my second book was actually called The Music Book. I love too how Murakami has kept with short stories over the years. That’s where my own focus is at the moment.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?


One writer I’ve long admired is Graham Swift. Last Orders is one of my favorite books, one of those I’ve read multiple times. His writing is so effortless. I’ve read things where it’s obvious the writer is trying too hard, but never with Swift. It’s something I aspire to. For poetry these days, I’ve been reading Kim Addonizio. I’d never heard of her until a few years ago, which I suppose is because I was in Korea, but I so wish I’d found her work earlier. Tell Me and What is This Thing Called Love are fantastic. Some other poetry books I’ve read recently are Homie by Danez Smith, every love story is an apocalypse story by donna vorreyer, and Torn Up by C. Cimmone. All wonderful stuff.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work/describe?

Dave: I grew up in parts of the Midwest with one brief stint in the South. We moved around a bit and at one point were moving every two years. It probably helped my writing in that I read more since being a new kid in school meant going times with no or few friends. My time in South Korea helped too with perspective. People should spend some time living in another country if they can rather than just traveling through places on vacation. I was teaching English there and not making much money, struggling with the day to day of life much as I would have if I’d stayed in America and waited tables while trying to make it in a band. Sometimes I’d go a week or so without seeing anyone who looked like me or who spoke English, and that really helped give me a sense of scale on my place in the world, the smallness of the individual, and it’s really where the writing bug began to seriously creep back into my soul. I stayed there for eight years and might have stayed longer but for a horrible relationship I was in.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Dave: For me, it’s always the most recent thing so it has to be my new collection (poetry, short prose) I Hear Your Music Playing Night and Day, Cajun Mutt Press. Each book has gotten closer to the heart of it all, the heart of what I’m trying to say anyway. That’s the goal. I wouldn’t put a book out if I felt it was somehow less meaningful than what came before it.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?


   I’ll give you two. When I was in third grade I started playing violin and soon got pretty good at it and my teacher once said, “If you get good enough at violin, you’ll be able to teach yourself how to play the guitar.” It didn’t mean anything when he first said it, but then one day I heard Cheap Trick on the radio, the Live at Budokan album, and I was blown away and realized I wanted to do that. I don’t make a living as a musician but I’ve had a lot of wonderful musical moments of the years. My book release party recently turned into more of a live music show since it just felt so good to be playing again in front of people.

   For writing, the moment was around the same time. We read the book Rascal in class and it was the first time a story just stuck with me and deeply moved me. The ending of that book got under my skin and I thought I wanted to do that. I wanted to write stories that affected people in that same way. Perhaps it was because I’d never experienced and real loss at that point of my life so it opened up for me a whole new set of emotions. None of my three books have been best sellers, but with each one I’ve been contacted by people who told me how the book as a whole or some piece of it really meant something to them either because it opened something up or reflected something of their own experience. It that sense then they’ve all been successful.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Dave:    Music. There are certainly people who are way better musicians than I am, but I’ve always enjoyed playing either with others or on my own in the basement. Sometimes my only friend was whichever acoustic guitar I happened to own at the time. And music is certainly one thing that helped me get through the pandemic. A couple friends would come over and we’d have socially distant drinks out back and eventually we’d break out the guitars and have socially distant, masked jam sessions, and it turned into a kind of pandemic band so I had the same group of people (three of us) play at my book release party in mid-June.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?


My third book, I Hear Your Music Playing Night and Day, came out at the end of May from Cajun Mutt Press, and to quote the promo copy, it’s a collection of “poetry and short prose about the musical life and the lost words of youth, about the places where love might be found or misplaced and dreams not quite made and celebrity encounters and being short on funds and the necessity of bus rides and bus stops and homes and the small moments that resonate and, of course, cats.”

   Link: https://www.amazon.com/I-Hear-Your-Music-Playing-And_Night-Day-Dave-OLeary/dp/product/1639011633

   The wonderful folks at Line Rider Press gave it a nice review.

Q8: What is one of your favorite lines/stanza from a poem or song of yours or others?


Funny you mention poem or song. I wrote a poem called “Pause” years ago in college that became a song for my then band and I included an acoustic version of it on the CD that accompanied The Music Book back in 2014. Last summer though, I got the idea to take that song and condense it to its essence and the editors at Versification were kind enough to include it in their inaugural issue last summer, and it made it into the new book too. The line about the mosquitoes was what stuck with me all these years because it’s so much of what life is and it’s what prompted me to rework it last summer.

   “Swarms of mosquitoes swirl and buzz 
   in my living room. They dive bomb me
   and I swat, miss, hit myself in the face…”

   In the old song it was this. It’s more rock and roll for sure but less poetic:

   “Heading out
   through the swarms
   of mosquitoes
   in my living room.”

   “Pause” the poem. Scrolling required. It’s just 5 lines so it’s easy to miss:

   “Pause” the Song:

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?


Over the last ten years it’s been mainly two people. First, there’s my writer friend Clint Brownlee (His book: https://www.amazon.com/Pearl-Jams-Vs-33-154/dp/1501355309). He’s read early drafts of all my books and really helped me cut what wasn’t working and prompted me to delve more deeply where needed. And especially with the first book, I needed a lot of that. It’s been invaluable to have that critical voice shared over beers. Any music fans should check out his book about the recording of Pearl Jam’s Vs. album. Second, there’s my wife, Allison Severinghaus. She supports my writing, of course, but she’s also brutally honest when she thinks the writing is subpar, which sadly it sometimes is. She keeps me on my writing toes and pushes me to be a better writer and a better person.

The Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with musician, writer Ron Sexsmith

From http://www.RonSexsmith.com

Ron Sexsmith is an acclaimed singer/songwriter musician from Ontario, Canada. He has been putting out records since the mid 1980’s and signed with Interscope/Warner in the 90’s and began putting out a collection of records that gained attention from not just fans, but other musicians such as Elvis Costello. He has worked with Chris Martin of Coldplay, R.E.M., one of my favorites Leonard Cohen, Ane Brun & many more. He’s had work covered by Rod Stewart, Feist, Emmylou Harris, k.d. Lang, Michael  Bublé , Nick Lowe. His latest album in 2020 is “Hermitage” and should be sought out today. Also, please look for Ron’s book “Deer Life” through Dundurn Press. (2017)

The Last Rider
Ron’s album “The Last Rider” in 2017 (Compass Records)

Hermitage (2020 – Cooking Vinyl)

Q1: When did you start writing & first influences?

Ron: My first attempts at writing songs came in my mid teens which was mostly riff rock with dumb lyrics. Mostly influences by UK bands like the Beatles & Kinks. I didn’t start writing anything decent until I was about 21, and by then my influences were Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot & Dylan, etc.

Q2: Who is your biggest influences today?

Ron: Most of the same people although i’m quite obsessed with Warren Zevon these days.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how that influence your writing/art?

Ron: I grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario in the mid 60’s and 70’s, which was a great time for radio. All the songs I heard were so melodic with such thought provoking lyrics that made life feel quite magical.

Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe if so?

Ron: I’ve written many songs on the road while on tour, etc. So I guess the short answer is yes…

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/writer/poet?

Ron: When I found out I was born on Elvis Presley’s birthday as I turned seven and promptly fell down a flight of stairs.

Q6: Favorite activities when not writing/performing to relax?

Ron: Walking mostly and reading

Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work you’d like to do?

Ron: I’m hoping my tour will happen next year. It’s been postponed 3 times now.

Q8: One of your favorite lines from your poem/song, or favorite piece of art or photograph?

Ron: “In every nowhere town, there are somewhere dreams” from my song “Love Shines”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Ron: Other than my influences, perhaps Mitchell Froom who produced my first 3 records.

10. Thank you for a quick interview.

Ron: My pleasure!

3 poems by Bruce McRae : ‘To Wake Is To Sleep’, ‘This Page’ & ‘Weekend Rebels’

To Wake Is To Sleep

A dog barking at the unseeable,
sound carrying on a cold night.
A dog barking at an unsaid thing
or vague starlight or its own tail.
Barking like a pinched nerve,
like a wolf talking in a fairy tale,
the insomniac, yours truly,
making a stab at reading Aristotle.
Who claimed dolphins snore
and all beasts sleep without exception.

                 This Page

This page is blank.
This page is embroidered with snowfall.
It reflects light and contains all colours.
This page is now a linen shirt
made of fine Egyptian cotton.
It’s every room behind every door.
It’s a tidal pool. A settling pond.
This page is a freshly mown lawn,
a sliver of silver, moonlight glinting.

Look deep within yourself, you’ll see
this page is the first feather on Earth.
It’s a cancelled cheque, a boarding pass,
the liner notes for the devil’s scriptures.
This page is a pristine canvas
in the studio of a purblind artist.
It’s a movie screen, the images projected
resembling something akin to imperfection.	

As if torn from a diary or family bible.
As if a flag waved in desperation,
and you only have to raise your hands.
You can only relent.

            Weekend Rebels

In the rented hall at nine o’clock,
meeting under a potted clementine,
a perfumed knot of radicals, angry
talk the swill of their contempt,
a kiss of arson on their lips,
of peasant stock but divinely proportioned
men and women under tyranny’s brush,
however warm and dry and well fed.
Who fondle change and like the feel of it.
Firebrands, renegades, anarchists –
however said, they suck the salt 
of parlous bombast and rhapsodic élan.
One nation under a black flag.
Their discordant anthem none will stand for.
Those in on a new way, if not a better path,
the old order a tattered cloth.
A thin grey rag in the dead of winter.

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician and multiple Pushcart nominee, has had work appear in hundreds of publications around the world. The winner of the 2020 Libretto Chapbook Prize (20 Sonnets), his books include 'The So-Called Sonnets'; 'An Unbecoming Fit of Frenzy'; 'Like As if'; 'All Right Already' and 'Hearsay' 

2 poems by Theresa Haffner ‘Room 203’ & ‘The Black Stars’

stars in the sky during night time
Room 203

I woke in the black of night
In the Universe Hotel, Room 203

I didn't know where I was
Or who I was supposed to be.

I wandered the city streets alone
In the seamier parts of town.

I realized that I had no one to love,
That there was no one who loved me.

These city streets had sold me out.
Sold me cheap, Sold me easy.

Back in the Universe Hotel, Room 203,
The flashing neon sign outside the window.

The empty hallways, deserted doorways,
And I man I did not know.

Might have been a black man
-probably so-

Who made me feel not so alone.

The Black Stars


along the highway
we passed the black holes
of burned out stars

black stars

holes in the universe
where love has gone wrong

and even the light can't escape
and even the light can't escape

and even the time is running backward
and even the time is running backward

and even the time slips away

negative universe
a storm within your eyes
where the weight of dying stars

along the highway
we saw the black holes
of burned out stars

black stars

the light of dying suns
beyond the event horizon
lies a world we can never know

beyond the event horizon
lies a world of beginnings and endings

that we can see but never enter into

for we are trapped by the gravity
of a dead star collapsing on itself
in an orbit growing even smaller

a world so tormented it can not
escape even from itself

a world that has already become invisible
and soon will cease to exist


beyond the boundary
we passed contaminated
oil refineries

illuminated by the orange flare
of petroleum fires

near a deserted train yard
the rusted tracks bear witness
to a world that has never been

our car headlights speed
through pitch blackness
searching for survivors

refugees from a world that
cannot be seen
though it be only a few feet away

a world of singularity
undetectable but by its influence
on surrounding bodies

their orbits distorted by the
massive gravity field


on our way to the city
we saw the black holes
of burned out stars

black stars

the light of dying suns

(c)Theresa Haffner

Theresa Haffner:
Now in her seventh decade, Theresa Haffner was raised in Michigan but moved to California at age twenty one, first to San Francisco, then to Los Angeles to pursue a career in professional music. She is transgender, male to female, having made the transition in 1972. She began writing while still a teenager. She has been a force in L.A. poetry since the early 1980's when she gave a reading of her concrete poetry at the Water Gallery in Hollywood. Also known as an editor/publisher, she edited THREADBARE LITERARY JOURNAL, In collaboration with Albert Crane. AFTERSHOCK MAGAZINE with David Behrens (Bill Bored), and was regional editor for THE NEW PRESS,  a literary journal published in Flushing, New York and distributed nationally. 

To her credit, she has one novel, MACARTHUR PARK CHRONICLES*, (denotes available through Literary Download Center) several books of poetry including ACHERON AND OTHER POEMS*, DIFFERENT DRUM*, THE LAST POETRY BOOK*, THE CASE FOR WISDOM AT 5:00 A.M.*, SURFACE OF THE LAND,  a novella BLACK STAR* a coffee table book, ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM (THE NEW YORK SCHOOL) (In preparation), and various other paper booklets and pamphlets.

As part of her effort to stimulate interest in original literature at the community level, she periodically makes available POETRY SAMPLERS selected from her copious archives of unpublished poetry. Several are available.

Her poetry is archived at www.poemhunter.com

For many years she worked as a professional musician, playing with an impressive array of famous and infamous people. Her music can be heard on Youtube at the Theresa Haffner Channel.

(*Literary Download Center c/o theresahaffner05@gmail.com)