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Published:December 2nd, 2007 15:58 EST
Chase Von Interview's Aberjhani

Chase Von Interview's Aberjhani

By Chase Von (Editor/Mentor)

Interview on behalf of the Student Operated Press with...

Aberjhani, Prolific World Acclaimed Author and Contemporary Poet with Few Equals!!!"
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Chase Von: Aberjhani, this is quite the honor for me, as I too am at heart, a poet." And arguably you are now one of the best and most recognized poets in the contemporary field beyond any doubt!" So this is also in many ways a humbling experience!" I first want to thank you for finding the time to do this interview with me on behalf of the Student Operated Press!
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Aberjhani: Thank you Chase, I always appreciate an opportunity to dialogue with fellow poets and to share whatever insights I can with reading audiences.
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Chase Von:" Growing up, I initially didn`t want to read the works of other poets." I started writing when I was twelve or thirteen and thought that if I read the works of others it might influence my style. Pretty opinionated for a kid, huh? (smile).

Aberjhani: It really is extraordinary that at the age of thirteen you felt you had a definitive literary style that you didn`t want altered by reading the work of other poets. Apparently you came here knowing to some degree who and what you were meant to be so far as poetry goes.

Chase Von: But eventually I was given a book by Kahlil Gibran and to be frank with you, it was like receiving a treasured gift!" My brother-in-law gave it to me and it was like the entire collection in one book!" I had that book for years and considered it as more than just a book, it was like an old friend!" One day I was working at the ports in the Marine Corps and had brought it along with me to fill up of some of the dead time. You having been in the Air Force, I am sure are familiar with the hurry-up-then-wait syndrome. But I had to do something, so put the book down, and when I came back it was gone." Over the years few have moved me as Kahlil Gibran has moved me." I got into Javan, and later befriended an incredible poet by the name of Ed Roberts." I`ve also been amazed at some of the newer poets on the scene and people that have been around for a spell that I am just now discovering." Taalam Acey is incredible! Wisdom Supreme is also exceptionally gifted." Bryant McGill has a way of saying things that just reach out and grab a hold of your intellect and makes you think deeply!" And there are so many others now that are off the charts! But I have to tell you, I don`t recall when first I read your works, but I got the feeling when I was reading them, that Kahlil Gibran had returned!" Your style slightly differs but the same spiritual depth and almost musical way that he had of making words sing from the very pages is what you do also!

Aberjhani: I definitely share your passion for Kahlil Gibran`s work. The first time I read The Prophet I felt like I had journeyed to a secret world reflecting the hidden truths of this one and had to stop to catch my breath after every page. Much later, I discovered a book called Beloved Prophet, which is a collection of love letters between Gibran and one of his main benefactors, Mary Haskell, who lived in Savannah toward the end of her life. I have to admit that gave me a sense of connection with him that I kind of treasure. And I agree that there are a lot of very fine poets out there today producing some great work. You can count me among the visitors to Taalam Acey`s MySpace page.

Chase Von: When did you start writing and has your style morphed into what it is now or has it always been in the same vein so to speak?"
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Aberjhani: As for when I started writing, that would have been as a teenager during the Black Arts Movement in the 1970s. That was when Black America first rediscovered the Harlem Renaissance and started republishing classic books like Jean Toomer`s "Cane" and Zora Neale Hurston`s "Their Eyes Were Watching God." But also by that time we had some of the revolutionary works by writers like Eldridge Cleaver and Nikki Giovanni. To me, their writings said all the things I was too terrified to say out loud as a teenager in the South of the 1970s. Ironically enough though, one of my primary motivations for actually picking up a pen and starting to write was the character John Boy, as portrayed by Richard Thomas, on the old Waltons TV show. He used to write about his family, their struggles, pleasures, and what have you. So I started writing in these huge yellow legal pads that I used as journals to help me clarify and direct the conditions of my life as an adolescent. My style has evolved over the years pretty much in direct correlation to my growth as an individual human and spiritual being.

Chase Von: Who are some of the people that you look up to and admire when it comes to writing?

Aberjhani: I admire pretty much any writer committed enough to the craft to make a serious study of it and exercise the discipline necessary to produce worthwhile work. But there have actually been quite a few of those so I have to admit that some do stand out for me, including John Edgar Wideman, with whom I was blessed to appear in the pages of ESSENCE Magazine November 1997, Phillip Caryl, the great Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ja Jahannes, Louis Reyes Rivera, Amiri Baraka, the extraordinary Ben Okri, Sapphire, Edward P. Jones, Junot Diaz, and quite a few more. In fact, I have a good number of book reviews on my Amazon.com profile and at my Creative Thinkers International site of the writers and poets I appreciate the most."

Chase Von: You were born in Savannah, Georgia, and then apparently moved around quite a bit in your younger years." Were you a military brat? (smile). I understand if so, I hate the term myself!" But for me, moving so much indirectly caused me to develop a love for books." That is after I learned how to read and got past failing first grade (smile) ." Oh?" So you got jokes?" Just kidding."" What were your younger years like?" Did you also get into reading early on because of all the moves and develop a love for the written word like myself, and perhaps many others, because of the difficulty of making lasting friendships when you are only in a place for a short time, while books are there when ever you pick them up!?""

Aberjhani: In terms of different cities or states, my life was fairly stable as a child because we lived in different parts of Savannah, but I didn`t relocate outside the city until I went off to college at 18. Books were more like my refuge from poverty, racism, and the intense drama that can come with being part of a large black southern family. Because I wanted my education to be something more than the memorization of textbook materials, I chose, after starting out in Savannah, to attend colleges in Florida, St. Paul, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. After my tour of colleges and universities, I further supplemented my education and career by serving in the U.S. Air Force for eight years, two at Eielson AFB in Alaska, four at RAF Lakenheath in England, and two years of reserve duty out of Charleston, SC.

Chase Von: By the time I was in first grade the second time (smile) we had already lived in Indiana, Virginia, New York, and England. What role would you say all the different environments you have had to adapt to played in you`re becoming a world-known writer?
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Aberjhani: Travel allowed me foremost to break out of the repressive psychological and social conditioning that came with growing up in poverty and a racially oppressive environment. Once I hit the road I was able to enjoy experiences beyond those `allowed,` if you will, within my native region during that particular time. By getting to know people from different places and with diverse life experiences, I developed a greater appreciation for the basic humanity that defines us all as opposed to the socially, politically, and economically imposed categories that make us susceptible to things like discrimination and prejudice. The ability to recognize that basic humanity and celebrate it through poetry, short stories, journalism, and even the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance has certainly played a major role in my literary career.
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Chase Von:" How did your time spent in the military enhance your writing?
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Aberjhani: Thank you for that question! My time in the military marked my beginnings as a professional writer. I was very fortunate in that I was able to serve as a military journalist/editor with the base public affairs office. And the thing about being a journalist with a weekly deadline in the military is that you learn how to write whether inspired by a particular muse or not. You know there`s a job to be done and an entire base population counting on you to get it done because they need the information you`re providing"so you do it, period.

Chase Von: And how do you think that time spent serving your country affected you overall as the man you are today?
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Aberjhani: Of course one of the most obvious benefits was the experience of being a working writer in uniform. The development of skill, focus, and professional expertise that came with it proved priceless for me because after leaving the Air Force, despite my experience, I was not able to get a steady job as a journalist in my hometown. Prior to joining the military, I had an innate sense of self-discipline that became even stronger while serving and that helped me in a big way as a bookstore manager for some 13 years. That self-discipline and ability to apply my energies toward a specific goal was also crucial when I became a caregiver for my Mom while simultaneously working on the encyclopedia. ""
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Chase Von: Your list of awards is astounding!" Your name is listed in a byline besides the great W.E.B. Du Bois himself! You have also won the Best Poet and Spoken Word Artist in the 2006 Connect Savannah Readers` Poll." The Poet of The Month January 2007 at THE WRITING FORUM." You`re the recipient of the Irene Tromble McAlister Literary Prize!" The "Critic`s Pick" for "Best Savannah Author" in the CREATIVE LOAFING Entertainment Magazine`s "Best of Savannah Year 2000" poll." And you have also been selected for inclusion in CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS (published by Gale), which since 1962 has been the most authoritative reference on World Authors! Did I miss any, and do these things just happen with you putting yourself out there?" Or do you have to enter into contests and win to be recognized?
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Aberjhani: I don`t enter literary contests because I tend not to win them [laughs]. The awards that have come my way"including the CHOICE Academic Title and Best History Book awards--have all been bestowed by people and organizations who decided that my work provided something valuable for the reading public and for that reason deserved greater recognition. But I have to tell you that I received my greatest award when I gave a presentation for the Poetry Society of Georgia. It`s the oldest literary organization in the state and many of its members at that time were senior poets who used to joke about needing `new blood` to stay alive, so they were happy when I was an active younger member. Anyway, after my presentation, I got a standing ovation which by itself was deeply moving. But then this one poet (the great Patricia Robinson King) who at the time I think was almost 80, sitting in the front row, looked at me and said, "I don`t usually stand because these old legs of mine make it difficult, but I`m going to stand for you." I shook my head and said, "Oh please don`t," because she used a walker and I knew it was painful for her. She couldn`t clap her hands because she was holding onto her walker but that great poet insisted on standing and nodding to acknowledge her approval of my work. I cried over that for a year." """
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Chase Von:" You have authored or co-authored the following that I am aware of, the "Encyclopedia of The Harlem Renaissance (Facts On File Library Of American History)", "I Made My Boy Out Of Poetry", "Blood Kin, A Savannah Story", "The Wisdom Of W.E.B. Dubois (Wisdom Library)," "The Harlem Renaissance Way Down South," and "The Hanging Man Dreams."" Are you currently working on any other projects you can make our readers aware of?"
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Aberjhani: Two of the titles you named only contain introductions by me. "Blood Kin" is an amazing historical novel for young adults by newcomer Robert Mickles, and "The Hanging Man Dreams" an excellent volume of poetry by the brilliant David Hightower.

Chase Von: Thanks for the clarification.

Aberjhani: Believe it or not my own current projects include three books: the first is Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World which is my first novel and just published in November [2007]. For a long time, the working title of the novel was "The Black Skylark Z-Ped Music Player," named after my AuthorsDen web site, but readers should know we dropped that title after some mid-race changes in publishing options. The second book is The Bridge of Silver Wings, a volume of poetry that I`ve been working on for more than a year now. Even though one book is fiction and the other poetry, they actually have a lot in common since song lyrics make up a good portion of the novel. Also, both have cover art by Luther E. Vann, which is something I`m a bit proud of because Vann is one of the preeminent artists of our time. A third book, a very important work of creative nonfiction called The American Poet Who Went Home Again, is not out yet but currently under publication consideration. So we`ll have to wait and see how that one goes."
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Chase Von: "Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World" is a very strong and if you don`t mind me saying so, an unusual sounding title for a novel. Can you tell me what it`s about?

Aberjhani: Hmmm, you`re the first interviewer to ask that question so I need to make this a good answer, don`t I? [laughs] It`s about what happens to a young man named Danny Blue after his girlfriend, an art student named Valerie Hyerman, appears to have been found dead with Danny Blue unconscious and unclothed beside her (this book is rated PG-13 btw). In the course of trying to make peace with her death, Danny Blue finds himself drawn into the schemes of two superstar musicians with very different intentions towards the world. One, named Jimmy Redfyre, is a vampire-like figure who uses his music to manipulate people`s minds and lives and persuades them to do some totally uncool things in his name. The other superstar, named Ruzahn, is a kind of prophet-poet who uses his music for a different effect. On top of all this, Danny and his friends have to deal with a group of fanatics who are trying to use the memory of his girlfriend and her art as the basis for their cult beliefs." The title of the novel comes from an event that takes place during the holidays. ""
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Chase Von: I know John Berendt`s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is based on true crime events in your hometown. Is your novel also set in Savannah and based on something that really happened there?

Aberjhani: As a matter of fact, this story takes place in a town similar to Savannah on a planet similar to Earth but actually not Savannah or Earth [laughs]. I think the term used to describe such places is called "parallel world." Although some people thus far seem to want it to be my hometown Savannah very badly because the city is mentioned in the "Uncut Goodies Series" which are outtakes from the novel, published recently on the Internet (talk about something controversial!). But those who read the novel notice both details and obscurities that could only make sense on a parallel earth, the existence of which according to modern physics is a very real possibility. We can say that certain aspects of this novel serve as metaphors for specific conditions in our world but shouldn`t say the story is any kind of attempt at a literal representation of this world.

Chase Von: With Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, a lot more poetry and spoken word artists are getting some notoriety." Alicia Keys has also helped in that regard as has Jill Scott, Jewell, and a few others." But having read some reviews, it seems there are some people who think that poetry should be left to the poets." I myself applaud all who write poetry because it in itself, by the baring of the soul, opens one up for criticism." So those that criticize others like singers or actors who try their hand at it, can do so, but I think it helps bring attention to it overall.

Aberjhani: Poetry has become extremely important as a medium of self-expression and self-empowerment, providing many people with a crucial tool, or voice you might say, for addressing some very horrendous issues and some extremely sublime experiences. To me, for that reason, anybody who feels the urge to write poetry should certainly do so, no exceptions whatsoever. However, that having been said, probably not everyone who writes poetry should worry about publishing it or presenting it within a public forum unless that forum is designed to accommodate what they have written. This is significant because poetry didn`t just arrive here with the modern spoken word movement, it`s been around since the first unknown uttered prayer centuries ago and is part of a global oral and literary tradition and art form with definitive qualities and standards. The fact that those qualities and standards are extremely flexible is one of the things that make poetry what it is but it`s also the recognition of those elements that determine one`s abilities as an authentic poet. Poetry as personal expression can and should be whatever an individual wants it to be. Poetry as literary art is an applied balance between aesthetic precision and individual mystery, and those who achieved that particular level are the ones who have been my teachers.

Chase Von: But facing facts, poetry is still the lowest genre in writing that there is." I myself had the lofty goal of reestablishing poetry on the literary map (smile)." However it is obvious I am going to need someone to help me achieve that, and you are definitely a few light years ahead of me in that regard any way. But do you like myself, think that people are beginning to realize on a much larger scale, that poetry is important and that it does deserve equal billing in regards to other literary works such as novels, mysteries, science fiction, horrors, dramas and the like?" It has always baffled me that the one genre that is precisely about what people are feeling, is the one that is not given the time of day for the most part." I still feel that there is something very wrong with that and that it is just one of the indications of why society has many more things to do, to right itself.
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Aberjhani: Poetry has often been described as "the flower of language" precisely because of its concentration of imagery, philosophical nuance, and emotion, so it`s really only the last-place genre in terms of the literary marketplace. And even that has changed substantially due to the guerilla marketing tactics of spoken word artists who sell their CDs and chapbooks at readings or out the trunk of their cars. So it may not be getting top billing in the bookstore sense but during the past decade it has become extremely commanding at the grassroots and folk level overall.
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Chase Von:" You works are like what a lot of people have said about mine, meaning eclectic!" You write about everything!" I have read some works by you about love and angels, and other works about vampires that have the same dreamy feeling and otherworldliness as writings by the great Anne Rice! Who incidentally keeps coming up in my interviews for some reason (smile)." But she is an incredible writer." What inspires you to write?" For me I just try and catch good ideas when they come, but I am always curious as to how others find their inspiration.
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Aberjhani: For the most part, just being alive inspires me to write because I find everything in this world, whether dog doo-doo funky, or classy and exquisite, to be irresistibly fascinating. On another level, I look at literature in general as a conversation between writers and readers of the past, writers and readers of the present, and writers and readers of the future. I like the eternal nature of that dialogue and my writings are my contributions to the conversation. I try to be responsible when making those contributions but I don`t always get there. Sometimes I just want to be my plain human self and cut loose with an unruly burp, fart, or howl, either of which I have learned can make some readers squirm with nervousness [laughs] and others laugh out loud. It`s never my intention to make anybody feel nervous or threatened but I have to be true to my own voice, just as you were determined to be at the age of thirteen, before I can be respectful of anybody else`s." Then on a level that goes even further than that, I am greatly inspired by spirituality, and the poems in The Bridge of Silver Wings draw heavily on my meditations concerning angelic influences.
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Chase Von:" Can you tell our readers about how some of your words have been adapted to music?
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Aberjhani: I was extremely blessed a couple of years ago to meet on AuthorsDen my fellow writers Nordette Adams and Mark "Rahkyt" Rockeymoore, two extremely gifted individuals. It turned out that Mark is not only an educator, novelist, and poet, but a budding music producer. Even though the three of us have never met in person, he was able to set to music recordings of Adams and me reciting our work. The resulting CD is called The Goddess and the Skylark: Dancing through the Word Labyrinth. We experienced a setback with the distribution of the CD but are working on correcting that and hope to make it available again just after the New Year."""

Chase Von:" How important is family to you, and what is your take on the state of our current world?
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Aberjhani: Sir, those are two huge questions rolled into one [laughs]. Family is very important to me, which is why I somehow found the strength and will to take care of my mother at home for a decade right up until six months before her passing, when I had no choice but to place her in a nursing home for medical reasons. Family, community, and the world at large are issues I deal with in the book I mentioned earlier, "The American Poet Who Went Home Again." Readers who might like a preview of that title should check out my creative nonfiction With Love A Letter from Yesterday to Today and Tomorrow as well as "The Day the Word N****r Entered My Life," and any number of personal essays posted on my AD pages. """
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Chase Von: What would you say, if you were standing in front of a microphone that could be heard by every child on the planet and they could understand you regardless of whatever language they spoke? What positive advice would you give them if that were possible?
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Aberjhani: I first would apologize to them for my own and my generation`s failure to make our world a safer and more loving environment for them to live and grow up in. Some people might read that and go "Ahhh ain`t he sweet?" But there`s nothing cute about the fact that every single day in this world 18,000 children under the age of ten die from disease, war, domestic violence, and starvation. Among teenagers, 5,000 die every year from suicide"which is one of the subjects addressed in my novel"" because they apparently can`t bear the conditions of their lives. So how can we not apologize to them for that? How can we"and I`m talking about all the "we`s" around this globe--not apologize for continuing to destroy the Earth of their future for the sake of business profits and political domination? I would apologize to them and then I would talk about all the opportunities they have to save and improve their own futures. Or at least I would try to do that. "
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Chase Von:" What are the best web sites and other mediums where our readers can find out more about you and your incredible work?
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Aberjhani: At the moment, the best web sites would be Creative Thinkers International (http://www.creativethinkersintl.ning.com), AuthorsDen (http://www.authorsden.com/Aberjhani) and my Connect Author profile on Amazon.com. "And of course the best way to truly know any given author is through his or her writings. In my case, as you pointed out earlier, readers will discover someone traditional enough to respect and honor values and ancestors as I do in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, but also adventurous enough to step outside the assigned box and examine interesting possibilities through original literary visions, such as I hope I have done, in The Bridge of Silver Wings and Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World.
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Chase Von: On behalf of The Student Operated Press and myself Aberjhani, I truly thank you for finding the time to do this interview." I also wish you continued success with your writings and hope that you will continue to bless us all with your incredible gifts!" As a fellow poet, who doesn`t have near the reputation as you, I kind of feel the way I believe I would have if it had been possible for me to interview the great Kahlil Gibran during his lifetime! So I again thank you!" As a poet, this interview is one for the memory books (smile)!
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Aberjhani: It`s certainly one I will remember and treasure for a very long time. Thank you again Chase for the opportunity.