May 15th, 2008 16:46 EST
Chase von Sharing interview with PageOneLit.com
Chase von, the author of "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" has also recently had a story included in this publication featured in the 2007 American Review Literary Journal Vol. One, edited by world famous author, poet and consultant to the stars, Bryant H. McGill. Pieces of Chase's work have also been included in Songs of Hope, a compilation by Sachel.
"Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" is a collection of poetry, song lyrics, quotes and short stories that addresses many of the issues in today's world, as well as life in general. Soft and touching in some places and quite direct in others, this books impact is most aptly summed up by the collection of heart felt comments and testimonies listed on the back of the book.
Commentaries by actresses, teachers, poets and story tellers and inspirational singers, songwriters and life coaches. This book is sure to leave its mark on the world of literature and will no doubt have something in it that touches and reaches whom ever reads it, from what ever walk or station in life they may come from.
Visit Chase online at myspace.com/chase77777
PageOneLit.com: Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
Chase Von: I grew up in lots of places. My father, now deceased, was career Air Force. I was born in Japan, but had lived in England, as well as the states of Indiana, Virginia, New York and New Jersey by the time I was in fifth grade. I actually failed the first grade, and as unbelievable as this might sound to some, just suddenly "knew" how to read a short time after that. Prior to starting school, I had books like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and The Berenstein Bears, but what I would do is get one of my older brothers or sisters to read them to me, memorize what they said for each page, and then just repeat it back to them depending on the page. The household was fooled. No one really knew that I could not read until I went to first grade. There I had to actually sit in a reading circle and read. I couldn't take the book home and get someone to read it to me so I could memorize it, and the teacher quickly figured out there was a problem. But one day, I figured out what the strange little markings meant and began to read. Being the new kid so often, rather than socialize, I stuck my head in a book whenever I had free time. Books became my friends. Some of the books I remember most are Old Yeller, Black Beauty, Big Red, The Call of the Wild and Shane.
The influence question is a little harder to answer. I stumbled on poetry quite by accident when writing a message to a friend that I thought needed to hear it. "Listen My Friend" is in the book; it’s the first poem I ever wrote. I didn't even know at the time it was considered a poem. After that, I would write whatever I felt, but when I was encouraged to read other poets, for the longest time I refused to. I thought it would influence my style. Thirteen, and worrying about my style being altered! Eventually I did read some Langston Hughes, and in my high school years, fell in love with the writings of Kahlil Gibran. Initially, however, there really was no early influence; it was just me putting words to paper out of a perceived need to help someone else awaken.
PageOneLit.com: Why do you write?
Chase von: It's more like, why do you remember or at least for me it is. Something will trigger something and it's like I have to capture it before it gets away.
PageOneLit.com: Please briefly discuss your military career and how "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" was written in many different parts of the world.
Chase Von: I went in the Army directly after high school, and spent three years and ten months as an air traffic controller tower operator. Then I got a two month school cut and was able to get one year of college in. After four years of working security and also for the county jail and in a mental health institution, I went back to the military. I joined the Marine Corps in time to go to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I also went to Operation Iraqi Freedom one and two and retired from the Marines Corps last year. From all of my travels as a child and then serving in the military for so many years, I've had the chance to see many places that the average person just doesn't see. And all that traveling no doubt aided in my writings and perhaps gave me more of a world view as opposed to just seeing things from one perspective. I've been told that many of the things I write are universal in their appeal. Some of the things in my book were written in Germany; some of them were written while on ship going to Russia; some of them in Japan; some of them were even written in the sands of the desert. A few examples of that is "Pink, Blue and Green" was written while in detention in high school in New Jersey, "My Silence" was written at a picnic table in Coronado, California, "My Best Friend" was written when I was in South Korea. With any writer, inspiration is a must and going to so many other places also creates long periods of separation which in itself, is its own inspiration for a writer.
PageOneLit.com: Your new book "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" a compilation/collection of Poetry, Song Lyrics, Short Stories and Quotes -- Explain your title and how it relates to the book? Are 'you' the 'Last Panther? Explain.
Chase Von: Briefly, that is explained in the beginning of the book, but basically it is just a statement that often the public at large doesn't recognize poets during their life times. There are a few exceptions to that, but there is a reason we are all familiar with the phrase, "Dead Poets". The title implies that whether I am alive or not when someone reads the book, it will still be an opportunity for them to hear me speak because words live forever.
Yes, I am The Last Panther, not to be confused with The Black Panthers. I am Black, possibly a little French, and American Indian (Cherokee and Blackfoot). The name has more to do with my Indian heritage than anything else. Sometimes I write as if I am an actual panther, the animal, as in "The Tree and the Butterfly" or "Falling Stars," and sometimes as an American Indian, as in "Last Words," and sometimes just as a man that calls himself The Last Panther. It might seem strange to some, but any one who has seen the movie "Full Metal Jacket" knows that a lot of people in the military take on nick names. People in life in general take on nick names so I thought having one that also has a hereditary significance just made sense. Most have heard of Black Elk, or Sitting Bull or other American Indians that have animal’s names, so it seems pretty natural to me to have chosen the name The Last Panther. Chase is also a nick name, but I later found out its origin is Old French. It comes from the root word Chaucer, and its actual meaning is "The Hunter". So strangely enough, it all seems to fit. I'm certainly not the first to adopt a name or names for public use, but it truly does have unique and real meaning for me.
PageOneLit.com: "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" has a great cover and I understand has some symbolism/meaning with two black panthers, one blue eye, one green eye staring at each other? Explain.
Chase Von: My book designer Candace K was sent the image I purchased for the book and she worked her usual magic. When I saw it I realized it was, if one was open minded enough, almost like a ying and yang symbol, which I think adequately describes the contents of my book. I have a parental advisory in the beginning of it due to some of the subjects I address, but this isn't your run of the mill book. I write about gangs, infidelity, war, the state of our world, love, and a variety of other topics in my short stories, song lyrics and poetry. And to be quite frank with you, not all of it is pretty, but it does represent real life. As the publisher as well as author, I had the option to simply put in things that would be easier to digest, but I don't think that is realistic. People do argue, people do break up, people do go through a lot of the unpleasant events that I write about. However, there's generally a message in the negative things I address, and there’s also enough positives to balance things out. Hence the green eyed panther facing the blue eyed panther. Both are mirror images of the other but with different views on things.
PageOneLit.com: You dedicated "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" to Bryant H. McGill -- Discuss this man's influence on you as a person and an author.
Chase Von: The actual book isn't dedicated to Bryant H. McGill but this poem is;
The measurements of love
Often cannot be articulated
One feels it and one knows
And hopes that another
Can grasp the full meaning
But love is rarely a choice
It is what one feels
Compassion on the other hand
Is something that can be measured
In a way
Through the gratitude you see
In the eyes of others
And the warm feeling you have
That fills your heart
Knowing you helped someone
When you didn't have to
In addition to being a feeling
Is also always
By Chase von
The Last Panther
All rights reserved
Dedicated to Bryant H. McGill, who is so compassionate and does so much to help others.
When I wrote those words, he's the person that came to mind. The book is actually dedicated to all my family and friends and those that believed in my dreams. But he is an exceptional human being and a true humanitarian who also has my short story "The Bum" in his on line American Review Literary Journal, so I thought I could thank him by including that in the forward. Bryant is an inspiration to all that learn of him. Another exceptional human being who I mention in the rear of my book and how you can find him is Ed Roberts. It was one of the ways I thought I could help bring exposure to his Ed Roberts, Poetry For Life Project.
PageOneLit.com: Your poetry in "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" is 'Raw' but "Intelligent' -- From "Wrap That' to 'Mr. White Man' to "Let Your Blood Speak' you cover a lot of ground with reflections/observations on society and history. Briefly discuss your message for each poem.
Chase Von: Before I address that, I would like to say that although some of it is raw, much of it is not. I just address a large array of topics so that everyone, regardless of where they are in life might have something in this book which they may be able to relate to. Not all in life is sweet but in most cases, even in the negative things I write about, there is a positive message. "Wrap That" is about contracting AIDS but the message there is that if you protect yourself, chances are you won't have to go down that path.
It's told in a manner that although the content is adult, is really effective for reaching the younger people. One could almost say it reads like a rap. Younger people are engaging in sex, and the language used in the poem is probably mild compared to what a lot of young people are exposed to and use daily. A few teachers and others I have met have told me they think it should be in Colleges around the nation to increase awareness regarding unprotected sex and the possible consequences. You don't hear much about them now days, but at one point in California "Raves" where things you heard quite a bit about in the news. Ecstasy, dancing, and often loose drug induced behavior, so it some what describes that kind of a scenerio as well.
"Mr. White Man" is written from the perspective of a Black slave but as though he is speaking here in the present, or you have a birds eye view of his thoughts towards his slave master. There is not a racist bone in my body but I do believe after the recent tirade by the one I know as "Kramer" that there are still people that need to be aware of just what the African Americans endured and that it definitely should not be forgotten. It is also included in Songs of Hope, a compilation by Sachel of some of the best contemporary writers alive today, so I am pleased it is in that as well.
"Let Your Blood Speak" is basically a declaration that we really all are one. We need to realize that soon and create a better world where no one needs to fear blood being shed senselessly. Many see our world now as a horrible place, and there is definitely enough horror to justify that belief. But if more people that stood for peace stood up taller then we could achieve peace, or at least have it more prominent than the horrors. That should be the goal of every individual who has a child. How can we continue on in this place knowing our children are just going to endure more of the same? Blood is the life force that sustains us all and it is the energy within us that allows us to do everything we do, whether that be pull a trigger, or clasp your hands together in prayer. For the sake of the children and future children globally, we need to help them make the better choice.
PageOneLit.com: "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" contains original short stories that offer lessons in morality and views on society. One short in particular "The Bum" -- Where did this story come from?
Chase Von: Before I answer that, I have had people ask me seriously, if this was a true story. That said, it was pulled out of thin air. Just like with poetry or song lyrics or quotes, it feels like I am capturing something to share, and that is the case with "The Bum". That it made Bryant McGill’s American Review Literary Journal and from many of the comments I have received back on it, I know that it resonates with more people than I had expected. I just know that like "Mr. White Man", it too can bring tears to my eyes.
PageOneLit.com: "Your Chance To Hear The Last Panther Speak" contains song lyrics and quotes -- How important have others lyrics and quotes been to you in your life?
Chase Von: Immensely! "One who stands for nothing will fall for anything" I don't know who originally said that, but quotes are things that people use as mantras for guiding their very lives. One that I have used often is "This too shall pass!" The great thing about writing them is hoping that people will use them in their lives as well.
I usually wake up earlier than the rest of my family, go outside and feed the dog, and if a thought hits me I capture it. If not, then I don't force things. One particular morning, a thought came to mind. I came in, typed it, and emailed it to a few friends, and shared it with my wife. No sooner had I hit send, a friend of mine, actress Kimberly Prendez, wrote back saying she loved it and was putting it on her page! It wasn't a request, just telling me what she intended to do and she did. Later that day, my best friend Glenn (we served in war together and he is a Purple Heart recipient) came by, leaned over, looked at the computer and said, "You wrote this? I really like this!" I know I will still be using "This too shall pass" but it's heartening to know, that people, if they see it will also perhaps be getting on with their lives a lot sooner if they read this;
Don't live behind
The walls that guilt built
The longer you stay
Encased in that tomb
The harder it becomes
To break free
And write a new
And different story
With the pen
That is your life
By Chase von
The Last Panther
All rights reserved
As for song lyrics, another "immensely" is warranted here as well. Main Ingredient is an older group that I always thought had such meaningful lyrics. Prince is an exceptional poet, as well as Sade and Smokey Robinson, Bread is another one that comes to mind. Lyrics are really poetry to me, with a chorus and bridge in most cases. And the best of them are words that can stand all by themselves without music and still be just as meaningful.
PageOneLit.com: What's next?
Chase Von: I'd like to hook up with someone that can hear what is in my head and put more of my lyrics to music. Also, I've been asked if I was planning to write a children's book. Right now, I don't know.
PageOneLit.com: What was the last book you read?
Chase Von: I tend to read more than one book at a time, so the last books read were Devil Walk by Clint M. Byars and also I was reading in manuscript form but soon to be available, A Journey To Wellness by Debra D. Griffin who is a woman that survived breast cancer, and also the Embracing Candace Anthology which is for a little girl born with a giant nevus on her face. This last book was authored by a friend of mine, Miriam Jacobs. It is a collection of poetry and all the proceeds go to funding for further operations to correct this wonderful child's face, that I have had the pleasure of speaking to on more than one occasion and who is a real trooper. I am blessed to have my poetry also included in this anthology.
PageOneLit.com: Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?
Chase Von: Madden Football is one of my hobbies. I seriously enjoy that game. I also draw occasionally, although I am not professionally trained to be an artist. There are also two drawings in my book, so one can judge for themselves whether I need to lay down my sketch pad. I also enjoy chess, reading, martial arts, and of course, observing our world and life.