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D. Herrle Tea Interviews - Rick Lupert 

Welcome to the Tea Interviews.

I devised this feature to edify fellow artists and to share that edification with you readers/participants.  I've seldom met an artist, particularly a writer, who didn't tend to gab or spill opinions or offer musings on his/her own work and worldview.  Therefore I'm tapping into this common tendency.  

(Most of the questions are tailored toward the featured interviewee.)


 Tea Interview with Rick Lupert


D: For strangers' sake, please briefly share how your writing career and Poetry Super Highway originated.


I began writing shortly after high school (1986).  Influenced by British Humorists such as Douglas Adams and Monty Python I developed an eye for the absurd which, after being exposed to post-beat San Francisco author Richard Brautigan, melded into a bit of the surreal which somehow still informs my current writing style...mostly narrative, somewhat observational, often humorous (or at least attempts at humor).


Poetry Super Highway ( begin as a section of Poetry links from my personal website.  In an effort to have frequently changing content and hopefully repeat visitors, I invited people to add their poetry and writing links and soon their poetry as well.  It expanded rapidly over the first year; and now, 7 and a half years later(ish), it seems to have turned into a somewhat major resource and stop for poets and writers on the net servicing its mission, to expose as many people to as many other people's poetry as possible.



D: Your favorite author(s) and book(s) and why.


My favorite authors are Richard Brautigan, Douglas Adams, Jeffrey McDaniel, and Brendan Constantine.  (I won't also at this time admit to having read all of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and also being someone who eagerly awaits the publication of each new one just because I like vampires and, in particular, like to know what it is that they are thinking about...or at least what Anne Rice imagines they are thinking about.)  Brautigan with a beautiful mixture of the absurd, surreality, humor, and the divine.  He used simple language which is quick to read, yet becomes elevated just by the tone he set in his prose and poetry.  Adams gave me a strong sense of the absurd and how things that happen in a book or poem don't have to be limited within the realm of the actual world we live in...or the laws of physics...or even possibility.  McDaniel and Constantine are newer, but accomplished writers, who also blend humor and everyday language with an accomplished study of the art form of poetry.  Their work stands up on the page, grabs you by the neck tie and just when you think it's going to squeeze it tighter, it corrects the knot and dusts off your jacket.  These two have also influenced my reading style with their expert timing and bold, thoroughly engaging, presentations.


Books?  See any and all titles by the previously mentioned authors.  Add in Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia-Marquez), Microserfs (Douglas Coupland), and Valley by Mike Daily.



D: Enough chit-chat.  Time for bigger bullets.  In AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus, my favorite Greek writer (changed from Euripides quite recently), Cassandra wails (as translated by Philip Vellacott, 1956): "Alas for human destiny!  Man's happiest hours/Are pictures drawn in shadow.  Then ill fortune comes,/And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out."


What are your thoughts on this statement which is at the subjective core of most Greek plays?


I am constantly reminded of my own mortality and have yet to truly embrace its limits.  Recently one of my oldest friends passed away.  He was a man who seized every moment of life in an attempt to know every note of music, every stroke from every painters brush, every spire on every building in every country.  He sought out all knowledge with a superior interest in definitively understanding everything he encountered or even heard of.   The "two strokes of the wet sponge" that wiped out his drawing was a sudden terminal brain tumor.  How strange to know someone so well, to hear their voice and see them moving about a room, when this person no longer exists as a sentient being.  His happiest hours however existed outside of the shadows.  More of his life was spent frolicking in the light and all that it revealed.  This is the lesson of Cassandra: we will all be wiped out by something at some time.  Might as well spend most of our pre-wiped-out time reveling in our very existence and all the treasures of the world.  Those who spend their happiest hours in the shadows are surely doomed.



D: Writer Ray Bradbury wrote: "There is more than one way to burn a book.  And the world is full of people running around with matches."  He was infuriated at sensitive groups, from "liberals" to "conservatives" and races and religions, ranting against writers' choices in their literature.  Fahrenheit 451's dystopia outlawed books on the premise that everyone is offended by something in some book.


I'm an outspoken critic of so-called "political correctness" (PC) and its frenzied assault on sensibility and thought-freedom.  Rather than producing better situations and status and outlooks, PC usually perpetuates its own agenda of bigotry, emboldens thought policing, and dehumanizes all involved.  The very "enlightened" who wield the PC sword against "witch hunts", "ignorance", and endless "isms" tend to be the most stubborn witch hunters, ignoramuses, and ism-obsessed folks around.


What are your thoughts on this?


I believe that the term 'politically correct' should be placed with simply "correct".  I am a strong advocate of using terms which are inclusive, rather than exclusive and correct, rather than insulting.  Native Americans, for example, are not from India and considering the brutal manner in which early America dealt with them, it adds insult to injury to deny them a title which both accurately depicts who they are as well as serves to remind the rest of us Americans of who came before us.


I have no problem using gender-neutral language in my daily conversation, or for that matter learning what terms any group prefers to be referred to and using them.  How little effort is that really to create a little harmony in the world?  Further I think that if our generations makes this small effort and uses this 'correct' language, then future generations will grow up not even aware of the incorrect terms that we struggled to incorporate into our vocabulary.


I don't consider people who use incorrect language to be ignoramuses or un-enlightened.  Nor do I evangelically preach what I consider to be the correct ways of speech.  I just lead by example and people will either catch on or they won't.


I take Bradbury's point well and fully appreciate colloquial, offensive terms in literature or narrative as they help to create a real world context from which the narrative comes.


I also am quite guilty of thinking that the most insanely offensive things are wildly humorous and to frequently being extremely incorrect in my private conversations with my closest friends and family.  I'll decline to give any examples at this time.



D: William Somerset Maugham, one of my favorite authors, repeatedly emphasized that he thought "the aim of art is to please".  This held for the novelist, as well, in his mind: "The aim of the writer of fiction is not to instruct, but to please."  He considered didactic novels to be outside of art.


I disagree with dear Maugham on this point.  What are your thoughts on his assertion?  Should novels do both, perhaps: please and instruct?


It isn't up to Maugham or anyone to determine what the purpose of any particular genre of art is.  It's up to the artist or writer to know what their purpose is in creating that work of art.  If a writer chooses to write to please then her purpose is just as valid as one who writes specifically to inform.  Another writer might write for no purpose outside of their personal need to have an outlet for whatever is in their head.


Maugham's assertion gets to the heart of the controversy in every genre of art as to what is art and what isn't.  Either everything is art or everything isn't.  It's ok to prefer classical poetry to free-form.  It's ok to hate reading anything that rhymes.  But to go the step further and declare that something isn't art because it doesn't fit a particular set of rules or purpose serves only to discourage would-be artists and writers from creating art.


Novels can do whatever their authors damn well please them to do.




D: Author Robert Heinlein wrote: "...the draft is involuntary servitude, immoral, and unconstitutional no matter what the Supreme Court says."


Do you agree with conscription, the State being able to decide a man's fate with threat of imprisonment?  Or do you regard it as Heinlein - and I - do?


I agree with you and Heinlein.  I'm completely against any participation in any form of the military and, in fact, even the structure of the Boy Scouts makes me feel a bit creepy.  I could never involve myself in any activity which could, by design, cause harm to another person and agree that it's immoral to mandate someone do so.


If there were a draft, and I were eligible and called up, I would not go.  If as a result I was sent to prison, I would get a lawyer to argue exactly what Heinlein wrote citing the 10 commandments and any nation's laws dealing with assault and murder.


As I suggested to Congressperson Brad Sherman in California, when he came to speak at the synagogue I work at, shortly after a man walked into the North Valley Jewish Community Center and shot 5 people as a "wake up call to kill Jews", it seems to me that guns kill people, and maybe their ought to be legislation to make it so they didn't exist.  I think this should apply to the military and globally.





D: In one of your poetry books, I'M A JEW, ARE YOU?, there's a poem called, "Jesus, We're Coming Home".  The poem ends thus:


We post Israeli flags along

the Christian camp entry road.
It doesn't matter.
Come Sunday we'll have to

withdraw from this land too.

Please elaborate on this passage, as well as on the basic thrust of the poem. 


Finally, a question I'm actually qualified to answer.  Speaking of the synagogue I work at as a music teacher.  This temple, in the past, rented a Christian summer camp a couple of years in a row for a family camp weekend.  I've got nothing against Christians (or anyone) and am thrilled that there are places for everyone to go to experience the magic, joy, and spirituality of a summer camp.


However, it was a bit strange to go to have a "Jewish" experience for the weekend and find oneself surrounded by Christian symbols and artifacts.


The Israeli flags were posted along the entry road to the camp because the educational theme of the weekend was Israel.  Of course when we were done with the weekend, we'd have to take them down, along with cleaning up the camp and leaving it just like we found it.  No negative connotation whatsoever, though it reminded me of the Land of Israel itself and how over the years Israel has withdrawn and even given up sections of land it controlled in exchange for peace.  It's possible that this will happen again with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank...maybe even the Golan Heights.


The poem pokes fun at being in an ironic setting.  The staff at the camp we're extremely hospitable and did everything they could to make us feel comfortable.


It is interesting to note that the following year, one of the Christian staff at the camp, at the end of our Jewish Camping weekend, decided to get up and offer information about Jesus to anyone who wanted to "know more".



More generally, do you agree with me that a vast anti-Semitism, specifically in regard to Israel,  is reviving these days?


It seems to me that anti-Semitism has been a constant throughout world history.  I have a 6-page timeline which lists major anti-Semitic events in history dating back to before the common era began (commonly referred to as A.D.).  In looking at this time line which stems over 2000 years, it puts the phrase "these days" into perspective when it was a relatively short time ago that the Holocaust happened.


When I moved to California in 1982, it was just a year after the synagogue we joined had been the victim of an arson attack.   As I mentioned earlier, I worked at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in 1999 when Buford Furow walked in with his semi-automatic "wake up call".  It seems intolerance and hatred has been a constant in the world for a long time.


Even in Israel anti-Semitism has been a consistent force, though here it really is more anti-Israeli.  (Interesting to note here, in terms of correctness, that the term 'Semite' actually refers to anyone who comes from a Semitic-country which would refer to a good deal of the Arab world as well.)  I'm no expert in statistic but I did see a video which indicated that even before the current Intifada or uprising began almost 3 years ago (or is it 4 already?) that there had been consistent terrorist activity in Israel even after the Oslo Peace process was well under way.


So reviving, not exactly...never really went away.



D:  If I may, a sample poem from your latest book, STOLEN MUMMIES: THE POET'S EXPERIENCE IN LONDON, is displayed below.


Let's Go London


Airplane wings
look like diving boards
except instead of swimming pools
you plummet to your death


On the way to London
I read through the dictionary
I should be fluent by the time we land


My Mother's Last Words of Advice:

Don't f**k Big Ben.


(copyright 2003 Rick Lupert)


You obviously dig humor in your poetry.    Before popping a question, let me spill some beans.  I can't tolerate formal poets like Longfellow or Coleridge.  But I love Wilde, Arthur Symons, Robert Graves, some Baudelaire, some John Donne, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks,  Robert Hayden, Komunyakaa, and some Blake.  So I'm moderate in my regard to formalism and free verse.  Oddly, I adore the "Oldest School": the Greeks.  

Similarly to my regard for rock bands  like Primus and Camper Van Beethoven, I easily tire of goofy verse.  (Hell, I prefer prose anyway.)  What I've seen of your humorous material, however, is more subtle, in varying degrees.  I like it.


Thanks. :)  Sometimes my humor is so subtle that I don't even get it.  I've been at many readings where I'm sharing a poem and at a certain point the audience will start laughing when I had no intention of humor in the line.  What is it that they know that I don't?



How do you view formal, "Old School" poetry?  What about the classic Greek plays (if you didn't elaborate in the 3rd question)?


I can't comment on the Greek plays as my exposure to them was one college class several years ago and I didn't really engross myself in the material.


As for "Old School" poetry I'm with you.  It doesn't interest me as much.  I do believe that before one decides to involve oneself in a newer genre of an art form, that one should learn what came before...aka before you brake the rules, you could at least bother to know what they are.


I did enjoy my classes where we read classic poetry and interpreted it but I so much more enjoy poems written in today's language.  This has little to do with theme or content.  People are writing as many poems today about how war is bad and how love is desired and let's not forget the darkness in our souls, as were written back then.  The written art I'm attracted to takes our everyday mundane language and elevates it.  This is the art.


My favorite line of poetry, not that you asked, comes from Whitman: "Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origins of all poems."  Is this old school?  I'm not sure though I did think it was the ultimate pick-up line.  I used to think I would say this line to every woman I met until one "got it" and then that would be the one.  I just got married and am not sure if I ever said this to my wife, but she definitely "gets it", whatever that may mean.


Anyway, I hate rhyming poetry and I'm glad that all the people who invented it are dead.  (May they rest in peace.)


By the way, speaking of Oscar Wilde, my wife and I visited his grave at Pere Lechaise Cemetery in Paris on our honeymoon and noticed that besides the fact that it is one of the coolest tombs ever, that someone had broken the penis off of the sculpture.  I wonder where that stone penis is now.



D: Rick, I'm impressed with your work's scope and variety.  Particularly, Poetry Super Highway has proven to be a popular, worthy venue indeed.  I congratulate you.  And I wish you blessings on your path.


Thank you very much!



Any closing words for readers/fans?


I don't really hate rhyming poetry.


Dear readers and fans,

Thank you so much for supporting my work and the Poetry Super Highway for all of these years.  Please buy more copies of my books.






Who the hell is Rick Lupert?


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