'The Opera' Offers an Alternative View of the World
Sometimes what keeps you up at night is the same thing that keeps you exhausted during the day.
Sometimes, you have to burn the whole thing down.
This is the premise of The Opera, a chapbook by Kateland Leveillee: A baby was born sometime in the late 70s. As Baby grew to Child, Child began to see things that could not be unseen. His Mother insisted he had been given a tunnel into Thought itself. As Child grew under the shadow of a burning madness, tragedy struck his family, and he himself found the world turned and everything as Mother said it would be.
For the protagonist of The Opera, a mad poet confined to his apartment for a whole day, going in and out of lucidity, terrified of the men who he is convinced are following him, he is, no doubt, troubled. Leveillee defends the narrator's madness, saying, "Not all madmen are alike. While he is certainly mad, perhaps clinically crazy, he is not a psychopath. There's a difference and a back-story that led the mad poet to become this way."
Leveillee continues, "The narrator is, essentially, Child. You know that moment around adolescence when you step outside of your family and start to go to other people's houses, and you realize for the first time your family is kind of weird? The protagonist never had that. He grew up in such isolation, and under such a powerful and constant mantra, that his reality is permanently skewed. This brainwashing left him mad. I would like to think on some level he knows how affected he is, but, as with everyone, he can only be himself."
In writing The Opera, Leveillee wanted to create a new poetic experience. "I have seen my entire generation get wasted to the soundtrack of a three chord love song slapped over an 808 beat, and our minds weakened by the dull blade of apathy and pop culture. Not since the Beat Generation has there been a literary revolution or cultural upset of any kind and this must change."
Her offering is a coherent story told by one narrator using disparate, yet related, poems to tell a story. "I love poetry," Leveillee says, "and collections are always tied together by style, or theme, or even talent. But I really wanted to take it to a new level and bring a sense of unity and wholeness to the chapbook experience. In this way, each poem is a chapter which, when taken together, tells a story, much like the way a novel would." The result is an engaging experience with plot, characters, and background.
To Leveillee, the important message of The Opera is that poetry, or any written art form, isn't confined to one format or to one rule. "When you write, it can be anything you want to be: true, false, abstract, or literal. Don't be afraid to use words or create your own context in which the piece of work makes sense." "Also," she continues, "there's a whole world inside your head that can experience the full spectrum of sanity. If you're not crazy, you just haven't been pushed the right way yet."
By Kateland Leveillee