Welcome folks to the latest edition of my Brilliant Blogger Poet initiative which this week features what promises to be an intriguing and insightful interview with the daring & provocative Mr. Bogdan Dragos. He works in a casino by night dreaming of being a writer of renown, where I imagine he meets all sorts of interesting & strange people. Thank you Bogdan for agreeing to participate in this initiative.
1. First of all I’d like to ask you have you always been drawn to expressing yourself through the written word and telling stories?
Oh, absolutely not!
I hated reading and writing as a child and as a teenager. I hated school and everything that resembled or reminded me of it. One time I got into a fight with a friend at the end of summer vacation because he wouldn’t stop talking about how eager he was for school to begin, and, you know, that was pure blasphemy in my ears… Anyway, I wasn’t the best of kids growing up. I harbored this intense hatred towards anything that seemed to take away my freedom, and school was that. I hated reading, writing, and writers with the passion of a prisoner hating on prison guards. But, well, if life has anything to teach us it’ll be that you become what you hate.
I only fell in love with books and reading once I no longer felt obligated to deal with them. Once I saw myself free from their ‘tyranny’ and free to approach and study them at my own pace and without being asked to write an essay about what I understood from them… well, it was just something else.
As you know, I live in Romania and never in my life have set foot on the American continent, but I guess I was born in a lucky time, a time when I could discover the world through the internet. At the time, everything on the internet was in English and all the cool stuff came from the US, so in order to be able to enjoy any of the cool stuff one had to have a perfect grasp of the English language.
Yeah, school never managed to motivate me to learn a thing. But not being able to explore the World Wide Web because of a language barrier… Hah, long story short, I taught myself English by studying books in PDF and using Google Translate. When I came across an unknown word or phrase I’d jot it down in a notebook with the translation on the side (I filled a few notebooks this way).
I downloaded PDF books from some shady website and boy was I shocked to discover that the fiction some people write is nothing like the fiction we study in school. It’s not all boring fairy tales, some of the stories are actually quite gritty and compelling. You can tell how much that changed my view of literature and writers. Suddenly I had only respect towards those people. In Romania, we have great respect for our classical writers. We name streets & schools and institutes after them, and put their picture on money, and teach our children about them. But in school, they are presented as saints & god-like figures, it’s impossible to relate to them in any way. Only through independent study can one discover that those ‘saints’ have erotic works in their bibliography, and they abused alcohol and drugs & battled various mental illnesses and led a life that was not exactly honorable. What a difference it makes to be able to see gods as humans, to relate to them. Unfortunately, school here in Romania simply does not advocate that.
Anyway, after you fall in love with reading, you’re but one step away from falling in love with writing as well. I might be wrong, but I believe that literally all one needs to fall in love with writing is the ability to enjoy spending time alone. If you have that, you have what it takes to be a writer. I sure am glad I went down this path.
2.In your stories and poems you seem to enjoy pushing moral boundaries & challenging the status quo by exploring the darker recesses of the human condition & asking questions that no one else will ask?! Are these traits always something you possessed. Have they always been something you aspired to do?
I’ve always been attracted to the unusual, the stuff people usually avoid. Like I’ve said in question 1, I used to download PDF book and study them to learn English, and I got those books from some website (it was easier back in the day, I guess), and this website had a category listed as BANNED BOOKS. I remember it was in bold red letters so of course it caught my attention and I clicked it and saw a list of ’em.
“Why would books be banned?” I wondered after I clarified what the term BANNED meant in its entirety.
It was a shock for me to learn that books are really not all about virtuous knights battling evil dragons to save princesses and cheesy stuff like that. Books can have swear words in them, they can talk about death and torture not just by mentioning that it happened (like they do in history books for example), but by actually detailing it word by word, making you feel like you’re witnessing the scene before your eyes. Books can talk about feelings so much deeper than just saying that some character felt happy or sad. They can make you feel things, they can get into your head and lay eggs there. You’ll know they’ve hatched when you put the book down physically, yet its words won’t let you alone even if you want them to.
If I do push moral boundaries & challenge the status quo in my stories it’s partly because I feel like I’m catching up to something. To all this time spent thinking that books are either for foolish kids or snobby academics and nothing in between. I finally discovered that books can be for me also.
Another part of why I write the way I do is thanks to my work. Supervising casinos exposes you to many, many dark characters and their stories. Some are better than others but there’s nothing like when you see a young man coming daily into the casino and playing the slot machines and making friends with the other gamblers and the bouncers and the game attendants, and one day he doesn’t show up. Only the news of his suicide show up.
Here’s the paradox: ‘the poorer the country, the better the gambling industry fares in it.’ Romania is not a rich country… So gambling is a god here.
The casinos are open 24/7, even on holidays. Many other establishments are not open at night, so ‘the people of the night’ find shelter in front of the slot machines & they bring their darkness with them. I observe it all from my office, as if through a reader’s point of view. A reader checking out a book from the BANNED BOOKS list.
Like I said, some stories are better than others, but all of them are improved by adding fiction in the mix.
I’m pretty sure I’d still be a writer even without working here, and my stories wouldn’t be much different. Usually you write what you like to read & I can’t stand fiction that sugarcoats things. Worst of all is fiction that reduces something like the horrors of war to a PG – 13 rating reach a wider audience. If I don’t like a product I’ll stop consuming it. I won’t preach to others why they should stop doing it as well. So as a writer, I will be direct with my words & never sugarcoat things just to fit in.
3. I’ve noticed that you regularly use your central character to explore the poet’s struggles & lifestyle; God or the lack thereof in the world; the depravity of humanity & the aspirations for a better life.
Yes, well, this is a weird philosophy of mine. I’ve learned to observe all things objectively, to never get involved. For example, you see thieves and criminals and rapists and warmongers and and the like in the world and the first impulse is to desire to see them punished, to make them pay for their actions. I don’t disagree with that. Not one bit. Evildoers should pay for their evil deeds. But the punishment we can deliver on them is a worldly one (prison time and execution at worst). What about beyond that? What if we could see them like we see animals killing each other in documentaries? Through more objective lens. Growing up, we all ask ourselves what it’s like to be Superman or Wonderwoman or a police officer, a CEO, the president, an astronaut and so on. How many of us wonder what it’s like to be a thief or a criminal (and remember kids, wandering what it’s like to be something doesn’t mean desiring or aiming to be that thing… Okay?). Villains are people too, and too often their stories are far, far more fascinating (and relatable) than those of heroes.
If we make the effort to not judge only on surface level, we can see that the robber who held people at gunpoint in the gas station and ran with the money was actually some desperate father who needs to pay for his daughter’s life-saving surgery. Does that justify his action? Should he not be punished if caught? No to both questions. But it does elevate him from monster to human, it makes him another one of us. It makes us realize that monsters are but misunderstood humans. Makes us think, what if I did even worse had I been dealt his cards?
To know what you would’ve done in their place, you need to know why they are in the place they are, how did they get there. And to find that out, you obviously need to look further than surface level. And… you know what they say about staring into the abyss.
Truth is that every one of us is capable of evils beyond imagination and it’s important for us to know this. Just to be aware of it. One who doesn’t know evil doesn’t know
good either and is therefore not completely human. That’s why it feels (to me) important to study all aspects of the human condition. To dig into the villain’s backstory as well. It teaches us about them, sure, but also about ourselves.
And writing is perhaps the best medium to achieve this.
4. The poet in your poems, is any of part of him based upon you; someone you know perhaps or is he purely fictional? Or a combination of all 3?!
The poet is a different character every time. Sometimes it’s based on me, sometimes it’s someone I know, sometimes it’s pure fiction, and other times it’s a combination of all three.
The more you write, the more you’ll discover that you love writing about writing.
This is especially common among writers who struggle or have struggled in the past.
Here’s just two examples that come to mind quickly:
STEPHEN KING – so many of his characters are writers/artists. The journey to becoming one himself was not a smooth path. He struggled and faced rejection again and again. I love the part in “On Writing” where he talks about how he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. He then goes on to say that by the time he was fourteen, the nail in his wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. He then replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing. This leaves a mark on one’s character and as you can see, definitely influences one’s art later in life.
The second example would be CHARLES BUKOWSKY – the man who wrote all his life and only made it in his fifties. You can bet a huge part of his writings are about writing.
Meanwhile, I never really aimed to ‘make it big’ with writing. Not because I’m so modest, but because I simply didn’t believe it was possible for me. I started writing to exercise my English. And then somewhere along the way I thought, “What if I could share this with the world? What would they think of it?”
Of course they thought nothing of it because it was crap. Not a lot of people know this, but my first poems were rhyming poems. I wish I could paste one here, but I don’t want you and the people who read this interview to cringe that hard. It was just bad. Not because rhyming poetry is bad, but because I am extremely bad at it. The rhymes were forced and they only occurred on the last words of every line.
I no longer rhyme my poetry, but that doesn’t mean it’s accepted everywhere. Unless you’re someone whose name alone sells a book, rejection is a perfectly normal part of being a writer.
I’ve written novels too, by the way. Even an epic series. But well, the important thing, and the one thing I did correct all along, was to never quit.
As a writer, you go through all the states from overjoyed to suicidal and back, so why not expand the cycle and improve on your career by writing about them.
I can say for sure that I’ll never get tired of reading about writers and their struggle. It’s my favorite subject.
Doesn’t necessarily have to be about writers, just artists in general.
By the way, I’m currently reading Murakami’s “Killing Commendatore”. Got into it just because I’ve heard it’s about a struggling artist (a painter this time). I’m enjoying it so far.
That’s it for this week folks! Really hope that ye enjoyed this interview with the maverick philosopher & daring poet: Bogdan Dragos. I, for one, found it massively informative and thoroughly entertaining, as Bogdan always is! 👍😁 Please tune in again next Wednesday for part II of it! 🙏😁
If you’d like to read more of his work or follow his written progress then you can find him on all the Social Media platforms. His blog/poetry/writing is Daydreaming as a Profession & can be found at this link:
His work is also regularly featured on Gobblers/Masticadores which can be accessed at the following link: