Richard Katrovas (a.k.a. my father) is the luckiest person I know: He grew up in cars, the eldest son of a criminal who bounced checks while lugging his family of seven across the United States. They lived from motel to motel and car to car, fleeing from the police, which meant my father and his four younger siblings missed much of elementary school. The two times his father was in prison, the rest of the family lived with his mother on welfare in public housing. Long story short (and I describe his circuitous life path more in the intro) he became a poet, later an “ex-poet,” and a creative writing professor, as well as co-founder of the Prague Summer Program for Writers, which sprouted from the 1990s American expat community in Prague, Czech Republic.
I interviewed my father more or less on a whim, a day before he left to return from Prague to the US, after visiting my sisters and me for the holidays this past December. I didn’t necessarily plan to edit our conversation into an episode of this podcast, because I wasn’t sure If my father really fits what I would think of as an “indie” artist but what I realized is that our conversation is one about myths – personal myths, historical myths, cultural myths. My father’s story can be framed as a manifestation of the American dream or it can be understood, as my father has come to understand it, as a story of how lucky it was to be white in 1950s and 60s America. The format of this podcast, in which I ask artists to “sing a song of themselves,” to paraphrase Walt Whitman, really emerges from my growing up with my father’s storytelling and self-mythologizing, and so his voice really does belong in the Artists on the Verge series.
I should also add that I was editing our conversation after Russia invaded Ukraine this February, and this loomed over our conversation, in retrospect, in the sense of how much we talk about the way history plays out in the lives of individuals.
Richard Katrovas’ website: www.richardkatrovas.com