Author Interview: Robert Beveridge

Robert Beveridge is the author of the poem “Get the Hell Outta Dodge” which appeared in our recent anthology Fireweed: Stories From the Revolution. We chatted with Robert about what he’s reading and working on, his intentions for the poem, and his hopes for the future.

What are you reading, watching, or listening to? What media are you partaking in right now?

This question could take a very, very long time to answer. I’m a voracious consumer of media of all sorts–I spent some time doing the media critic thing in my earlier years, and these days, being on disability, I don’t have work to get in the way of it. Just as a benchmark, in the past twenty-four hours I’ve finished Joseph D’Lacey’s Meat (not nearly as distressing as sold and lags in the second act, but still quite good overall) and made good headway in Tom G.H. Adam’s Mycophoria, rewatched (because they were streaming on a live channel and I get sucked into godawful movies) both Dawn of the Mummy and Oasis of the Dead (they’re not any better the second time) as well as first-time viewings of Outlier, The Devil’s Domain, Nails, Cabás, and Shadows in an Empty Room (the fourth, first, and third, in descending order, are worthwhile), and had about two hours of listening to music while running errands that included everything from Behemoth to La Monte Young.

In other words, everything, or as much of everything as I can.

Tell us about your poem. What inspired you to write this poem?

This ended up being a whole jumble of ideas that found their way into a shaker with what was most likely a whole hell of a lot of Southern Comfort and strained into a two-liter half-full of whatever cheap diet coke knockoff the dive bar I happened to be at at the time had on tap. There are so many walls built into this poem. The Wailing Wall is most definitely there, as well as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall of Names, which was less than a decade old when I completed this, and thus was still fresh in the national consciousness. Even that wall in the middle of the field in Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” makes an appearance (and kind of ends up stealing the show–I don’t know if anyone else sees Red using that fake rock to beat out some ploughshares, but I sure do, still, almost thirty years later–and, of course, the title certainly resonates with the prison break at the center of King’s story, though that didn’t hit me at the time nearly as much as it does now). The twist at the end is half lifted from King–while I can’t imagine there are too many people who haven’t either read the story or seen the movie, I’ll just say the fate of what was supposed to be a minor character who ended up being quite a major one–and the conceit King plays on there that’s so familiar to those of us who are introverts, the double nature of walls and how what some see as imprisonment can also be not only protection, but comfort, even if it isn’t recognized as such.

What are you hoping readers will get out of this poem?

I think I might have jumped the gun in that last answer, there, because I’d write pretty much the same thing here. The recognition of those shades of meaning, how some people look at things and see them very differently than others.

What’s your favorite part of this poem?

The dynamic of it, the way it just kind of narrows to a point. The inexorability of the whole thing, despite its ambiguousness.

What are you working on now? What projects are exciting you? Where can people go to get more of your work?

Ever since 2017, I’ve been trying the poem-a-day challenge. This is the first year I’ve made it to December without dropping out for some sort of (usually stress-related) reason, so that’s the main thrust of what I’m doing these days.

Where can you go to find more of it? Here are a number of places (a Google search will bring up quite a few more–I just crossed 1,750 pub credits as I write this):

What makes you feel motivated to write? Why do you continue to show up and write?

To continue on from the last question: to me, being in the “poetry mode”, as it were, kind of involves looking at the world in a slightly different way, and I’ve learned thanks to a few long dry spells (during which I usually turn to noisemaking instead) that it’s possible to lose that lens and see everything mundanely for far too long. (That’s been a terrifying thought for the past four years, which may be the most accurate answer to the latter question.) In some ways, because of that, it’s kind of a perpetual motion machine; the longer I continue to write, the more my mind makes those lateral leaps/connections that form the bases of my poetry.

What are you hopeful for going forward?

That we can see the light at the end of the tunnel that is 2020. Eventually.

What does the light at the end of the 2020 tunnel look like for you? What might it look like/feel like to emerge into a brighter future?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is rather complex, and I’m not quite sure how to give it all of the attention it deserves. I guess the best way to oversimplify it is to say that the idea that we (especially those of us in the USA) have of “going back to normal” seems to be to be a ridiculous pipe dream, and that the light at the end of the tunnel involves us realizing that and starting to realize that we need to look for the new normal, the same way we did after the Spanish Flu or after HIV. Now that we’re dealing with an administration that’s somewhat more rooted in reality, I see that as being a much more achievable goal.

There is of course far more to it than that, but that’s the real eight hundred pound gorilla in the room.

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