Kevin Ridgeway is ABP’s Featured Artist for June 2020

ABP– Thank you for taking this interview Kevin. Back in April of 2018 ABP was lucky enough to publish ‘A Ludicrous Split’, a book of poetry that you wrote with Gabriel Ricard. What can you tell us about what went into the writing of your half of the book, and how you feel about it now over 2 years later.

 

KR-Gabe and I had been friends and admirers of each other’s work for years.  Around 2016, 2017 he asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a split collection of our poems.  Gabe wrote all of his poems brand spankin’ new, but all of mine had been previously published.  My writing has always carried me through my good times and my bad times.  The poems I selected all have ties to my own experiences with mental illness and drug addiction–my section of the book is slim, left readers wanting more.  I relapsed on drugs and alcohol during our work on this book.  My head was in the poems I’ve written about in regard to that.  Gabe and I both share sensibilities in our sense of humor and also share an obsession with movies and Warren Zevon.  He is my ideal counterpart, you know?  He is one of my favorite writers, versatile and a dependable and inspired workhorse.  Plus he was patient with me during my struggles.  Now that I’m clean I can see how drugs really influenced what I put into my section.  I was and am quite pleased with the book, and was very enthusiastic in my publicity for it.  I even went on the road a little to do so.  It garnered us both new readers to add to our growing audiences.  We are now at work on a split book of poems centered around favorite songs of ours.  So far it is one epic motherfucker, we are both really excited about it.  Joan Comics did a beautiful cover and Alien Buddha captured the right kind of spirit we wanted to give off.

 

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(Cover art by Joan Comics)

 

ABP- What can you tell us about “Too Young to Know”?

KR–It is my debut full length poetry collection.  Up until last year, I had only had a number of chapbooks published with my work but never a full collection, which I started to specifically work on back in 2014 once I decided it would be a mosaic of poems regarding my origins, experiences with social stigma, mental illness, my mother’s death and my general view of the world.  The earliest poem in the book was written in 2012.  It touches on my illnesses but so many other layers are rolled out in the narrative arc of the collection, which I finalized in December of 2018.  I decided to call it “Too Young to Know” because I’d heard that phrase in the lyrics of the song “Lonesome Whistle” by Hank Williams, which touches on being a prison inmate or any kind of label that falls victim to social stigma.  At the core, I grapple with the death of my mother in the guise of several poems that flew out of me in the years following her untimely passing.  I sent the manuscript over to Jeanette Powers, an amazing writer, performer and editor who I had become a big fan of.  I’m still shy with her, I think she is so awesome.  She launched a new press known as Stubborn Mule Press.  I discovered her press when I read a collection of new and selected poems called Leadwood by my friend Daniel Crocker.  I loved Daniel’s poetry and was really impressed by Stubborn Mule.  It seemed like I found a fit, being kind of a misfit voice in society.  In January 2019, I was stunned to received a publication offer from her and Jason Ryberg, who is affiliated through Spartan Press.  They were both so great, Jeanette made sure the words sang and Jason envisioned the cover, which I think has gotten more good reviews than the poems.  I am very fortunate to have garnered their support and am honored to contribute to Stubborn Mule Press.  They will always be special to me.  First time I got my big boy poetry collection cherry popped.

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(Cover by Stubborn Mule Press)

 

ABP- Are there any other books you have written that you would like to mention?

 

KR-My most recent chapbooks are “Girls! Girls! Girls” and “Grandma Goes to Rehab” (both titles with Analog Submission Press, UK) which contain a lot of my newer poems that are bound to take up part of my second collection, currently in the final stages polishing.  I call the new book “Invasion of the Shadow People.”  Other chapbooks like “On the Burning Shore” (Arroyo Seco Press, 2014) and “Contents Under Pressure” (Crisis Chronicles Press) were especially well received upon their first printings.

 

 

ABP- What’s the deal with getting caught in your boxers?

 

KR-

  1. It is something that is deeply ingrained in my psyche. I grew up terrified of any one seeing me in my underwear.  I also was obsessed with my Dad’s boxers as a wee dude searching through his untouched dresser drawers after he went to prison, to connect with my father.  He was arrested in his boxers when they dragged him off to jail.  I have only been arrested once–in 2016.  I was arrested in my boxers and dragged off to jail.  I’ve not said anything about it to my, Dad–not yet.
  2. It makes me laugh. Which is a major reason why I share the photos, because the photos are usually really funny and a bunch of my friends simply love it–I am a notorious entertainer with an extensive acting background.  Even my ex-wife thought it was great and got into it.
  3. I have gotten over it a little–it’s worth any embarrassment. The first time I  was in public in my underwear was a long time ago, when this kid in theater camp dared me to strip off my khakis and run across a field in my underwear in front of all of the girls.  That stung big time, but it helped me have more courage to be myself and to just fucking go for it no matter what people want to think.
  4. It is the most goddamn silly thing ever to me. It is embarrassing, but my life got way too serious, man.  I started doing it recently again among poetry videos and other gag selfies I’m putting out there to cheer everyone up during what has been such a dark time.  I am starting to come up with other gags, but many are amused and distracted by my embarrassing poses in festive and loud boxers.  Not even my mother saw me in my boxers…oh wait, that one time when I was drunk.  But that’s it.  I am developing a book of poems about underwear and such things I discussed above.  A chapbook called “Picture Them All in Their Underwear” so posting photos of me in my boxers also count as research.  There is poetry in boxers.
  5. My older brother would walk around in his boxers everywhere his whole damn life, does not phase him. I wonder what he thinks of me attempting to do it.

 

 

 

ABP– What is the poetry and art scene like in Long Beach, CA?

KR-It is an incredible scene.  When the energy is in full gear, there are regular readings at Gatsby Books and several other venues with an enthusiasm for new literature.  Gerald Locklin, Charles Harper Webb, Bill Moyer, Donna Hilbert, Tamara Madison, Jeff Epley and Clint Margrave, to name some of Long Beach’s most distinguished poets.  My favorite Long Beach poets are Fred Voss and Joan Jobe Smith.  Fred’s poems are epic and masterful and real.  Joan co-founded Pearl Magazine, considered among the best poetry journals in all the small press.  She is an amazing narrative free verse poet, so electric.  There are far too many poets here to mention, those are just a few favorites, not to mention RD Armstrong (Lummox Press), Thomas R. Thomas (Arroyo Seco Press) and Sarah Thursday (Sadie Girl Press).

 

 

ABP- Who are some of your biggest influences as a writer?

KR-Carson McCullers, Sandra Walker, Sinclair Lewis, Voltaire, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Bud Schulberg, George S. Kaufman, Terry outhern, Tony Gloeggler and Albert Huffstickler, to name a few.

 

 

ABP- Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. The floor is all yours. If there are any announcements you’d like to make, shoutouts to shout, poetry to share, anything at all.

KR-Poetry saved my life.  I hope it saves yours.

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