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Excerpts from interview with Kentucky Poet Ron Whitehead from 2019 in Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest Issue 1
About Ron Whitehead: Kentucky Legend & Poet First:
It is hard living the life of just one poet at times.
Always a rush of creativity and ideas to try and stay stabilized,
is not always the easiest task.
So, what would you do if you have lived the life of 1,000 poets?
Ask Ron Whitehead
A Kentucky born, and current Beat Poet Laureate of Kentucky for the years of 2019-2021.
*note* as I was putting together the first edition of the Fevers of the Mind Anthology Mr. Whitehead was the first ever Writer from the United States to represent as a writer-in-residence in Tartu, Estonia as part of an International Literature residency program.
Ron has been a poet, a professor at several universities, has held lectures, workshops, has founded a music & poetry marathon called "The Insomniacathon" which is perfect for all sleep deprived poetry-eaters. For endless inspiration, just attend an Insomniacathon, and walk into a new world where words are the images, and the world outside becomes silent.
Ron has produced the official Hunter S. Thompson tribute.
Ron knew Hunter S. Thompson & has many stories about hanging out with him and other poets from the Beat Generation and beyond.
Ron Whitehead is not just a poet, he is a lead man of "The Storm Generation Band" a band with him chanting out his poetry & lyrics.
You can see him at big festivals, or you might see him at a small bar or coffeehouse in a small Mid-Western city like Evansville, Indiana.
That is where I met and listened to Ron's poetry. He appeared humble, generous, kind, helpful and poetry driven in messages to inspire for a better world.
his website is www.tappingmyownphone.com
Excerpts from an Interview with Ron Whitehead (2019):
Q: Hi Ron, Thanks for granting me this interview for Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest. First off, I without all the merits that you have see many parallels in our poetry upbringing.
I grew up in a town (not a farm however) in Western Kentucky in Webster County. My father & grandfather grew up on the farms of Kentucky, and I'd always hear the stories. I lived a small amount of time in the city of New Orleans in my early twenties. Maybe, this is where most of the parallels end. You have lived most of your life in Kentucky, so what about Kentucky do you love?
Ron: Hello David. I come from a long line of farmers, coal miners, and strong women. I grew up on a beautiful old ramshackle Kentucky farm. A wild nature boy, when I finished my chores, I roamed the dirt roads, the rolling hills, and the woods. I love Kentucky. It's in my DNA. I've lived and traveled all over the world and wherever I go I preach the Kentucky Gospel. There's no place on earth like Kentucky. Kentucky is the land of freedom fighters and original independent creative artists! It is my land, the land I love.
Q: What influences do you attribute most from having lived in Kentucky? When traveling to other states & countries do you ever run into people that put a stigma on Kentucky, and make unnecessary assumptions about the state?
Ron: When I arrived at the University of Oxford, for studies at the International Graduate School, and knocked the Head of English Literature Valentine Cunningham's door we shook hands, exchanged names, he looked down at my feet, looked back up and said "I didn't know people from Kentucky wore shoes." I stared deep into his eyes and laughing I said "Haha, A smartass. We'll get along great." And we did. ......
Q: After many awards, honors, years of teaching, writing, What would you consider to be the most rewarding?
Ron: All of it. I love and embrace in all of its terrible beauty.
Q: You have edited works of many poets. Whom in particular did you say WOW to, when you were asked to edit their works?
Ron: I never imagined I would edit and publish so many of the world's leading poets, writers, musicians, cultural figures. Lordy, the list is too long to mention here. I edited William S. Burroughs' Remembering Jack Kerouac from prose to poem form and published it. He gave me permission to publish the prose piece, but we hadn't discussed transforming it into a poem, which I did so I could include it in my Published in Heaven Poster series. Burroughs asked me to get a photo from Allen Ginsberg, which I did. When I shipped Burroughs his copies on the poster I was sweating, worried he'd be pissed, maybe even ask me to recall the posters. He loved them. Whew. Major relief!
Q: What is a classic story you could tell, in which you had a long night hanging with Hunter S. Thompson, Gregory Corso, or Allen Ginsberg?
Ron: Oh God! Too many stories, about all three of them. One night, after driving 24 hours non-stop from Kentucky to Owl Farm, Woody Creek, outside Aspen, Colorado, I'm standing in the kitchen with Hunter S. Thompson. He's signing Published in Heaven Posters of He Was a Crook, his Nixon obituary. I told him I was driving straight on, after my visit with him, to San Francisco to have dinner the next night with my friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Hunter became reflective and started talking about Ferlinghetti and how much he liked and respected him. He said "I'll write a message on one of the posters for Lawrence and you give it to him tomorrow, Okay?" I said "Okay." Hunter was a deeply reflective person. Despite his sometimes fierceness, he had the soul of a poet.
Q: How long have you been doing Insomniacathons & also can you tell the readers about Gonzofest in Louisville during the Summer. ...
Ron: Kent Fielding and I produced the first ever 24-hour non-stop music & poetry Insomniacathon in 1993 at Twice Told Coffeehouse on Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky. I produced many after that, with Kent, Doug Brinkley, Andy Cook, and others. ....
Gonzofest is a celebration of life and work of Louisville native son Hunter S. Thompson. On December 12, 1996 I produced the Official Hunter S. Thompson tribute, at Memorial Auditorium in Louisville. I brought in Hunter, his mother Virginia, his son Juan, Johnny Depp, Warren Zevon, Douglas Brinkley, David Amram, Roxanne Pulitzer, and a host of others. It was an amazing 4-hour event. The Insomniacathons and Gonzofests are filled with creative energies and expressions. Being part of them always inspires me to create new work. And, from what folks have shared with me, the creative spirit is contagious.
Q: How do you find time to do all that you do and have done & still be generous enough to answer questions for a small publication like this?
Ron: I was born with a high metabolism. I love collaborating with folks all over the world. Boredom is my greatest enemy. Having several creative projects going on simultaneously helps me stay healthy. New creative work inspires new creative work. Mama and Daddy taught me not to look up to or down to anyone. We're al in this together, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder.
When one of us is lifted up we are all lifted up.
for taking time out of your very busy schedule and answering my interview questions....
Ron: Thank you David! See you at Gonzofest!!
Ron Whitehead bio & links:
links to his books on Amazon:
David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof