Melissa Giles Interviews Julie Beveridge

13 February 2007

ken_green_julie2.JPG‘Rock ‘n’ roll’ poet

Julie Beveridge is immersed in the world of writing. The 25 year-old Brisbanite has a day job at the Queensland Writers Centre, writes and regularly performs her own poetry and is Stage Manager for the annual Queensland Poetry Festival. Since her late teens, Beveridge has applied herself to writing poetry, and for the last two years, she has been actively involved in the Brisbane poetry scene. She has also published her work in print and audio form, but is not completely comfortable calling herself a 'poet' yet.

'I guess I'm still at the stage [where] I'm just writing and trying new things, different styles and methods of delivery. I feel most like a poet when I'm reading or listening to poetry. Poetry is my language, so I suppose I identify as a poet most when I'm engaging in the form live.'

Beveridge's Drama background informs her perception of poetry. '[It] all comes back to communicating with an audience,' she explains. 'Theatre, for me, was all about finding the most creative and economical way to communicate an intention or narrative, and-poetry is much the same.'

Reading and performing your own work can also be lucrative. 'Poets sell far more books if they are active in a live scene,' she says.

I asked Beveridge whether it is the personal process of composing poems that she enjoys most, or the finished poem and presentation to an audience. 'It's actually the in-between,' she says.

'I'll write some stuff and then take it to an open mic or pull it out at a reading and see how it sounds. The most [enjoyable] thing for me is testing the waters. Throwing something out to see if it works. An amplifier is the best editor you'll ever find. I love -the moment I find a place for a line that's been rolling around in my head for months and months with nowhere to live. I love finding out where the words fit in.'

Rock 'n' Roll Tuxedo

Beveridge also feels a strong bond between poetry and rock 'n' roll. 'Ever since I started writing poetry, I just want to do a pub tour of the east coast, you know. Poetry is my rock 'n' roll,' she says.

Reading American poet David Lerner's poem 'Mein Kampf' a few years ago made her realise that poetry 'is sexy and visceral and real', a concept that changed her life. 'I just like the dirty side of poetry. I like poetry that moves me, that makes me want to dance and riot, or fuck, or hide or explode. The same feeling I get from rock 'n' roll.'

She draws the rock 'n' roll parallel further by comparing poetry collections to concept albums. '[The] cover of a collection of poetry should be like an album cover, not like the washed out pastel two-tone cubic nightmares that a lot of poetry books are.'

Beveridge views her first self-published poetry 'concept album', aptly named Rock 'n' Roll Tuxedo (2005), as a huge learning experience. While she is now critical of some of the poems it contains, she remains happy with the overall package.

'I wanted Tuxedo to be the sexiest book of poems I had seen, and I achieved that. It's a beautiful book. The form is as important to me as the content, so with the Rolling Stone Magazine style glossy cover and the chapter artwork, I think the experience of the book comes together really well.'

Rock 'n' Roll Tuxedo was reviewed by Evelyn Hartogh in Australian Women's Book Review.

Hartogh writes:

'Beveridge's collection Rock n Roll Tuxedo is full of the iconography of youth culture, especially the desire to identify herself with her passions for particular genres of music. Many of the poems also celebrate rebellion, embodied not in political involvement but in nihilistic intoxication with cigarettes, alcohol, pot and acid. Beveridge's work predominantly deals with the ways in which music and intoxicants offer an escape from the painfulness of growing up in a world that seems to render the artist powerless.'

Home is where the heartache is

Beveridge's latest project, Home is where the heartache is, is due to be published in March 2007 by a new poetry press called 'Small Change'. The collection of 'clinical and raw' Haibun poetry deals with her current obsession, 'domestic menace'.

ken_green_julie5.JPGThis obsession was initially triggered by watching a serial killer documentary. Beveridge then explored the darkest, most violent actions she could conceive of in a domestic setting via the internet, and they all existed. This led to the shocking realisation that these extreme examples of domestic menace, which were completely outside her realm of experience, were just 'everyday' concepts to other people.

While the actions are horrible, Beveridge explains that she is excited by the brutality of phrases such as 'I raped her'. '[When] I read the words 'I raped her' that just takes my breath away. All the details are left up to me, all the judgment. The poetry is in the space between the words,' she says. 'The poetry is in the breath.''

Beveridge sees Haibun as a style that lends itself to the harshness of her poetic expressions of domestic menace.

'Haibun is basically terse prose with haiku interspersed throughout,' Beveridge explains. 'It originated from Japan and was traditionally used [for] travel journals. [Haibun] has basic rules, like [it] is in first person, and always happening in the [present]. Its beauty is in the brevity, there is no room for sweeping metaphors here. In Haibun, a pomegranate is just a pomegranate.'

The following is one part from Beveridge's poem 'Cold Hands' (first published in Contemporary Haibun Online)

Cold Hands

I consider leaving this place, pushing my thumb into the oncoming traffic and rolling through. There is always less to leave behind than waits ahead, you just have to know what cars to get into and which to wave on. I walk backwards down the motorway the wind egging me on. The first thing I see is an indicator – a family sedan, dusty mud flaps, empty baby seat slows and pulls over. His gentle bearded face smiles me into the passenger seat and I tell him that I'm going to the city, my car broke down and I have contacts there. He is safe, he fiddles with the radio whistling along to every new tune. The heat of the day lets me drift into sleep. I feel him driving next to me. I will wake up fresh, a whole new road ahead.

cold hands

touch my face

they are not mine

Beveridge says she generally works backwards with her projects. For Home is where the heartache is, she started by imagining the finished product: the title, the subject, the look and feel of the book and the launch experience. Then she wrote the Haibun poems.

Publishing her work is crucial to Beveridge's project-based poetic process. '[It's] so satisfying to be able to pick up a book that contains a phase of mine. It means that something is done, complete, and I can start on something new.'

However, she is well aware of the difficulties poets face in finding support for their ventures and reaching their audience. 'Poets work harder at selling their work than any other sort of writer. So it's really important for me to have my book on the table with everyone else. And a CD, or a pod cast, or a short film poem, or however I choose to deliver [it].'

Queensland Poetry Festival [www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com]

Beveridge enthusiastically carries out her role as Stage Manager of the Queensland Poetry Festival (QPF), a position she got after telling a man (who turned out to be QPF director Graham Nunn) that the event needed one.

Beveridge has high praise for Nunn's contribution to the growth of poetry and poetry audiences in Queensland. 'Brisbane is blessed to have a few really dedicated poets, like Graham Nunn, who devote a lot of their time to running regular events like SpeedPoets and QPF. Graham is responsible for so much that goes on in Brisbane poetry. He has really devoted his life to it, and we're all extremely lucky to have him.'

QPF 2007 will be the final year with Nunn as director, Beveridge says, 'so it's about to totally evolve again when whoever takes the reigns steps in there'.

The QPF is 10 years strong and while Beveridge believes the festival to be under-rated, she is positive about its future.

'People don't realise how big it is,' she says, 'and the talent is just unbelievable. This year we had 10 international and about 40 Australian poets read at the festival. It's such a tight, intensive three days-It's our Splendour in the Grass-without the mud, and butterfly wings.'

Other than the QPF, Beveridge says there are many exciting poetry events planned for Brisbane in 2007. They include a new series called 'Poetry Unearthed', which aims to identify and help develop emerging poets.

In addition to launching her second book, 2007 will see Beveridge take up a writing residency at the Launceston City Gorge workers cottage in Tasmania.

Melissa Giles is a freelance writer from Brisbane. Images by Ken Green.

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