Featured Writer (Issue 13, 2020)

Interview with Rodd Whelpley

Editor’s Pick

This issue’s Editor Pick is from Rodd Whelpley, Leavings. Professionally, Rodd manages an electric efficiency program for thirty-two cities across Illinois. However, he does write and has several works that have been published in a crosscut of the literary world. His first chapbook Catch as Kitsch Can, was released in 2018. We here at Emerge are pleased to showcase his work.

Damon: What accomplishment are you most proud of, either personal or professional?

Rodd: No matter what I do, I can’t say that I ever feel very accomplished. “Accomplished” would mean that something is done and over with. Even though I’m comfortably in middle age, I hold on to the notion that there is always something else to do next. I admire steadiness – the commitment to the going concern, whether that manifests itself as setting the alarm a couple hours early each day to write, or reliably giving a full and useful effort at work, or trying to become a better husband and dad (always a long way to go on that one).  Of course, one never knows if he or she has accomplished the job of being a steady and reliable person until he or she: a) fails to be, or b) fails to exist. (Wow. That answer took a positive question and made it a downer.)

Damon: Is your style influenced by any one style of writing?

Rodd: One editor said my work reminded him of Billy Collins. Another said Ted Kooser. Of course, those editors were just being nice. I think, though, the editors made those comparisons because my poems tend toward the narrative. I try to make sure there is never much mystery about what is happening in my poems. Ideally, the poems may suggest that more happens to be at stake than things first appear, but whatever first appears should be intelligible for a reader. I think Kooser and Collins are in that same vein.

Damon: How have you been doing during this strange time we find ourselves?

Rodd: I’m a relatively non-essential worker in an essential industry, which means I have been very lucky. My job migrated from my work office to my makeshift writing nook in my basement storage room. So, my family hasn’t felt the economic pinch that so many others have, and we’ve been able to isolate ourselves to stay relatively safe from danger. We missed some of those moments that families look forward to. My son was a member of one of the best show choirs in the country, and we missed traveling and watching him sing for the last half of his senior season. We’re missing formal graduation. We’re missing on-campus Freshman Orientation. We may miss dropping him off at his dorm room this fall. But these are all such privileged things to miss that none of us feel terrible about them. Others have real problems. We are all feeling so lucky. We’ve upped our charitable giving and, whenever we can, we make local purchases to support our neighbors’ businesses that are feeling the pinch.

Damon: Do you think the ’72 Dolphins are the best team past or present in the NFL?

Rodd: I’ve got a soft spot for that Dolphins team because Don Shula broke my father’s nose when their high school teams played against each other in 1948. However, I still think the 1975 Steelers are the best professional football team so far (at least in my lifetime). I definitely want to go on record that I am not saying this to win points with Ariana D. Den Bleyker. I grew up 30 miles east of Cleveland. I believe in the Browns. I believe in the Browns. I believe in the Browns. It’s wrong and it’s silly, I know, but I believe in the Browns.

Damon: What are your goals for the coming year?

Rodd: I want to do my job better and love my family more. I also need to clean up and submit the final manuscript for my second chapbook, The Last Bridge is Home, which will come out in the summer of 2021.

Rodd Whelpley manages an electric efficiency program for 32 cities across Illinois and lives near Springfield. His poems have appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Shore, 2River View, Star 82 Review, Kissing Dynamite, Barren, Shot Glass Journal, The Naugatuck River Review, The Chagrin River Review and other journals. Catch as Kitsch Can, his first chapbook, was published in 2018. Find him at www.RoddWhelpley.com.


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