Each day in April, in honor of National Poetry Month and our third anniversary issue (find out how to get a copy HERE), we are running an interview with a poet who has been published in Gyroscope Review. Read on.
National Poetry Month Interview Series: Interview with Poet Ace Boggess
How will you celebrate National Poetry Month? If the opportunity presents itself, I like to do at least one reading and attend as many as possible. Otherwise, I like to post poems I love or YouTube videos of poets reading their work, including quirky I-can’t-believe-he’s-a-poet poets like actor Michael Madsen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zqbt8Juo9tE
Pen, pencil or computer first? Pen.
Who/what are your influences? I’d say the three biggest are David Lehman (his two books of daily poems), Billy Collins, and Adam Zagajewski.
What topic is the hardest for you to write about and why? The distant past. I write poems that are mostly in-the-moment (an editor once told me my poems are TOO momentary, which I took as a compliment). It’s hard for me to write about the distant past because it often sounds sappy or maudlin to me, and that makes me cringe. I keep doing it, though. Que sera sera.
What was the worst writing idea you ever had? There are no bad ideas; just bad execution. In that regard, there are too many to name.
What authors do you love right now? The poets whose names I see and drop whatever I’m doing to read their work include Kaveh Akbar, Jenn Givhan, Kenzie Allen, Chen Chen, Alexis Rhone Fancher, Keegan Lester, Matthew Lippmann, Ada Limon … damn, this is turning into an awards-show acceptance speech. Let’s just say there are a lot of outstanding poets out there that I HAVE to read. Their work is like dope. I can’t get enough.
What is the most important role of poets in 2018? Speak the truth in a beautiful way, even when it pisses people off.
Where do you go when you need to recharge? My room. Lifelong anxiety has me hiding there much of the time. Leaving the house is exhausting and enthralling at the same time.
What is your favorite end-of-the-day drink? Coffee. Always coffee. Whatever the time of day.
Ace Boggess lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His most recent book of poems, Ultra Deep Field, was published in November 2017 by Brick Road Poetry Press and is available HERE. Follow Ace on Twitter @AceBoggess.
Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that you are one of our contributing poets. Will you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?
I’m from West Virginia—Charleston, currently, but I’ve lived in many parts of the state. I write wherever I happen to be. I’ve been writing in bed a lot lately for some reason. As for why poetry, well, that’s complicated. Until a few years ago, I never thought of myself as a poet. I considered myself a novelist and just wrote poetry along the way. Then, while my novels were out there floundering under the weight of rejection letters, my poems were popping up in journals and e-zines all over the place. It got so bad that everyone I knew referred to me as a poet. It took me a while to accept that. Now, I write mostly poetry and call myself a poet, so of course I have a novel out. Funny how that works.
Who, or what, are your poetical influences?
Early on, I loved reading Neruda and Ferlinghetti. An odd mix, I know. From there, I started reading whatever I could get my hands on. Probably the two books that have had the biggest influence on me though are David Lehman’s The Evening Sun and Without End by Adam Zagajewski. The way I like to describe is that when I’m reading those two books, I can feel the tone of my own writing shift—more kinetic and chaotic in terms of Lehman’s book, and more serious and subtle, almost soulful, with Zagajewski’s.
How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?
I rarely do until the poem is on paper. When I’m typing and revising, I play around with the lines and stanzas until they feel right. I rarely write in traditional forms, and when I do it’s a conscious choice in advance. With my new book, Ultra Deep Field (forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press), I forced myself into a form just to see if I could do it. What I decided on was a series of poems in unpunctuated couplets. I tried to see how much could go in a line or a stanza without the missing punctuation causing a problem for the reader (I quickly learned that the one bit of punctuation you can’t live without is the question mark). I wrote almost exclusively in that form for three years, carving out about 400 poems, of which half didn’t work at all. The other half mostly found homes in journals, and the better of those are included in the book.
What is your writing process like?
I read for a while to get in the writing mood—usually half an hour to 45 minutes. That’s a habit I picked up years ago when I was a drug addict. I’d take my drugs and read until they kicked in, then write. The drugs are gone now, but the habit remains, and I find it an effective way to focus. When I’m ready, I write longhand in a little notebook, make a few corrections, then do all the revising and form-seeking as I type. After a poem has been typed, I revise it once and send it out. If it’s rejected, I revise again and submit again. I almost never send the same piece out twice without having tweaked it a bit. I repeat that process until the poem is either right and published or hopelessly broken and ready for assisted suicide.
Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face-to-face or online? If so, are they part of your process?
I used to. Not anymore.
What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?
I look for a sense of connection to the strange. I want to feel what the poets feel and experiences their lives as if my own. If they’re exhausted or fascinated or turned on, that’s what I expect to come away with. If they’re meditative, that’s the state I want to find myself in. If they’re looking at deer or rabbits or ax-wielding clowns, I want to see them too as if they’re standing in my front yard right now … which they very well might be.
What is the most important role for poets today?
I think the best thing poets can do is to help strangers understand each other.
Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?
I’ve attending too many readings to remember them all. Some of the earlier ones were Ferlinghetti, David Rigsbee, Erin Belieu, Kirk Judd, and Mark Halliday. As for books, the one I’m reading at the moment is Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things.
Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?
Right now, I’m excited about the publication of Ultra Deep Field, which will be my third full-length collection. In the meantime, I have three other full-length collections for which I’m trying to find homes.
What other interests do you have beyond literature?
Music and movies, mostly. I used to be a news junkie, but I’m trying to break myself of that habit. It’s not good for my ulcer.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work: