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Interview with Poet Ace Boggess

Ace Boggess
Ace Boggess

CONTRIBUTOR INTERVIEW

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. What is the most important role for poets today?

I think the best thing poets can do is to help strangers understand each other.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1988292050/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482608778&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Prisoners-Ace-Boggess/dp/0983530475/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407071309&sr=1-1&keywords=ace+boggess

http://brickroadpoetrypress.com/

On Twitter: @AceBoggess

 

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WELCOME TO GYROSCOPE REVIEW’S FALL ISSUE!

We are so pleased to release our fall 2016 issue of Gyroscope Review: The Honor Issue. In this issue, we’ve created a special section of 11 poems dedicated to the idea of honor. And we’ve nestled it in among 33 modern poems that explore a wide variety of topics that affect us all. We’ve included work from inside and outside the United States, including work from Canada, England, Scotland, and New Zealand.

As always, the Joomag edition will give you an on-screen magazine experience if you are reading from your desktop or laptop. That edition is available here:

Gyroscope Review Issue 16-4 front cover

For reading on your mobile device, please use the pdf file, available here: ISSUE 16-4

For sharing with friends, this page will offer you both reading options: http://www.gyroscopereview.com/home/issues/

Thank you to all the wonderful poets who sent us work for this issue. We are delighted to give your work a home.

 

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INTERVIEW WITH POET JAMES GRAHAM

James Graham
James Graham

Gyroscope Review editors decided that a good way to honor contributors to our journal is with an occasional interview. Today, we bring you contributing poet James Graham.

GR: Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that your work is included in our first issue. Will you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?

JG: I’ve lived all my life in Ayrshire, Scotland, not far from the vibrant city of Glasgow. I write in my head, and from there to any piece of paper that’s handy. I’ve been known to pull into a layby and whip out a notebook. Then off to my den to knock it into shape on the computer. Why poetry? Simply because years ago I found I could.

GR: Who, or what, are your poetical influences?

JG: I’m not aware of ever having imitated a poet I’ve read. There are poets I love and read over and over, and I’m sure something rubs off. The most congenial of all poets for me is Walt Whitman.

GR: How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

JG: A poem takes shape as it’s written. Probably the only time I decide on form before starting is when (occasionally) I decide to write a comic or nonsense poem, and always go for rhymed verses. So many poets, classic and contemporary, can use rhyme for serious, profound work –  but I can use it only for light humorous stuff!

GR: What is your writing process like?

JG: Beyond the scraps-of-paper stage, for most poems there’s a lot of revision. Often it means leaving a poem for weeks or even months, then reading it again. Sometimes I try to read it as if it were not my poem, as if I were someone who has come across it in the poetry section of a bookshop. Distance myself from it.  Surprisingly often, I hit on an idea that will avoid unnecessary obscurity.

GR: Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face-to-face or online? If so, are they part of your process?

JR: There used to be a local ‘Poems and Pints’ group, which was fun but there wasn’t much feedback. Unfortunately it folded. Now I’m online every day as a ‘site expert’ (hard hat and all!) with the writers’ community Write Words (www.writewords.org.uk). WW is very much part of the process: there are some very good poets there, who say they learn from me, but I have learned a good deal from them too.

GR: What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

JG: Technical excellence, exciting language, memorable lines – all those things; but also social conscience. No navel-gazing. A sense that the poet is reaching out to the world and offering insights into its problems and injustices. Whitman’s Civil War poems are profound examples of this. The WW1 poets, of course – not forgetting Rosenberg, one of the less celebrated but most compassionate. Two English poets of social conscience: Shelley and Clare. Finally, Bertolt Brecht – not every poem he ever wrote, but some of the best, in which he shows how to make a great poem that’s also a direct political statement.

GR: What is the most important role for poets today?

JR: See above – to offer insights into the plight of people who are denied the chance to live fulfilled lives. Of course not all poets work along these lines, but we need some. All poets have a mission, if we can call it that, to keep up the high standards of this verbal art in an age when language seems so often abused and trivialized. I’m thinking of the more mediocre pop song lyrics, tabloid newspapers, and more besides.

GR: Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?

JG: Many years ago I heard Auden read his own work to an audience. His reading was rather flat, but somehow the poems came across well and I was very moved by them. The most recent book I’ve read isn’t a poetry book but a book about life in remote prehistory, which gave me ideas for a couple of poems.

GR: Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

JG: I hope soon to bring out a new ‘slim volume’, a new collection. It’s still in the early stages, but should be out before too long.

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

JG: I’m active in Amnesty International, especially campaigns against denial of free speech, and torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. I love growing things,especially trees; my garden isn’t a garden so much as a tiny bit of woodland.

GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We appreciate your time and your work, James.

Several of James Graham’s poems were published at the online poetry journal, Every Day Poets, during its run from 2008-2014 (www.everydaypoets.com).

James Graham’s poem, The Hurt Beech: September 2014, appears on page 13 of the Spring 2015 issue of Gyroscope Review. His poem, A Poem about Maria Teresa, also appears in that issue on page 27.

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INTERVIEW WITH WRITER OONAH V JOSLIN

Gyroscope Review editors decided that a good way to honor contributors to our journal is with an occasional interview. We decided to begin with our friend and colleague, Oonah Joslin. Read on.

 

Oonah Joslin on a visit to Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota.
Oonah Joslin on a visit to Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota.

GR: Thanks for agreeing to let us interview you for Gyroscope Review. We’re pleased that your work is included in our first issue. Can you please begin by telling us where you’re from, where you write, and why poetry?

 

OVJ: I am originally from N. Ireland but I lived in S. Wales and now in Northumberland – England’s most northerly region. But I seem to spend most of my time inside this wee box and that’s where I do most of my writing. I don’t write poetry exclusively. I have 100 MicroHorrors online and other stories on various sites and anthologies, and a novella. In fact I have over 90 pieces of work in Bewildering Stories including a discussion, with poet John Stocks, of the work of T S Eliot. Some of you masochists might like that.

 

GR: Who, or what are your poetical influences?

 

OVJ: I used to do verse speaking at the Feis when I was just in primary school. I had trouble learning to read and so poetry helped me because of its rhymes and I loved singing hymns too. Of course when The Highway Man came riding up to the old inn door and Death raised himself a throne under the sea, well — I was hooked. At eleven one my first poems, The Scarecrow, was put on the classroom wall. I had a lot of great teachers! And you never stop learning. Being an editor hones your skills too. I’ve learned a lot from reading a lot of submissions.

 

GR: How do you decide what ‘form’ a poem should take?

 

OVJ: I usually just start writing and sometimes lines suggest themselves. I play about with poems a good deal. I like to experiment with form but nothing too restrictive. I am not fond of Pantoums or Villanelles. I don’t mind non-repetitive forms. I quite like sonnets. I prefer free verse, prose poems and Japanese short forms because — they’re short — and so am I. I have no ambition to write an epic narrative of any kind.

 

GR: What is your writing process like?

 

OVJ: Chaotic. Eclectic. Messy.

Shortest — under a minute to write was this one.  https://postcardpoemsandprose.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/pret-a-porter-by-oonah-v-joslin/

Longest – took over 20 years.

Heart of Brightness, about Manhattan, was started on 15th Sept 2014 and finished just before publication. Here’s part of the first draft at which point it wasn’t even a poem — just a voice in my head:

 

“Never imagined it would be like this – like a diamond. 

 

It looked like a jewel from the air. A jewel casting light in all directions, splintering the sun into shards and throwing them out like so much tinsel. It looked like a jewel from the ground. At a distance, sharp and facetious: cut to impress. Inside its movements were pure Cartier – precise, intricate, non-stop clock-worked motion that ticked so loud you could hear nothing but the heart of it: could attend to nothing but the incessant avalanche of noise.”

 

GR: Do you belong to any writer’s groups – face to face or online? If so, Are they part of your process?

 

OVJ: Heart of Brightness took more than 10 drafts, two of those being work-shopped in Writewords. James Graham is a tremendous help. He can unpack a poem like no other. No detail is beneath his notice. I owe a lot to James and to the other poets who comment there. I attend two other ‘live’ writers’ groups periodically but one doesn’t generally get such good feedback. I like working from prompts so – yes they are all very much part of the process.

 

GR: What do you look for in the poetry you like to read? Any favorite poets?

 

OVJ: Depth. Breadth. Spirituality. To say something other; something I hadn’t thought of in that way before. The big picture. Hopkins is still one of my favourites, Auden, Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Basho, Rumi, Baudelaire; but you know there are lots of good poets out there; lots I haven’t come across and some of my online friends and the poets I’ve published are pretty great!

 

GR: What is the most important role for poets today?

 

OVJ: Writing poetry.

 

GR: Which poets have you had the opportunity to hear read? Alternatively, what is the most recent book you’ve read?

 

OVJ: Colin Will recently did a reading from his latest collection, The Book of Ways, which is rather unique – an entire book of Haibun. I enjoyed reading it more than hearing it because, on the page, the short forms stood out more and therefore took on more emphasis; a more separate significance from the prose and I could see how they worked together as a whole.

 

GR: Any future plans for your work that you’d like to talk about?

 

OVJ: I am going to be a great success, win some major prize, have several collections published etc etc. No. I just write, you know?

 

GR: What other interests do you have beyond literature?

 

OVJ: Cooking, eating. Anything to do with space exploration. History and science.

A Quantum History of Gastronomy ☺ – that’s me. Ah – the title for my book!

 

GR: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Please let our readers know where they can find more information about you or your work:

OVJ:

Blogs:

Oonahverse http://oonahs.blogspot.co.uk/

Parallel Oonahverse https://oovj.wordpress.com/

MicroHorrors http://www.microhorror.com/microhorror/category/author/oonah-v-joslin/

Discussion of Poetry: http://www.everydaypoets.com/what-is-poetry-149-oonah-v-joslin-and-john-stocks/ and look in the Author Index for me.

Or you could just google and see what comes up. I am on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/oonah.joslin

GR: Thanks, again, Oonah. It’s been a pleasure.

Oonah’s poem, Heart of Brightness, appears on page 7 of the inaugural issue of Gyroscope Review.

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