Dunes Review Interview Series: Ace Boggess
Ace Boggess is author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field, and the novel A Song Without a Melody. His poetry appears in Rattle, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other journals. He lives in West Virginia.
Ace's poem "Do You Think of Yourself as a Winner?" appears in the 2017 summer/autumn edition of Dunes Review.
What first inspired you to write?
I don't know that answer to that. Probably a mix of anxiety, alienation, and a love for books. Gen-X stuff.
What is your writing routine like? Do you have a schedule, a favorite place to work, a favorite type of pen you always write with?
I read for about half an hour to forty-minutes before picking up the pen. It's habit left over from years of drug addiction. I would take my drugs and read until they kicked in, then write. Now, without the drugs, I find reading still focuses me. It's Pavlovian, I think. I write wherever I can. These days, I write a good bit while lying on my side in bed.
What's the first thing you do when starting a new piece of writing?
I just look for a way in, an idea, a theme. Once I have that, I write. I use questions as titles for many poems and keep a list. If I don't have an idea floating around in my head, I'll find an interesting question and respond to it. For me, once I start writing, things come rather smoothly. It's just a matter of getting started.
Do you listen to music or must you have silence while you write?
Either. Neither. I've written in loud bars and jail cells as well as in quiet of an empty room. The only things that stop me are folks talking to me or my anxieties amping up and not allowing me to sit still.
What's your least favorite thing about writing?
Do you let other people read your works in progress? If so, whom?
Not really. I'll let folks read completed drafts, but not anything that isn't finished (however rough that might be).
How do you know when a piece is finished?
When it's published, usually. Whenever something is rejected, I always revise it immediately and send it back out. When an editor accepts it, I'm always open to suggested changes. When it's published though, most of the time I stop messing with it. At least until the book editor takes a stab.
How do you feel about sharing your writing with readers? What kind of feedback do you get from them? Do you have any insights into that experience?
I love sharing my writing. I'm sending work out constantly, and I probably post my publications a bit too much. I especially love doing readings. Different audiences connect to things in different ways, though. Usually I know how I'm being received by whether folks laugh at the right parts. My work often makes of point of trying to show reverence and irreverence at the same time. When the audience gets that, I can tell. But it's also about making connections between my life and theirs. Do I, as an ex-con, convey my experiences in a way that readers or listeners can relate to them without having shared them? Those connections are most important to me. And sometimes other connections form. Last night at a reading, a woman came up and talked to my about a spider poem from my new book Ultra Deep Field. We talked for fifteen minutes about that dread of suddenly seeing a giant spider lurching toward us. It was wonderful and disturbing.
Can you tell us about a piece you are particularly proud of?
My poem "Watching the Wizard of Oz in Prison" is a personal favorite. It's also in Ultra Deep Field, but you can find it on Rattle's web site also. It says a lot, but I love it because it perfectly captures that idea of simultaneous reverence and irreverence.
Whose writing inspires you?
Far too many people to name. I want to feel that same sense of connection to the strange when I'm reading that I hope my readers get from my work. So, anyone that can suck me in to their bizarre and fascinating lives will send me on good trip. The two books that have most inspired me over the years, though, have been David Lehman's The Evening Sun and Adam Zagajewski's Without End. I say this a lot in interviews, but when I read those two books, I always feel the tone of my own writing change.
Who are you currently reading?
If someone were to write a book about your life (either fiction or nonfiction), who would you want that author to be and why?
Albert Camus. Absurdity, detachment, meaninglessness--if Camus came around just a few decades later, he could perfectly capture the Gen-Xistential hero of my me-book.
What is your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
It changes. Sometimes I watch movies or sports. Sometimes I listen to music. I'm also good for a game or two of solitaire on the laptop. I love to go to concerts. Don't do it as much these days. But that'd be up toward the top.