Interview by Alexandra Seidel
AS: Your poetry collection Dark Matters (Bad Moon Books) recently won the Bram Stoker Award. What inspired you to put together this deliciously dark collection.
BB: I’ve been publishing poetry for forty-five years, and compiling and publishing collections for more than forty. It’s one of the things I do as a writer in the ongoing attempt to reach more readers. Of course there is no point in compiling a book of poems unless you can find a publisher for it. In recent years most of my collections have leaned toward the dark because that’s where the markets seem to be for genre poetry collections. Dark Matters is my thirty-second book of poems. One way it differs to some degree from earlier collections is that more of the poems are explicitly (with a dedication) or implicitly (by content) influenced by writers who have inspired me in one way or another: Wallace Stevens, Ray Bradbury, Jean Cocteau, T.S. Eliot, Ross Macdonald, Nostradamus, etc.
AS: What is the best thing about receiving this Bram Stoker Award and how do you feel about it?
BB: The best thing about this one was receiving the award in person, very different and much more satisfying than hearing about it online. Not only the ceremony itself – going up on stage to applause, delivering the acceptance speech, getting your photo taken, etc. – but also the aftermath, being congratulated in person by writers you know and admire. Lots of ego strokes there. For how I feel about it, see below.
AS: Apart from receiving the Award, what were the highlights of your Stoker Weekend? Was there anything that didn't go as planned?
BB: The main highlight of any writers convention is the chance to get together with other writers, formally in panels and socially otherwise, the chance to renew old acquaintances and make new ones with good conversation. And there were plenty of fine writers and editors from the horror field at this Stoker Awards Weekend. So many there was not enough time, even in a long weekend, to talk at length with all of them.
The train trip didn't exactly go as we planned. I hadn’t ridden on a train for more than twenty years, and will not be taking any extended trips on one again. While Western Europe has progressed to high-speed monorails, the American system has continued to decline. The cars sway back and forth like boats and bump along like two-bit carnival rides. Much of the food is inedible. And our sleeper compartment was cramped and uncomfortable rather than the cozy we’d hoped for.
AS: This Bram Stoker Award is not your first. In fact, you’ve now received four of them in recognition of your poetry collections, which is quite a record. What's your secret?
BB: I think Mary Turzillo nailed it in a review of my collection The Complete Accursed Wives for Strange Horizons when she wrote: “Boston has the gift of making his poetry appealing to people who generally aren't fond of poetry.”
Mary is referring to what I think of as my populist poems, the kind that can speak to any literate reader whether or not they usually read poetry. I write poems exclusively for readers of poetry also, more complex and layered, not necessarily better, just different. In any case, such populist poems make up a good portion of my collections that have brought home Stoker Awards. And who votes for the Stoker Awards? The active members of the Horror Writers Association, fiction writers for the most part, many of whom do not normally read poetry and some who even frown upon it. I’ve encountered a similar success with the Asimov’s Readers Award for poetry, and for the same reason.
As to how I feel about winning four Bram Stoker Awards for poetry…perhaps sated is a good description. I’m thinking that next time around, I’d probably enjoy presenting the award to a poet whose work I admire more than winning another one myself.
AS: Your novel The Guardener's Tale was also a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, and you are the Chair of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award Novel Jury. What is your attraction to horror, especially as a poet?
BB: The Guardener’s Tale is not a horror novel, but a dystopian science fiction novel along the lines of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. It has few if any scenes that could be considered explicit horror. Most of the darkness in the book is psychological and situational rather than graphic or supernatural. When The Guardener’s Tale started receiving recommendations for the Stoker Award, no one was more surprised than I was. As a poet, I’ve easily written as many science fiction poems as horror poems, with a decent share of fantasy and mainstream along the way. I think all writers are attracted in their own writing to what they like to read.
With regard to my specific attraction to horror, I would quote Howard V. Hendrix in a blurb he did for Dark Matters: “No matter how seemingly marginal, extreme, or dark the science fiction, horror, and fantasy tropes Boston plays upon here, in his hands those extremities cut into and through all the supposedly central and mundane assumptions of our daylight world.” To put it another way, the social and political hypocrisies of the everyday put forth a distorted view of the world by too often ignoring the darkness we all possess as human animals. Horror writing can cut through such hypocrisies to present a more complete view of consciousness and reality.
AS: What's next for you?
BB: My next collection of poems, Surrealities, should be out from Dark Regions Press in a month or so. This book is a bit of a departure for me in that it is not a collection of science fiction or horror poetry, but of surreal poetry and poems about surrealism. It’s also a departure in that I did the illustrations for it, albeit by happenstance. You can find the illustrations in a gallery on my Facebook page.
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Beyond that, fellow poet Gary William Crawford and I have been gradually compiling a shared-world collection of poems and prose poems set in a hypothetical world known as the Shadow City. Gary first created this world, and then invited me to join him in writing about it.And beyond that, I hope to continue to follow my imagination and inspiration wherever they lead.
FU: We'd like to thank Bruce for talking with us. His readers will be interested in both Issue One of Fantastique Unfettered (featuring two of his poems: Read For Free Online, or Buy It HERE) and the forthcoming FU#3 (Due August 31st) which will feature his poem 'Relative Weights and Measures.' Thanks, Bruce!