When I first encountered the work of Los Angeles-based poet Boots, I was exploring lost relics of Casa Grande, probably entering places I shouldn’t have. Walking through crumbling doorways and tripping over cracked pavement, I looked up to see a gigantic heart on the wall. In the heart read the words, “Invest love in the ones who stay.”
I was instantly intrigued.
Little did I know that within a few months, I would get to know Boots, Instagram handle @poetrybyboots. With 77 thousand followers and a fan base that grows every week, Boots is taking social media by storm with a platform that encourages sharing and following along on a journey that consists of abandoned places across the country and spray paint on walls. Over the past six months, I have gotten to know Boots, both on social media and behind the scenes. I got to ask her a few questions about her social media presence, and what it means to have work that exists both physically and virtually, and finding success in both mediums.
Q: Let’s start with something a little easier. Why the name Boots?
A: My ex-boyfriend, the one I wrote Cancun (& some of Fury about), used to call me Boots simply because I own like 200 pairs. When I started to publish work & do art for the poetry, I decided to use the nickname since essentially Boots was created as an outlet for the pain the end of that relationship created. It’s bittersweet to use because it reminds me of him but also it’s also a symbol of strength for me. It reminds me that even when I am weak I have created something beautiful out of the loss.
Q: That’s a super fantastic way to express who you are as well as who you’ve been. It’s a really honest portrayal of yourself. Which social media platforms do you use?
A: I mainly use Instagram. It’s such an amazing marketing tool. I love connecting with the readers. I respond to every single direct message I receive, comment & like every photo I am tagged in, & repost as many as possible. The readers are the reason I can do this. I send out free stickers to anyone who asks & they post them in their cities for me. It’s amazing that people care so much that they take time out of their day to spread my words across the globe. I am truly so grateful for every single follower.
Q: I am sure they are just as grateful for you and your poetry. How has all of this garnered attention from social media affected your career?
A: It has brought my poetry & my art to people who wouldn’t normally have access to it. It’s made Boots a brand, which I hate using the term “brand” but that’s how powerful social media is. People love to feel connected. They can see their photos reposted on my page & interact with me in a way that 10 years ago you wouldn’t have been able to.
Q: With so many writers and artists using social media to create their own “brands,” as you have coined it, how do you stand out among the rest?
A: I don’t “do” anything intentionally. Since the day I created @poetrybyboots I wanted it to be a true reflection of me. I admire without imitation. I want my page to be a safe haven where you can relate & share your struggles. Where you can see you’re not alone. I am completely open about my depression & anxiety which people relate to. The rawness & vulnerability is rare in a society where we seek social media fame over authenticity. The graffiti has helped because it brings the words to life. It makes people feel a part of it when they find a heart or see a sticker. I respond to every single message I receive, like & comment every post I’m tagged in, & repost as many of them as possible. I want people to understand that I am not some faceless poet trying to gain followers. I am person who can’t get out of bed some days, who wants to hear your struggles, who wants to show you that through self-expression, however you choose to do that, you can overcome anything.
Q: It sounds like your work is extremely personal to you and the reader and you would want it to be tangible. Your work does exist both physically and virtually. Why did you decide this?
A: As cliché as it sounds I love books. I love being able to hold them. Highlight them, make notes on the pages, & essentially making that book a piece of my journey. When I was 12 years old I started taking the 384 Pace Bus to Midway airport, then the Orange Line to the library stop every Saturday. Being from anywhere, especially Chicago, this wasn’t the safest thing for a kid to do but I loved sitting in the aisles of the 4th floor reading poetry books all day. It was a 2 hour trip each way carrying the heaviest backpack back & forth swapping out books for the week. Every time I hold one of my books I remember that feeling.
As for digital, it is the best marketing tool there is. Anyone who says they don’t want to make money off their art is lying. Social media is a way to sell books & merchandise. I can post the poems, have a platform to speak, & I can share my words with people all over the world.
Talking to Boots, I have gained a little bit of an understanding as to what it means to have work that exists in a digital space as well as a physical space. I originally encountered Boots’ work in a physical space, but following her digital platform has really opened my eyes to the benefits of connection in a digital platform. I am so glad to have gotten to know her and how she operates. I think that Instagram is a great place to get started—Boots posts her poems in creative and beautiful ways, whether that be on an abandoned building in Casa Grande or typed on a piece of paper with dried flowers to frame them.
Make sure to follow the Tunnels for part two of this interview, which focuses on Boots’ work, her love for abandoned places, and her new book Fury!
Follow Boots on Instagram: @poetrybyboots