If you missed the first part of this interview with poet Boots, where we talk about the writing world and how it intersects with the social media world, you can check it out here.
Boots, Instagram handle @poetrybyboots, is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Cancun and Fury. Fury, her newest venture, is full of short poems as well as pictures that evoke the emotion or feeling of the poem on the page. I am always wondering about a poet’s work and where they draw inspiration from. I was so happy to be able to talk to Boots about Fury.
Q: I guess I am most interested in the idea of persona in any poet’s work, persona being the idea of writing as a mask, a way to cover and become someone or something else. I want to start off asking if you’ve ever written a persona poem.
A: Boots is kind of a persona. That’s a mask I can wear proudly or hide behind. Boots is the broken part of me. The soul that won’t heal. The anxious person that stays up all night staring at the empty pillow next to her. However, Boots is also a symbol of strength. The person who overcame her demons, healed, & is now stronger than ever. I explore this concept more in my “Note To Self” poems that appear a lot in my second book, Fury. It’s me reminding or telling myself the truths I need to hear.
Q: Speaking of Fury, I noticed that much of your pieces are small (easy to paint on a wall, which we will get to later), but a lot of them can be read as a cohesive whole, such as in Fury. Would you rather be able to tell a story with your work, or be able to have fragmented gems that readers can cling to? Why?
A: Both. I like to be able to tell a story for the reader. I think reading the poems in the order in which I intended brings a different feeling to them than reading them as individuals. However, I love that some are strong enough to stand alone. Speaking from a marketing stand point it’s helped so much to have smaller pieces that can easily be spray painted, printed on a sticker, or be read on a tank top. I don’t write with intentions in mind or use a formula. I write what I’m feeling & then decide later if where to place it in the storyline or however else it can be utilized to reach as many people as possible.
Q: Speaking of spray painting… I first encountered your work at an abandoned building in Casa Grande, Arizona. How do you pick the places that you are going to put your work on?
A: My love for abandoned places started during the last year I was with my ex. We were driving home from Las Vegas, a trip that we spent most of it drunk & fighting, & on the side of the road I saw some abandoned structures. It was an abandoned water park. I instantly felt this connection. Ruined, used, destroyed, yet still beautiful in its decay. I became obsessed with finding other abandoned places. After the break up I traveled on & off for 8 months driving across country with my dog sitting shotgun. I wrote poetry every single night in those hotel rooms. After I finished writing Cancun, I realized that these places are covered in graffiti. Why don’t I make my own stencils & spray paint them since I am already there? I usually have them all mapped out & I grab various types of poems to spray.
Q: Is the deep history of the places you pick part of the process of choosing?
A: Absolutely. Before I go to any place I like to know what the building was used for, when it closed down, the type of architecture, & as much information as I can. It helps me when photographing these places because I know the story I want them to tell due to their history. All these photos can be seen on my abandoned page @somecallmeboots.
Q: I’m pretty sure I’d be nervous as hell to spray paint my poetry on anything. Do you ever get nervous?
A: Yes and no. I used to be slightly more fearless with it but now that urban exploring has BLOWN UP on social media in the last few years, abandoned places are watched by law enforcement more. I love those carefree days in the middle of the desert where I can spend hours doing it without any anxiety. Every heart I spray is a representation of me as an artist so I try to always make them look how I envision them. Due to weather, time, access, etc.… that doesn’t always happen though.
Q: Which place are you the proudest to have your work at—a heart that came out the way you envision it the most?
A: The piece I am the proudest of is in Indianapolis. A close friend of mine brought me to this warehouses that the owner lets you spray paint on. It took me about 2 hours to complete & is taller than I am. It reads, “Never be with anyone who tries to silence the art inside you.”
My favorite place to visit & spray is Detroit. There are 81 abandoned schools there & I’ve been to over half of them. The Packard Plant is like my Disneyland. Near Flagstaff, AZ I love Two Guns abandoned camp site. That pool covered in graffiti is gorgeous. Route 40 starting in New Mexico all the way through the Texas Panhandle has so many ghost towns.
Q: Finally, what, in the broadest sense, does writing poetry mean to you?
A: Poetry to me is the ultimate expression of emotion. It’s my pain, my progress, & all my demons. I use poetry as a way to get out what’s inside my head before it destroys me. It helps me analyze what’s real & what’s my anxiety. I get criticized sometimes that I am not a “typical poet,” meaning I don’t always follow the traditional poetry schemes or rhythm. I just have to roll my eyes because no one has a right to judge my craft or how I choose to create my art. The most influential people in history didn’t listen to anything but their own heart & most certainly didn’t feel the need to stay inside of society’s box of what’s “correct” by definition.
After talking to Boots about poetry and what it means to her, I think that it was no coincidence that I found her work in abandoned domes one day in Casa Grande when I was feeling particularly low about a recently ended relationship. I think that we were meant to find each other somehow in this crazy, vast universe. She put into better words what I feel about writing, and why poetry is so important in all its forms. Thank you so much to Boots. If you would like to read her work you can purchase Fury here and Cancun here.