Visit Rich Boucher at richboucher.bandcamp.com for audio pieces that are combinations of his homemade soundscapes and poetry. "Some of it is not safe for work OR for play. And that is fine. As a matter of fact, everything, without exception, that is 'not safe for work' is good," he writes. He is a featured poet at "Pints and Politics" at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, at Tractor Brewery, 118 Tulane SE. (Photo by Leann Denman)
Why did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 16, and pining for a girl who was not into me. Back in the day, when you liked someone, you “pined” for them. She just wasn't that into me. And I pined. I pined like a tree during Christmas. And I pined by writing absolutely ghastly, self-pitying and rhyming drivel about how foreboding the sky was because she didn't like me. Isn't that just pathetic?
Why are you still writing?
I'm still writing now because over the years it has come to my mind’s attention that I must write, that writing is a part of me. To not write would be to purposefully sever one of my own limbs. That's a dramatic way to put it, but that's how high the stakes are.
I’m writing still because I love the act of writing, to watch myself force my hands to make into existence that new combination of words and thoughts back there, just behind my eyes.
What's your favorite venue(s) to hear/read poetry and writing in the Albuquerque area?
There are two regularly-occurring readings that are tied right now for my favorite place to read and hear poetry in Albuquerque. One is the Monday night East of Edith Open Mic reading at the Projects, and the other is the monthly, 2nd Thursday Speak, Poet: Voz, Palabra y Sonido reading held at El Chante: Casa de Cultura. Both readings are excellent; they are genuine “listening rooms,” so you had better come correct when you go there. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I sometimes serve as a guest host at the East of Edith Open Mic, and in the interest of extra disclosure I will tell you that Andrea Serrano, the host of the “Speak, Poet” series, is awesome and badass. Sometimes I will hear one of her poems and realize that I am merely a gross hobo, faking it in a cheap tie.
Do you consider yourself to be a slam poet, literary poet, cowboy poet, etc.? Why?
I consider myself to be both a "recovering" slam poet and a performance poet. I say “recovering” because I have been slamming for a good long number of years, and it's hard to get that taste for competition out of your heart. I say "performance poet" because I don't simply read aloud my poems. There's more to it than that. There are performance skills I put into action when I perform my poetry. These categories, though, often tend to obfuscate the bold interstices of the hegemonic literal gynocracy. Sometimes I feel like a cowboy poet, but only when I am standing in tall weeds and only for a few seconds.
What is your writing process like? Do you start with an image, concept or phrase? Do you write poems from beginning to end or in pieces?
I will normally have a line to start with, honestly. Some line will come to me nearly whole, nearly ready to go, and I will then set to work figuring out what lines come before and after that line, unless that line turns out to be the first line of something new. This line will usually come alongside an image, something not quite right, something off-kilter. Some poems will take me straight from the beginning right to the end in one session, which can include perhaps a glass of Scotch and some jazz on my Pandora station. Wordless jazz. Other poems I will work on in parts, because they won't let me finish them in one shot. I have taken a year to finish a poem. I have finished a poem in an hour. The poems tell me; I don't tell them.
Are there certain subjects you find yourself drawn to?
What I'm drawn to most is confusion. Dissonance. Something in a sentence you hear that you need to have repeated, because you are not sure you heard it right the first time around. "Bobby was stung by a dog in the park last week." He was? Stung, you say? That sort of thing. I am drawn to fighting against what is known. I take things that are known and I insist that not only can't I know them, but moreover these known things can't be known at all. It's good to hurt brains. We must destroy history, and knowledge. I have an objective of victimizing the reader, or listener, with my work. Victimizing their pre-hurt brains with the way my poem says something. I want the reader or listener to suddenly break their neck with a double-take at something my poem just said; I want their face to be just as surprised as a squirrel’s is when you whip a handful of flour in its face.
Who are your influences, and how have they impacted you?
Quite a few poets have influenced me. Early on, it was Edna Millay and Wallace Stevens and e.e. cummings – those writers got me excited about poetry, and got me excited to imagine that maybe I could do something like what they did. Early slammers like Bill MacMillan and Danny Solis showed me how important it was to make sure my poems never got in the way of themselves or got in the way of the passions that caused them. James Tate and Charles Simic are two writers who continue to inspire me every single day. TV also. For good or bad or for naught, TV has influenced me as well. Please help me.
What is your profession? Does it help or interfere with your writing?
I work for a large newspaper. I work in the “numbers and computers” department.
I think my job might sometimes help me, but I couldn’t tell you how. Perhaps working where I work improves my words-per-minute speed, but I’m not sure. It took me thirty minutes to type that last line, so I don’t know.
What advice would you offer to new writers?
Think about sounds. Have a good idea of what you really, really want to say. Do not be afraid to viciously cut away all those words in your new draft that do not serve the message of the poem; do not be afraid to say goodbye to what has to be asked to leave. Make the red pen your BFF. Think about sounds some more. Buy a really excellent, thick, hard-bound thesaurus. Bartlett’s Roget’s is a fantastic one. I love italics.