World Horror Convention 2013 GoH Interview #5: Bruce Boston

bruce boston

Bruce Boston is the author of fifty books and chapbooks, including the novels The Guardener’s Tale and Stained Glass Rain. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of publications, including Asimov’s SF Magazine, Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and The Nebula Awards Showcase. One of the leading genre poets for more than a quarter century, Bruce has won a record four Bram Stoker Awards® for Poetry, a record six Asimov’s Readers Awards for Poetry, and a record seven Rhysling Awards from the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). He received the first Grandmaster Award of the SFPA in 1999. His fiction has received a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a Novel and the Micro Award for flash fiction. Bruce lives in Ocala, Florida, once known as the City of Trees, with his wife, writer-artist Marge Simon, and the ghosts of two cats. Visit his website at

HWA President Rocky Wood said, “Bruce is one of the most respected genre poets of recent decades. His work is original, compelling and challenging. We are pleased he has agreed to share his knowledge and experience as a poet with the Convention and I know attendees will be looking forward to his Guest of Honor panel and his readings. It will be interesting to hear him expound on how he composes across genres and also writes prose, including award nominated novels. As well as being highly awarded Bruce is well known for giving back to the genre through his active participation in the Horror Writers Association and tirelessly working to promote the poetic form.”
“We are proud to have a Poet Guest of Honor, which recognizes the importance poetry has always played in the horror genre and undoubtedly always will,” Wood added.

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Over the course of the coming months leading up to the Bram Stoker Awards® Weekend Incorporating the World Horror Convention 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana, I will feature a series of interviews with each of the Guests of Honor.

Darkeva: There’s definitely a strong contingent of poets among the sci-fi/fantasy/horror communities, and you’re certainly one of the most accomplished with publications in all the top magazines. Tell us a bit more about how you got your first few sales.

BB: I was publishing poetry in literary magazines, mostly non-paying, some of it speculative, throughout the 1970s, though I didn’t yet have the label “speculative” for it. I’d also sold a few science fiction stories to commercial anthologies. In 1978 I saw a market report for a magazine titled The Anthology of Speculative Poetry. I submitted several poems and Editor Robert Frazier accepted them all. He also recommended I join the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which had just been formed by SF novelist Suzette Haden Elgin. Through the SFPA I discovered numerous small press genre publications that would allow me to combine my love of poetry with my love of sci-fi/fantasy/horror. And unlike most literary magazines, many actually paid to publish it. Usually not much, but at least the idea was in place that writers should be paid for their work.

Yet it wasn’t until the early 1980s, when Shawna McCarthy took over as editor at Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine , that I began selling poetry regularly to professional, commercial markets. Prior to Shawna’s editorship, Asimov’s published mainly rhyming poems that were often humorous. Shawna introduced poems that remained genre in setting and content, yet more accurately reflected the state of modern poetry in form and voice. After my poems began appearing regularly in Asimov’s and received a few awards, I soon began publishing poems regularly in Amazing Stories and genre anthologies, and eventually in Weird Tales.

Darkeva: Which authors, either within or outside of genre literature, would you point to, either past or present, as writing outstanding poetry? Tell us a bit more about your influences both inside and outside the horror genre.

BB: My poetic influences are very diverse, and by no means all drawn from poetry. Other than Poe and Clark Ashton Smith, the poets who have influenced me most are all from the mainstream: Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsburg, W. B. Yeats, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens. However, my poetry has been equally influenced by fiction writers who either demonstrate a poetic prose style or incorporate a poetic vision into their work: Alfred Bester, Lawrence Durrell, Jack Vance, Vladimir Nabokov, Henry Miller, Thomas Pynchon, John Hawkes, Mervyn Peake, Angela Carter, Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, Steve Erickson, and too many more to name.

Two other significant influences worth mentioning are 1) popular song lyrics from the thirties onward, and 2) surrealism in general and Dali in particular. The influence of surrealism runs through much of my fiction and poetry, and I’ve often thought it odd, being a writer, that if I had to name one individual who influenced my work the most, it would be a painter, Salvador Dali.

As far as contemporary genre poets, there are many excellent ones writing in the field. Some of my favorites are Robert Borski, G. O. Clark, Bryan Dietrich, Robert Frazier, Joe Haldeman, Charlee Jacob, Kristine Ong Muslim, Marge Simon, Ann K. Schwader, and Mary Turzillo. I don’t read much contemporary poetry outside the genre these days, but I do admire the work of John Amen and Billy Collins.

Darkeva: What’s on your reading list right now?

BB: For the last five or six years I’ve been actively reading new horror that’s eligible for the Bram Stoker Award, and I’ll probably be doing that again this year. Beyond that, most of my current reading is outside the horror genre. I have over a hundred books here waiting to be read. Here are a few currently near the top of the list.

The Death of the Detective – Mark Smith
Street of No Return – David Goodis
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me – Ruth Rendell
This Perfect Day – Ira Levin
The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins

Darkeva: What part of being a Guest of Honor at the Bram Stoker Awards® Weekend Incorporating the World Horror Convention 2013 are you most excited about?

BB: Meeting and talking with other writers. The ones I already know and ones I’ve yet to meet. This is the main reason I go to cons. To touch base with people with whom I have something in common and I can share experiences. I believe this is only the third time there has been a Poet Guest of Honor at the Bram Stoker Awards®, so I’m excited about the prospect that this will create more interest in dark poetry and draw more dark poets to the convention.

Darkeva: What other projects do you have on the horizon?

BB: I have two collections forthcoming this year. The first, which should be out by the time this interview appears and available at the con, is a retrospective collection covering more than forty years, Dark Roads, Selected Long Poems, 1971-2012, brilliantly illustrated by M. Wayne Miller. The second collection brings together the best fiction and poetry from the Mutant Rain Forest, a shared fictional world that Robert Frazier and I began creating in the late 1980s with both collaborative and solo stories and poems that have appeared over the years in such venues at Asimov’s SF, Omni, Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Science Fiction Age, Strange Horizons, Masques, Daily Science Fiction, Year’s Best Horror (DAW), and Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin’s). Beyond the above, I’m gradually assembling a collection of original stories with the working title Imaginary Streets, where the fictional streets I create play a significant role in each story.

A huge thank-you to Bruce for agreeing to be part of this feature. Be sure to visit his website here. You can also follow him on Goodreads and Facebook.

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