Phoenix Poet Allyson Boggess: 100 Creatives

Categories: 100 Creatives

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Allyson Boggess
Meet the Phoenix-based poet.

Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 45. Allyson Boggess.

Allyson Boggess seeks balance.

The downtown Phoenix poet and educator has had poems published by Watershed Review, PANK, and The Collagist and teaches writing at both Arizona State University and the Harvard Extension School. "I'm still figuring out how to balance my teaching life and my writing life," Boggess says.

See also: James D. Porter of Arizona Curriculum Theater: 100 Creatives

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Allyson Boggess
A look at Boggess' sonnet drafting process.

Boggess holds an MFA in poetry from ASU, was one of the 2013 winners of the City of Phoenix Streetscape Poetry Project, and is an unabashed morning person.

"I get up early in the morning and meditate, get a run in if I'm lucky, then head to a coffee shop with my laptop to respond to student emails, work on curricular revisions, and grade projects," she says. "I do my best creative work in the morning, too, so it's a challenge to find time for it all."

Packing all her ongoing projects into one part of the day proves tough. She recently explained the dilemma on her blog (allysonboggess.com): "I love big blocks of uncompromised writing time, typically in the morning. Making these blocks happen in my daily schedule has become more difficult. If I could learn to work on my writing in the here-and-there of my days -- the 15 minutes before office hours, the handful of minutes in the car -- then I might be able to accomplish more and be more connected to my work rather than banking on big blocks (and then feeling disappointed and stuck when the blocks are not there)."

And she has no shortage of writing to do. Boggess is in the midst of revising a chapbook manuscript of short poems based on daily readings of the I Ching, and she's at a crossroads regarding her first full-length poetry manuscript. "I'm unsure if I should gut it or start from scratch. It's renovation time." She's also been writing sonnet crowns by snail mail with a few poet friends across the country. "While we've only been through a few rounds of crown-building so far," she says, "it's been a great pleasure to a.) get real mail, b.) revel in the wild directions my friends are taking these crowns, and c.) unplug."

It sounds like Boggess is striking a balance all her own.

I came to Phoenix with a car full of houseplants, books, and a strong personal and professional desire to explore the space outside my comfort zone. I had never been to the desert southwest before accepting the offer to attend the MFA program at ASU. At the time I applied to grad schools, I was living and working full time in Boston. When I found out I got in, I knew it was time to shake things up. I packed my belongings and drove across the country. Since I was making this move solo, I set up my Macbook in the passenger seat to take a time-lapse video of my drive from New York (where I was staying temporarily) to Tempe. You can view it here:

Every single one of my houseplants perished here. I didn't.

I make art because I can't not. I write because I fear we are becoming more comfortable with looking down than we are with looking up. I want you to look up.

I'm most productive when I can get up early enough to go for a run. I've found running and writing to be complimentary practices. A good run helps me clear my head and boosts my energy.

My inspiration wall is full of postcards from traveling friends, post-it notes asking me "What are you waiting for?" and a quote from Ira Glass on the importance of pushing through the "gap" in the early years of working on your art, the time when you have "good taste" but your own work isn't quite there yet. Google it--it's spot-on advice.

This is a beautiful video someone made of this Ira Glass quote (I didn't make this one):

I've learned most from observing how my mind works through meditation. I've been learning how to meditate this year using an online program called Headspace. When I meditate, I'm less likely to get caught up in my overactive, overthinking mind and more likely to be observing what's happening around me in the present. There are seeds for poems everywhere. I can't see them if I'm too focused on my own anxieties and thoughts.

Good work should always drop the reader on his/her head. The best work leaves me shaking my head for days after I encounter it.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more cheerleaders--people to spread the word about the potential for this city to support an expanded and thriving arts scene. I truly believe Phoenix is on its way up - I've seen incredible growth in just the short time I've lived downtown. I've met talented, enthusiastic artists here. Jake Friedman is shaking this place up in creative ways with Four Chambers Press. The new online literary journal, Waxwing, is publishing outstanding work. Still, though, it seems the perception that Phoenix is a less-than-desirable city for artists persists. I think this is changing, slowly. We just need to be more vocal with outsiders about the good stuff.


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