Open Alphabet welcomes Connie Post and her new book Floodwater,
published by Glass Lyre Press (ISBN 978-0-9840352-1-2).

Connie Post

The poems of Connie Post have appeared in numerous journals, including Crab Creek Review, Slipstream, Comstock Review, Cold Mountain Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Spillway Magazine. She has published four chapbooks and is included in at least five anthologies. For her chapbook And When the Sun Drops (Finishing Line Press) she received the Aurorean Fall 2012 Editor's Choice Award.

Connie was the first Poet Laureate of Livermore, CA and served from 2005 to 2009. During her term, she created two popular reading series and she currently leads The Valona Deli Second Sunday Poetry Series in Crockett, CA (bay area). She is a past winner of the Caesura Poetry Contest and the Dirty Napkin Cover Prize and she has been nominated four times for a Pushcart prize.

Plays the guitar
a Spanish ballad I barely recognize
I slip over his voice on the pavement
tripping on lyrics and averted gazes

I lay a few dollar bills
in his guitar case
but know I should have also put
my bones inside

-- from The Man in Front of the Pharmacy

Open Alphabet: You have published many of these poems previously. What precipitated the urge to assemble a book? Floodwater

Connie Post: In the early 2000’s I decided I wanted to work towards getting a full length poetry collection published. At that time, I was busy submitting many poems to many journals. It made sense to me, to continue to compile poems with a cohesive theme, and to draw off those that were published. For me, when a poem is published in a journal, it tells me that it spoke to at least one editor, and hopefully some portion of the readership of that journal. The assembly of the manuscript was an ongoing project for about 5 or 6 years. I built the manuscript as poems were published and the theme had a way of building itself.

OA: Floodwater is the title of the first poem. How did it come to be the title of the book also?

CP: The title jumped out at me shortly after I compiled the manuscript. Many of the poems in the book are about immersion. Immersion into the self, into another world, into a parallel universe, and all of the places inside and outside of us. We are flooded every day, by our own darkness, our own thoughts, and often we are overwhelmed by elements and events we cannot control. The idea of flooding seemed a perfect fit.

OA: Did publishing Floodwater change your creative process? Did it change you?

CP: Floodwater did change my creative process in subtle ways. It taught me to think inside the poem and also outside the poem simultaneously. I pay more attention to the multiple innuendos inside the poem and then also, the larger resonance that exists outside the poem. Both need to work, for me to feel comfortable with my creation. Publishing Floodwater changed me in positive ways. It made me joyful for the many years of work I put into the poems. It made me appreciate the hard work of small, independent presses. Much of the feedback I have received on the manuscript made me grateful that it has reached a variety of audiences. In some cases, it has reached people who are struggling with mental illness or homelessness. This has reinforced for me that poetry does matter, can matter, and has layers and affects people in ways we often cannot anticipate.

OA: What challenges did you find in putting the book together? Is there anything that you know now, that you wish you had known then?

CP: The biggest challenge for me was sequencing. I am sure this is not uncommon. The poems worked well separately, but finding a way to assemble the manuscript, in a way that flowed “just so” was somewhat difficult at first. Luckily, I have many close poetry friends. I received good advice from a few people whom I respect greatly. I wanted to achieve the right tone and the right variety of poems. That was also challenging. Some poems I had originally included, I ultimately removed, since I felt they not fit in with the rest of the manuscript. A poet, (as you well know) can become wedded to certain poems, so it is sometimes difficult to know what to keep and what to let go. At some point, you ask yourself “how many times can I read this manuscript”, but eventually, the answer finds its way.

As far as “what I wish I would have known”, I would say that I wish I would have trusted the process more. By that I mean, the process of submission, rejection and hope.

OA: Who most influences your aesthetic (poetic or otherwise, historic or contemporary)?

CP: Probably the poet who has influenced me most is Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poems cut into the very center of my being. When I first read her book “Words Under the Words” I dramatically changed the way I was writing. I have studied her work often. I think I have read all her books. Her poetry has a unique way of braiding words and metaphors that are unforgettable. Her poems sustain me in my darkest hours. Her work has taught me how to live in my own body. Other influences include; Sharon Olds and Tony Hoagland. I think Tony Hoagland does very interesting and creative sculpting of ideas and language. I could go on, but another poet who has influenced me is Wendell Berry. His deep love for the land, nature, and the world surrounding him has given me an inner peace. I could listen to him read, all day and into the night.

OA: You often use anaphora in your work. For you, what does repetend, in its various forms, bring to poetry?

CP: I think an effectively used anaphora can build a path that somehow needs to be broken. I like creating a music inside the phrases and then I like changing direction. After the repetend, I want to make sharp turns that the reader might not expect. (When I am writing, often times I take turns I did not plan for, which often makes for the most satisfying writing). Anaphora (for me) brings resonance and a musical quality to poetry. I enjoy experimenting with it. Often times, the anaphora comes from a phrase (or phrases) that have been knocking on my brain for a long while.

OA: In many of your poems you address a specific loss through metaphor. In others, you explore the lyric task of retrieving a poetic self lost in the world, again, through metaphor. For you, are these fundamentally different processes or do they differ only in subtle ways (such as orientation and amplitude)?

CP: I think when I explore loss, the processes are fundamentally the same for me. I might drop myself inside different areas of the poem, or I might find places I was not aware of, but in all my poems about loss, I try to open the language to a wholly different way of knowing. Sometimes the symbols I am obsessed with, I don’t yet realize I will use, but often my metaphors find me unexpectedly. Many of my poems ignite with a sudden word or line. Often inconveniently when I am driving or walking down the road, but usually I am able to remember the core concept when I find the note pad. The orientation and amplitude of the language are merely fine-tuned as I am constructing the poem. I often change my mind many times about how a metaphor works and why. Sometimes I am both disappointed and pleasantly surprised at the same time. Some metaphors live a long life in my mind, waiting to be released. I think loss is a way to both lose and find yourself, so I try to emulate that in my poetry.

OA: What is on your desk at the moment? Who are you currently reading? desk

CP: At the moment, on my desk is a pending stack of submissions, an index card of articles from facebook I intend to go back and read, a few figurines of “Tinkerbell” and a wooden sign that says “inspire”. Oh, and a printer and my glasses.

I am currently reading Eye of the Beholder by Scott Owens. I enjoy his work immensely. I am also part way through Evan Boland’s New Collected Poems.

OA: Is there anything on the horizon we can expect to see in your future work?

CP: I am open to many possibilities for the future. Right now I am enjoying planning many readings for Floodwater. I eventually hope to compile a second full length manuscript, but that is probably at least four years down the road. In the meantime, I will continue to run the Poetry Series Valona Deli Second Sunday Poetry Series which keeps me inspired and connected to the poetry community. There will be a review of Floodwater in Cutthroat Issue # 17 and possibly a few more. I have poems forthcoming in Two Bridges Review and The Big Muddy this year.