Interview with Ginny Lowe Connors
Rappahannock Review Poetry Editors: Your poem “Pack Horse Librarian” taught us about a historical moment we had never encountered. Did you have prior knowledge of this subject? What sparked your interest in it?
Ginny Lowe Connors: My interest in the pack horse librarians began when I read a novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson. That led me to do some research on these amazing women, many of whom supported their families financially through this Depression-era program, while at the same time bringing all kinds of literature to people hungry for books, magazines, recipes, and human connection. I have long been interested in history as it has been experienced by “ordinary” people, and some of my own poetry books reflect this interest.
RR: We love that this poem is a Haibun; do you often write in specific forms, and what brought you to this one?
GLC: The Haibun form seems a good one to use when I want to include some narration along with the imagery that makes a good poem memorable or evocative. Although I often write in free verse, I’ve experimented with many different poetic forms. It’s a way to explore various possibilities.
RR: You mention several famous authors in “Pack Horse Librarian.” Which writers or poets influence your work?
GLC: I suspect that every time I read something that excites my interest or curiosity, I am influenced by it. When I was about fourteen, I read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, which interestingly also takes place during the time period that sets the “Pack Horse Librarian” poem. Reading that novel was the first time I realized the lyrical power that prose could have. I read widely as a kid and I still do. It’s a way of trying to see the world through the eyes of others. There is no single poet who has had a defining influence on my work, but every time a poem amazes me, it leaves its mark.
RR: We noticed you are the co-editor of Connecticut River Review. Has working as an editor changed your perspective on your own writing?
GLC: I realize that a lot of fine poems have to be turned down by publications—there isn’t room for all of the good ones. It’s also made me aware that different editors have different aesthetics and biases, too—that’s what is great about discussing poems with co-editors. It makes it clear that if a poem is rejected once or twice, it still might be accepted by a different publication, a different editor. But I do work toward getting rid of clichés, abstractions, fancy language, and overt sentimentality in my own poems. As an editor I’m drawn to interesting subject matter, clearly told, with vivid imagery—and so I try for that in my own poems. I’m a publisher of a small poetry press too, Grayson Books, and that has been a fascinating experience. I wish I could write as well as some of the poets I’ve published.
RR: If “The Book Woman” arrived in your town with a delivery, what book would you hope for her to have?
GLC: I would ask her to surprise me with something new and wonderful—poetry, literary fiction, or fascinating nonfiction. I’d ask her for something she’s read and loved, or something she feels would particularly appeal to me. I would trust her judgment.
Ginny Lowe Connors’s work appears in Issue 10.1 here: