Interview with poet Ginny Lowe Connors

I’m winding up this week with Ginny Lowe Connors who is talking about
her collection of poems called, Toward
the Hanging Tree: Poems of Salem Village
(Antrim House Books, 2016).

Lowe Connors is the author of three poetry collections: The Unparalleled Beauty of a Crooked Line, Barbarians in the Kitchen,
and most recently, Toward the Hanging
Tree: Poems of Salem Village.
Her chapbook, Under the Porch, won the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize. She is on the
executive boards of the Connecticut Poetry Society and of the Connecticut
Coalition of Poets Laureate. She served as the Poet Laureate of West Hartford,
Connecticut from 2013-2015. Connors also runs a small poetry press, Grayson Books.

Welcome, Ginny. Please tell us about your current release.

Toward the Hanging
is lyric history; a book of poetry that looks into the
heart of the Salem witchcraft mania of 1692, telling the story from multiple
points of view.

What inspired you to write this book?
The topic
fascinates me! The answers are not all clear, and that is always fruitful for
poetry. When I was in Salem for the Mass Poetry festival a couple of years ago,
it was clear that the town was capitalizing on the tourist-angle of this
incredible event (even though the main events took place in the town now known
as Danvers), but my thought was: There needs to be a poetry collection about
this! The era of the witch hunt was rich with mystery, fear, and well—just all
the human emotions. That’s poetic territory. I investigated and found
nonfiction books and a few novels, but nothing much in the way of a poetry
collection. So I set out to write one.

It also
happens that my birthday is on Halloween, a day associated in some people’s
minds with witches and deviltry. And at age eleven I acted in a college
production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. They needed some young
girls for the production. When I visited Salem, I remembered that brief acting
experience and wanted to find out more about what actually happened in 1692.
Miller took some liberties with his script, but his implied commentary on the
way people scapegoat others and attack them was right on target. Of course, the
McCarthy hearings were going on when he wrote his play, but the same kind of fearful
turning against others in very hateful ways is still quite evident in our
country today, as anyone who pays the slightest attention to political events
is aware. Toward the Hanging Tree takes place in the
seventeenth century, yet its theme and relevance are timeless.

What do you enjoy most about writing poems?

To name something
seems to make it more knowable, and yet so much of what we experience is hard
to name and hard to comprehend. Poems try to find the words for those feelings
that can’t otherwise be captured. I love that effort. Poetry helps us pause,
notice, and reflect. In our busy, distracting world, that is a wonderful thing.

I loved working on Toward the Hanging Tree; it allowed me to
explore a fascinating historical event and give voice to some of the people who
were involved
. The subject matter
is a little mysterious and highly emotional—which works well for poetry.

I told the story from a variety of perspectives.
Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone living through a traumatic event or
series of events has a different way of seeing or understanding it. That
interests me! Ultimately, I don’t believe that there is ever just one truth.
The more facets one can examine, the more the complexity of a situation is

What form are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I generally write in free verse, but
have been known to write pantoums, triolets, some other forms and invented
forms. My latest book contains poems in a variety of forms, some invented. The
needs of the poem ultimately dictate the form used.

What type of project are you working on next?
I have been editing an anthology
called Forgotten Women, which should
be in print in the beginning of 2017. It includes poems about underappreciated
women, some who were part of history, and some who represent ordinary women
whose contributions are mostly unnoticed. Meanwhile I am writing various poems
of my own, but not working on a book of my own poetry.

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?
I have always liked to write,
including poetry. Calling oneself a poet doesn’t change the practice much. But
it’s true that I have become more intensely involved in the poetry world during
the past ten years. My children are grown now and I have just recently retired
from teaching. That frees me to spend more time on writing projects.

do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for
not-yet-published poets?
I read several journals and look at
postings online. Poets and Writers
Magazine is a wonderful resource. They also have an online presence. In
addition, I am part of a writing community in Connecticut and we tend to share
ideas and information.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have difficulty coming up with
good titles for my poems. That is usually the last part of my revision

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At various times I wanted to be a
clown, a teacher, a cowgirl, a veterinarian, and a writer.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Reading one poem a day is a practice that can quiet the mind
and enliven the spirit. Of course, poetry addicts will need to read more than
one a day, but even people who don’t see poetry as part of their world can find
that they enjoy this practice.

you for being here today, Ginny. And Happy (a little early) Birthday!

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