getting to know Rebecca Connors and her new chapbook: Split Map
When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?
I was lucky enough to take a creative writing class in high school. Our teacher, Dr. Martin Galvin, introduced us to Anne Sexton, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman (our school’s namesake) and others. I studied English in college, which meant I spent more time examining writers than writing myself, but after college I picked it up again. I took classes at Grub Street, worked at Harvard Book Store, and immersed myself in poetry.
I have always been writing – journal entries, letters, zines, and poems. Poetry is my biggest passion because poetry is philosophy, language, emotions. We get to make the most amazing connections with words and emotions and do it in such a precise format.
Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?
I’m in school for my MFA now and therefore I must write a lot. My favorite space is a sun porch that has been converted into an office. It’s surrounded by trees, with squirrels and birds hopping by the windows. I try to write every day. I don’t sit at the computer every day, though. Some days it’s writing in a journal or jotting notes down on a piece of paper. I try to give myself time to let my mind ruminate. If I keep coming back to something over and over again, I know I will be writing about it.
Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?
I usually write from a particular memory, because there is something in the image or situation that compels me. I’m interested in how to make a particular personal memory universal. What is it about the conflict that others would relate to? What about it evokes an emotional response? If I’m stuck, I will look for unusual vocabulary or phrases to jumpstart me. Writing in form (or with a self-imposed constraint) often allows my editor-self to focus on something else, and let’s my creator-self generate something I might not otherwise have.
Lately, I have been really interested in blood, mythology, family, America’s civic religion, and the climate crisis. I can tell what my obsessions are, because I keep writing about them.
Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?
In school, I have been reading a lot of contemporary poets—and it’s such a great time for poetry. Airea D. Matthews, Gabrielle Calvocressi, and Solmaz Sharif have been huge influences—in inspiring me with poetry’s possibilities, with all the brilliant new ways we can experiment with language. Mary Ruefle and Kim Addonizio have influenced me both through their creative work and their craft essays. I have a special fondness for William Blake, Emily Dickinson, and E.E. Cummings. I mean, there are so many poets to name that I can’t do this question justice.
Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book? etc.
For most of my creative career, I took classes and wrote with fellow poets. Three years ago, I realized that I had a significant amount of work and wondered if I could create a chapbook. Some of the poems in my collection are 20 years old! I collected the poems I felt were ready and worked with a mentor to order and revise them. Once it was complete, I started sending the manuscript to chapbook contests. I was blown away when my manuscript was selected by Rita Banerjee as the winner of the Dare to Speak Chapbook competition hosted by Minerva Rising Press. I am still in shock some days when I realize it is out in the world. This is my first chapbook and I’m currently working on a full-length manuscript.
The title comes from one of my favorite poems in the collection, Split Map. The title also encompasses how these poems are about the split across generations, across states, and across relationships, particularly relationships with men. The poems in this collection tackle the turn of adolescence, the father who bullies his daughter, and the belief that being good will earn you love. These poems take place among magnolia trees, honeysuckle vines, and in the summer heat.
Read an Excerpt From Split Map
I’m driving your pickup
through the back roads
no idea where I’m going and you
are high, ranting greasefire
you turn to me, oxen dead
in your eyes, am I dead
I have to collar you
as you open
to fly into blackness
I feel we’re shucking off
it’s just you and me and we
are alone together
you, hollow worms
me, still loving like the dirt
of the North Carolina roads I let
wander us home one hand
on the wheel the other
twisted into your red t-shirt
and we are both
screaming, I am so certain
you need me
I never slow down
the night sky
yawns over your pickup
summer bugs hum with the tires
there is nothing in the pines
or in the crosshatched stars
I expect the next morning
will bring you back
you rattle around the apartment
the open door
saving you was not
enough I am gutsick