Her poetry has also appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of The Battered Suitcase.
Flower, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a child I began writing these “pieces.” They were exciting because of how they were structured. What I didn’t fully understand at the time was not that I was inventing a new way to write but that I was discovering poetry. Being a writer wasn’t something I wanted to be, it was something I just was. I was writing, therefore I was a writer. But it seems like in the last several years the idea of being a writer has really gripped my mind, and I am conscientiously working toward that goal.
Why do you write?
I am never bored writing. In fact it’s the opposite; I get great satisfaction out of writing. I get naturally high writing. It’s meditative; it’s cleansing; it’s wild and surprising. It’s play. It’s fun work; it’s puzzle making and solving. It’s seeing what one can get away with. Like looking though a kaleidoscope, the experience is never repeated, it’s always fresh.
Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
Oh, it is much more glamorous than I ever imagined: will I ever get used to the paparazzi? Seriously, it is like anything worthwhile: you need to work, work, work, work, and work some more. (I think there are still romantic notions of what the writer’s life is like.) My life as a writer is ever-evolving. I’m pursuing my MFA. I’m getting poems published. I’m trying to do the best I can.
What do you think makes a good story?
The great stories have been told, archetypically speaking. (Think of the clichéd example of “West Side Story” being a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet.”) Something must be at stake and you must have interesting, nuanced characters or it’s a sunk ship.
I think there is a different type of story being told in poetry than in fiction.
What is your favorite genre to read?
As a poet, I read poetry. It is my passion, and I believe it is crucial for writers to read their genre de jour. That sounds so obvious, but…maybe it’s still worth saying. There is a certain level of discipline and patience needed when reading poetry; often I’m left feeling flabbergasted (sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not so good way).
Who is your favorite author or poet?
Asking me my favorite poet is like asking a five year old what they want to be when they grow up. Today it’s Maggie Smith. Yesterday it was Amy Gerstler. Two months ago, Dean Young. Once it was Charles Simic. One cold weekend, Brenda Shaughnessy. Anne Sexton and I have been whittling away the evenings in bed for the last few months; I wouldn’t say a favorite but definitely important. Wislawa Szymborska, how I adore you. There was my love affair with Sharon Olds, Pablo Neruda, and Charles Bukowski. It can be dangerous to have a favorite poet; I prefer continually becoming obsessed verses focusing and fixating on only one poet. I have too much to learn. Without meaning to sound trite or religious, I would say the author of this conscious world is perhaps the greatest poet.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a writer?
When I was younger, I enjoyed the pick your own adventure stories and Snoopy comic books. I read the slender young reader encyclopedia set that we bought month by month from the grocery store. The Babysitter’s Club series. Anne Rice and Stephen King, my mother’s romance novels, mythology stories. I was reading a lot of fiction but writing poetry.
What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
I attended Episcopal Church in my youth and I loved the language and imagery of the stories and psalms. The stories my father would invent definitely influenced me.
Where/ how do you find the most inspiration?
How do you dig a big ditch? Start digging, and keep going. Ask the archeologist how she finds a dinosaur bone: by digging. I dig; I dig into my heart, my imagination, my fear; I dig into other writing: I read. I dig through pictures, books, words, experiences. I’m sifting, sorting, gathering, rearranging. You make inspiration like you make fire: start rubbing things together—something will ignite. Inspiration is a proactive occurrence. I scour magazines: Elle Décor is chock full of textures and visual stimuli and often the language is equally provocative. Old art books. Yahoo! News. I invent or revisit writing exercises—I still use Richard Weems’ fiction prompts for my poetry. Or actually exercise: a few jumping jacks gets the blood flowing. I am in no short supply of finding inspirational sparks because I want to find inspiration, I want to discover. Uncover. Pick apart. Reassemble. Dig in, dig in.
What does your family think of your writing?
My cousin Shane (who I consider my brother) is a wonderful champion of my work; for years he has accompanied me to The Cape May Poetry and Prose Getaway where I have subjected him to impromptu poetry readings. He recognizes when I revise poems, and agrees or disagrees with me.
My parents were always supportive of me writing whether or not they understood or enjoyed what I had written.
I think for the most part, my family is unfamiliar with my poetry; they love and support me because they love and support me: I think they want to understand and know what my poetry is about but I have been stingy in sharing it with them.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
I try to dedicate Mondays and Wednesdays to writing/revising. During the week in the mornings I research publications. At evenings and nights I am reading. I also always carry books with me so that if I have some down time at “work,” I can stick my nose between some pages but I’m usually too busy or the shop is too hectic so I might pick up a magazine instead (in which case, I always read with the intention of stealing some interesting tidbit from.) If I’m not reading, I wish to be writing; if I’m not writing, I wish to be revising; if I’m not revising, I wish to be reading.
Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
I play “twinkle” music—new age, wordless music (I don’t like complete silence, and anything with words is too distracting). I like to burn incense but it isn’t necessary. If I’m writing by hand, I prefer Pilot Pens, #5 or 7 and the paper must be immaculate. Physically releasing tension before beginning to write is effective. I keep a little bottle of essential oil on my desk and I will anoint myself with aromatherapy.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find the greatest challenge creating the heartleap—the moment when an internal leap occurs and you feel yourself slip into a wormhole but it is so instantaneous you almost wonder if it happened. When a door behind you opens but when you turn around there is no door. When your mind is jarred in or out of reality. Getting the memory down, the thought down as it feels in my mind. Recreating that emotive sliver in my audience. Making sense out of the—as Eminem would say—“Crazy insane or insane crazy.”
What are your current projects?
My current projects include: organizing my poems into chapbooks and book length collections; vetting my publication resume; and pursuing my MFA. For personal fun, I’m experimenting with Dadaistic poetry exercises.
What are you planning for future projects?
As I mentioned, I’m about to embark on my MFA journey; I imagine that will happily occupy most of my future projects. Down the road (this is more of a goal than an actual project) I would love to be invited on the panel of the Key West Literary Seminar the next time they showcase poetry, so I am purposefully trying to build a poetic foundation that will earn the credentials necessary to garnish an invite.
Do you have any advise for other writers?
Read, read, read and read. But if you only do one thing—read. A lot.
Where else can we find your work?
American Literary Review; Oberon; Serving House Journal; Psychic Meatloaf; The Moose & the Pussy; Ghost Ocean; Sweet: A Literary Confection; Lavender Review; Labletter; Saw Palm; BlazeVox; Interrobang?!; Cliterature
Flower Conroy’s poetry has appeared/is forthcoming in: American Literary Review; Serving House Journal; Psychic Meatloaf; Ghost Ocean; Sweet: A Literary Confection; Labletter; Saw Palm; BlazeVox; Interrobang!? and other journals. She will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MFA program in January.