Review by Melissa Ridley Elmes
Connie Post’s poetry has been published in over 60 venues including the American Journal of Poetry, Atticus Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Crab Creek Review and Toronto Quarterly. Her first full-length collection, Floodwater, was the winner of the 2014 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press, and her second collection, Prime Meridian, was a finalist in the 2020 Best Book Awards, 2021 International Book Awards and 2020 American Fiction Awards; she has also published two chapbooks. She is the recipient of five prizes for her poetry, including the Crab Creek Review poetry award.
Between Twilight, Post’s third full-length collection, delves deeply into the theme of suffering. These 54 free verse poems move between past and present, memory and experience, to explore pain, abuse, loss, and the toll these take physically on the body and psychically on the spirit.
Post’s spare style relies on metaphor and the minute details of everyday life—walking the dogs at dusk during a heat wave because “it’s the only time their paws / won’t burn on the pavement”—juxtaposed with details that stand out on distinctive occasions, such as watching an eclipse by the graveside of a lost loved one, seemingly out of a sense of obligation: “I only looked once / it’s what you would have wanted.” The power in her work lies in the melding of observation, experience, and language in poems that explore disasters in people and nature, alike, with equal fascination, love, fear, sorrow, and anger: in “All My Wounds are Self-Inflicted,” an abused child declaring, “I counted the bruises the next day / and was proud that I never cried,” then adding defiantly, “I could go to school / and tell everyone I fell off my bike / and tell everyone / how much it didn’t hurt”; in “The Fire is Ten Percent Contained,” the speaker remarking of crows that she’s “read / that they recognize faces” then noting the crows “fly over us / not noticing the death toll / not able to pull us out / of our own ruined houses” before wondering “where the birds / sleep at night / while the grass burns” and “how far must they ascend / to forget our faces.”
A series of five poems nestled in the first half of the book chronicles bodily pain and suffering: “Auto Immune,” “Fibromyalgia,” “Body aches,” “Fusion,” and “Retinal Tear.” The preoccupation with bodies represented in this little group is begun earlier in the volume with “Bound to Repeat It,” which details the ways a body slowly self-destructs over time; continues in the catalog of the body of an adult survivor of abuse in “The Citadel” and in the juxtaposition of a pregnant daughter with a mother in the hospital for a hysterectomy in “To My Twenty-Six Year Old Daughter.” These individual bodily concerns are interspersed with poems about the ongoing pandemic and its effects: “Proceed with Caution,” “Living the Days of Corona,” and “Guidelines in a Pandemic.” These poems about bodies and sickness provide a frame for the recurring memories of childhood abuse that crop up unexpectedly and devastatingly throughout the collection in individual poems like “Entwined,” coming to a head in the series of poems that begins with “The Lie” and continues with “When I was in Eighth Grade,” “It’s Been two Years,” “Two Deaths,” and “High School Production of Les Misérables.”
The collection closes with “Love and Anthropology,” the speaker exhorting the reader to “Learn to love the skeletons / […] love the intricate bones / the ones who prevail / and reside in closets” and concluding with the command to
your invariable hands
and satiate the earth
as any lover would.
Such an empathetic, forward-looking, realistic, and wise concluding response to the tumultuous and pain-filled collection that precedes it could only come from a poet who has given great time and attention to the reflection and distillation of suffering into language that stays with the reader long after its reading.
Between Twilight by Connie Post
New York Quarterly Books, 2023.
Melissa Ridley Elmes is a Virginia native currently living in Missouri in an apartment that delightfully approximates a hobbit hole. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Black Fox, Poetry South, Star*Line, Dreams & Nightmares, DarkWinter, Ignatian Literary Review, and various other print and web venues. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Dwarf Star and Rhysling awards, and her poetry collection Arthurian Things was nominated for the 2022 Elgin award.