Post: Those were two books I was reading at the time during a fiction class at Columbia while I was getting my MFA. The poem actually came from an exercise for Timothy Donnelly’s workshop to write a cento with found language. There might be a couple other poems that had their origins in Timothy Donnelly exercises; he gives the best exercises. Most end up getting pretty obscured, but “Beckett Wolf” stayed pretty much the same. I remember just going through and underlining lines that I liked and I wrote them all out on a sheet of paper. Somehow they all fit together and ended up sounding very much like a Justine Post poem. I probably liked the lines because they sounded like me!
Pujos: Do your environmental surroundings influence your work—from images to word choices to overall ambience and pulse?
Post: I think it’s the environment of my childhood that influences me the most. I grew up in the South on an island near Charleston, SC. I had a somewhat feral childhood, running around with this amazing pack of kids who were all around my age. We would play on the beach all day or in the woods around the house. It was a wonderful, safe place to grow up. Even when I’m living in a city, I still seem to use the Southern, sort of gothic imagery of my childhood. I like how memory and dreams distort the environment as well. So usually the environment that my poems are set in doesn’t really exist except through the distortion of memory or through dreams. I have a real fascination with animals and wildness, beasts of human and animal origin. In my poems, the animals are not really actual animals; I definitely shape them to my needs. They are totally anthropomorphized; I use them to represent the wild side of the human psyche.
Pujos: Are you currently working on another manuscript/project? Do you find your voice and mode of writing from Beast bleeding into that work? Or are you finding that you have reinvented your style completely?
Post: Now that the book has been out for a little while, I am starting to feel the room to make new poems. I am definitely done with the self-portrait poems. That project ran its course through Beast. The new poems definitely seem to take place in the aftermath of Beast. The speaker’s self has been reclaimed. She is stronger, more challenging of the status quo, a little more feminist. Whereas the poems in Beast were sometimes vengeful, sometimes needy, sometimes angry, sometimes comical, my new poems have a strength that I am really enjoying exploring. I am not really sure where the project as a whole will lead me, but I am enjoying the discovery of writing individual poems and not really thinking yet about how they will all fit together.
Pujos: I saw on your website that you and your twin sister, Cecelia Post, have collaborated on several projects, including the trailer and book cover of Beast. How has collaborating with different mediums influenced your own work and process? Are you planning of doing any more in the near future?
Post: My sister and I have collaborated for a long time. Even in undergrad, we worked on an artist’s book of my poems and her photographs. It was a natural choice to use her photographs for the cover. In fact, a few years ago when she showed me the photograph that is on the cover, I knew that would have to be on the cover of Beast if and when it was published. It just perfectly illustrates the unsettling human beastliness that appears in the book.
Cecelia is also a video artist, so that is where the book trailer for Beast came from. Cecelia has a new video that we are itching to put together with “Self-Portrait as Cannibal.” Stay tuned!