Kevin Prufer is the author of five books of poetry and the editor of four anthologies, most recently In a Beautiful Country (Four Way Books, 2011) and Until Everything is Continuous Again: Essays on the Work of W. S. Merwin (WordFarm Editions, 2012; with Jonathan Weinert). His poetry collection Churches is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2014. He is also Editor-at-Large of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing and Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston. Find him at www.kevinprufer.com.
1. What is your writing process?
I only write very late at night. (It’s very late now, as I type.) Most of that time I spend pacing around my office, flipping through books. The amount of time I spend actually typing is much smaller that the amount of time I spend thinking about what I’m going to type. After I finish a first draft, I reread it and ask myself: now what’s this all about? And when I can answer that question, I rewrite the poem.
2. Have you had to sacrifice anything in the rest of your life to write?
Aside from a great deal of time, money and energy, I have not sacrificed much. My entire professional life, though, has been dictated by my moving to places where I could find the time and resources to write. I spent a few years in Cloverdale, VA and St. Louis, MO learning how to do it well. Then I spent 15 years in a very small town in west-central Missouri, teaching and editing a literary magazine, writing in the evenings. Now I’m in Houston. Poetry has taken me to all these places, and away from the places that I might otherwise have lived. But I don’t consider that a sacrifice. It’s more interesting than that.
3. Do you think writing helps you to understand more about yourself and the world, or is advancing as a writer more about learning how to communicate the things you already know?
A little of both. I do find that I discover what I want to mean through the act of composing a poem, and that the poems I like most are those that create the illusion of a mind at work on an unsolvable, complex problem — whatever that problem may be! At the same time, I think poems do much more than merely enact thought or feeling … or (heaven forbid!) help me understand myself. I wouldn’t inflict my poems on the world if that was all I wanted for them. I believe that poetry is a very effective way that we communicate with each other, that poems are wonderful containers for the communication of complex ideas or for truths that are larger than we are.
This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.