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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Prufer’

The Expression of Not-Knowing: An Interview with Kevin Prufer

March 7, 2014 | by

prufer churches

Detail from the cover of Kevin Prufer’s Churches.

The Winter issue of The Paris Review includes Kevin Prufer’s poem “How He Loved Them.” Prufer is the author of six books of poetry and the editor of several anthologies. His latest collection, Churches, was published this week. He teaches at the University of Houston.

The poem stages a scene of terrible yet familiar violence—a car bomb explodes in front of a courthouse, killing a colonel and his two granddaughters. But the poem is less about the event than the aftermath. The explosion becomes a spectacle for bystanders, who record it on their smartphones. In what ways are poems like our devices—in thrall to spectacle, turning moments into eternities?

Turning moments into eternities was truly at the center of the poem for me—the idea of the afterlife, of divine translation. I imagined that the colonel, who acknowledges he has done terrible things, dies in a moment of inarticulable love for his granddaughters. Of course, he becomes spectacle for us, his death recorded and uploaded to the Internet, where we watch it over and over again. But, in another way, perhaps he has been redeemed, has been, himself, uploaded to a kind of heaven where his love is played out eternally. At least, that’s how I like to think about him and the poem—about the moral, spiritual, digital complexities that can be packed into a single moment … a moment we, unknowing, watch play out on our computer screens.

The way this bomb works as “a divine translation” reminds me of another poem of yours, “A Minor Politician,” from National Anthem. That poem is a posthumous monologue, delivered from the crypt. The speaker is an honorable pol, though he has served questionable goals. At the end of the poem, he sees God’s hand, “like a bomb,” reaching through the catacombs to “take my body from the tatters / and lift me through the shadows / to the trees.” Are these cases of redemption through violence?

I think the same question is at play, yes. But the poems have very different contexts. When I wrote National Anthem, I was caught in a vortex during which all I could think about was classical—mostly Roman—history. I read about that to the exclusion of most other things. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were new and I was living in a small Missouri town very near an Air Force base, and heard echoes of Roman history everywhere. That ancient politician thinks he has been redeemed by God, by God’s hand breaking through the ceiling. But really, it was time and forgetfulness that redeemed him—and one of our bombs breaking through his crypt two thousand years later, shedding light on him. Read More »

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“Snow Is a Hat Worn By Mountains”

February 13, 2014 | by

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Some might suggest that for a literary blog to feature three snow-related posts in a day is excessive. Well, tough. The weather has always been a great common denominator. And to our credit, we’ve refrained from calling this “Winter Storm Pax” or “the snowpocalypse.” We have standards.

Here, then, are seven poems from our archives fit for a snowy night. I won’t claim they’ll warm or comfort you—they’re poems, not pap—but they’re terrific reads, and they will be of some help. Next time you share an elevator with a distant colleague, you’ll use the weather as a conversational crutch, as one does; but instead of saying, “Man, it’s cold out!” you’ll say, “Snow is a hat worn by mountains.” You’ll make a lasting impression.

Note, too, that the majority of these poems were published in the spring or summer: a reminder that what’s unendurable now will be desirable in a few months’ time.

Debora Greger, “To the Snow” (from The Paris Review No. 154, Spring 2000)

Snow, let go. It’s late,
You are cornmush. You are cold.
Let me cover you with this white sheet.
No one will know.

Agha Shahid Ali, “Snow on the Desert” (from No. 107, Summer 1988)

the sliding doors of the fog were opened,
and the snow, which had fallen all night, now
sun-dazzled, blinded us, the earth whitened

out, as if by cocaine, the desert’s plants,
its mineral-hard colors extinguished,
wine frozen in the veins of the cactus.

Read More »

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Fasten Your Seatbelts, It’s Our Winter Issue

December 3, 2013 | by

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The flight attendant on the cover of 207 does not deceive you: this issue is a ride and a half. For your reading enjoyment we offer:

Geoff Dyer on the art of nonfiction—and why he hates that rubric:

I don’t think a reasonable assessment of what I’ve been up to in the last however many years is possible if one accepts segregation. That refusal is part of what the books are about. I think of all them as, um, what’s the word? … Ah, yes, books! I haven’t subjected it to scientific analysis, but if you look at the proportion of made-up stuff in the so-called novels versus the proportion of made-up stuff in the others I would expect they’re pretty much the same

Edward P. Jones on the art of fiction:

People say, Did you grow up thinking of yourself as this or that, blah blah blah. These middle-class or upper-class kids, maybe three or four times a week they’d have a doctor over, they’d have an engineer over, they’d have a writer over, and they’d get into a conversation with the writer and all of a sudden realize, Oh, I think I want to be a writer. That didn’t happen to me. That doesn’t happen to the rest of us.

Plus! The first installment of a novel by Rachel Cusk. New fiction from J. D. Daniels, Jenny Offill, Nell Freudenberger, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Lydia Davis, and the winner of the NPR Three-Minute Fiction Contest.

Plus, poems by Kevin Prufer, Susan Stewart, Hilda Hilst, Charlie Smith, Monica Youn, Sylvie Baumgartel, Emily Moore, and Linda Pastan.

And did we mention a portfolio of nudes by Chuck Close?

We realize you have choices when it comes to quarterly reading, and we thank you for choosing The Paris Review.

Subscribe now!

 

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The Summer Issue: Redefining the Beach Read Since 1953

June 15, 2011 | by

The living is easy—and it’s time for our summer issue! Whether you’re on the beach, in transit, or just enjoying the long days at home, this is an issue to get lost in: find fiction by Jonathan Lethem, Amie Barrodale, and David Gates and the continuing story of Roberto Bolaño’s lost novel The Third Reich, with original illustrations by Leanne Shapton.

Big news: For the first time, readers can buy a digital version of The Paris Reviewfor easy access anytime, anywhere. TPR digital can be read on your iPad, laptop, or mobile device. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s instant gratification!

If, like us, you still enjoy a little sand between the pages of your beach-house reading, buy a subscription to the paper magazine—and get a Paris Review beach towel!* (We’d tell you to tuck it into a TPR tote, but that might sound pushy.)

From the summer issue:

An expansive interview with William Gibson:

What was more important was to name [my landscape] something cool, because it was never going to work unless it had a really good name.  So the first thing I did was sit down with a yellow pad and a Sharpie and start scribbling—infospace, dataspace. I think I got cyberspace on the third try, and I thought, Oh, that’s a really weird word. I liked the way it felt in my mouth—I thought it sounded like it meant something while still being essentially hollow.

A frank interview with Samuel R. Delany:

Finding time to work is the main problem … You write a decent book, and you’re hired as a creative-writing teacher. The next thing you know, you’re director of the program, which basically means you get less time in class and more administration, which nobody likes, so that you can hardly write anything anymore.

Plus …

A portfolio of video art curated by Marilyn Minter. Poetry by Frederick Seidel, Cathy Park Hong, Kevin Prufer, Lia Purpura, D. Nurkse, and Iman Mersal.

Subscribe now!

*Dramatization

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