Wick Poetry Series event a success with ‘accomplished’ poets

Heather Bing

Words of personal tragedy and historical heroes filled a room of students, faculty and community members during the Wick Poetry Center’s second poetry series event last night.

The poets, Joy Katz and Kevin Prufer, spoke to creative writing classrooms throughout the day and ended their time at Kent State with the evening poetry reading.

David Hassler, Wick program and outreach director, said the poets were paired together because of their previous work together in the classroom as well as on their co-edited anthology Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems.

“These are both very accomplished poets,” Hassler said. “We knew that they would appeal to the college, and with Prufer’s long list of awards, we even like to claim him as one of our own.”

Hassler said the poets’ accomplishments played a key role in their selection as well as their merit in the field.

“We’re always looking to bring poets in mid-career with substantial publications, and they have both done that,” he said.

Katz has published Fabulae and her latest book, The Garden Room, will be published soon. Prufer’s most recent books include Fallen From a Chariot and The Finger Bone.

Katz began the evening with some of her recent works, which were mostly prose poems. She asked the audience to help her define her favorite piece, which is about the week her mother was in a coma before she died, because she cannot decide whether it is a poem or an essay.

“It’s not really about her; it’s about death,” she said. “It’s also funny – at least, I think it is. The piece surprised me in the writing of it. I think she would be proud of it. It feels more personal than any poem I’ve ever written. It feels very true to myself.”

Katz said her essays are often inspired by actual events that happen to her, unlike her poems.

“Poems come from anything,” she said. “Looking out the window at my street in Brooklyn, sitting in the eye doctor’s office with my pupils all dilated or stumbling on a word in the dictionary.”

Prufer shared several poems that demonstrated his interest and knowledge of history. He said aspiring poets should study history, science and art, read as much as possible and be as ambitious in their craft as they can.

Although he started as a fiction writer, Prufer said it was several years before he became interested in poetry. He said he began writing because of his initial interest in reading.

“I think one was the natural result of the other,” he said. “I read what other writers had to say, then thought that I had something to say, too.

“I believe it was the ability of a good poem to say many conflicting things simultaneously that attracted me. When it comes to all the big questions – questions of death, God, politics – I’ve always felt several ways at once.”

While most poets have a source of inspiration, Prufer said he really has to work to figure out what he wants to say.

“I’ve always thought ‘inspiration’ to be a kind of myth that authors use to justify a lack of it,” he said. “Writing for me has always been hard work. I’m rarely or never inspired. Usually, I sit at my computer for a while and think about what it is I want to say.”

Both poets’ books were available for sale, and the poetry reading concluded with a discussion session and book signing.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected]