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Prufer To Explore ‘American Landscape’ During MFA Visit

April 2, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt, Scott Kaukonen

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Poet Kevin Prufer will share some of his “wonderfully strange” works on Tuesday (April 8) for the Sam Houston State University Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, editing and publishing reading series.

headshot of Kevin Prufer
Kevin Prufer

Prufer, a professor of English at the University of Houston, will meet with students at 4 p.m. in Evans 212 for a question-and-answer session, followed by the reading at 6 p.m. in Austin Hall.

Prufer is the author of six collections of poetry, including "In a Beautiful Country" (a finalist for the Rilke Prize and the Poets’ Prize), "National Anthem" and "Fallen from a Chariot." His most recent book, "Churches," was just released by Four Way Books.

“Kevin Prufer’s poetry is accessible, but also wonderfully strange,” said Nick Lantz, SHSU assistant professor of English. “He writes about familiar American landscapes—airports, shopping malls, suburbia, hospitals, and army bases—bent just out of their accustomed shape.

“The America in his poems is a post-apocalyptic, fallen empire. But the speakers of these poems are compassionate and funny, whether they’re talking about Patriot Missiles, ancient Rome, angels, or the latest action movie rental.”

David Walker, in Field: Contemporary Poetry & Poetics, described Prufer as “one of the most vital poets of his generation, saying important things about our culture in fearless, eloquent ways.”

Publishers Weekly also named "National Anthem" one of its five best poetry books of the year, calling it “a rare poetry collection: as angry and ironic over the state of contemporary America—figured here as a great classical empire in decline—as it is funny and perversely pleasurable.”

In an interview with the Paris Review, Prufer said, “With 'Churches', I’ve moved away from the historical material I treated in 'National Anthem' and 'In a Beautiful Country.' Instead, I’m working with characters—experimenting with longer, braided narrative, trying to enact thought with a sort of emotional complexity I’ve avoided in earlier poems.

“I love the idea that the stories we tell about ourselves—and the ways we tell them—inform our sense of who we are, where we belong in an enormous and intricate world.”

Born in in Cleveland, Ohio, Prufer earned degrees from Wesleyan University, Hollins University and Washington University. He also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation.

Other honors include three Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Poetry Society of America, and the William Rockhill Nelson award.

Prufer serves as an editor-at-large for the literary journal Pleiades and has been a co-editor of two influential poetry anthologies, "New European Poets" (with Wayne Miller) and "New Young American Poets." He also co-curates the "Unsung Masters Series," which brings poets of significance back into print.

Other editing projects have included "Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W.S. Merwin" (co-editor with Jonathan Weinert)," Dunstan Thompson: on the Life & Work of a Lost American Master" (with D.A. Powell) and "Dark Horses: Poets on Overlooked Poems" (with Joy Katz).

Both the question-and-answer session and reading are free and open to the public.

The MFA Program Reading Series will continue on April 23, when it celebrates the release of Lantz’s third book of poems, "How to Dance as the Roof Caves In" (Graywolf). Lantz will read from his work at 6 p.m. in Austin Hall.




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