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10 Questions for Alison Prine

I know you less and less,
but forgive your miscalculations,

the distances you thought you might travel,
and your desire to be good.

Time grows between us
With a mechanical agency. —From “To My Younger Self,” Volume 60, Issue 3 (Fall 2019)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
When I was nine years old I wrote a poem for a girl I was in love with. The poem was concerned with war, poverty and finding solace in connection. I don’t know that I have written another poem with such a sweeping scope since. But the gist of the poem ¾ reaching from the awful toward the beautiful, is still at the core of my work.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
The first poetry reading I remember attending was Sapphire, and listening to her I felt my world crack open. Other early influences were Audre Lorde and Judy Grahn. Later the work of Ruth Stone, Laura Kasischke, Franz Wright, Lucille Clifton and Gregory Orr reached in and transformed my sense of what a poem could do. I can’t name every poet who has changed me, but I am grateful to them all.

What other professions have you worked in?
I was a waitress and worked in housekeeping, then an abortion counselor, director of a rape crisis center, and other positions in community mental health. Now I am a psychotherapist.

What inspired you to write this piece?
I find myself in conversation with younger versions of myself. This poem is based on the story of a long ago loss that will haunt me forever.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
My favorite place is the National Seashore at the end of Cape Cod—the raw beauty of the landscape around Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet often thread through my poems. Also, the home of my adult life, Vermont, and my childhood, Pittsburgh.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
I use pretty standard rituals like reading poems in the din of a coffee shop or sitting outside on the shore.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
My wife, Kelley, listens patiently and thoughtfully to draft after draft of my poems.  My dear poet friends, Emily Skoler and Karin Gottshall, are close readers that offer me invaluable help in the revision process.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
I work casually in photography, and one day I would love to paint.

What are you working on currently?
My current manuscript, which includes this poem, explores the relationship between the self and time. The poems speak of loss and the antonym of loss.

What are you reading right now?
I am rereading Sue Burton’s brilliant, political, imaginative collection, BOX, currently a finalist for the Vermont Book Award.


ALISON PRINE'S debut collection of poems, Steel, was a finalist for the 2017 Vermont Book Award. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Field, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She lives in Burlington, VT, where she works as a psychotherapist.

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