Kevin Prufer

Kevin Prufer‘s poetic eye sweeps from the wings of history to a roadside accident to the slivers of bone in the dust of an archeological dig. Writing with deep respect for the wrecks and ravages of an uncertain age, he clothes his sometimes mundane subjects in an uncommon beauty. Susan Ludvigson writes that Prufer’s poems use “language so imaginatively brilliant that even the ominous and the sad are imbued with pleasure.” His third and most recent volume, Fallen from a Chariot (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005), continues the elegiac arc for which the poet is known, examining his characteristic ruins and remains, and elsewhere voicing echoes of Rome’s ancient rulers. Miraculously conjuring grace from the gruesome and empathy for the inanimate, Prufer gives as much soul to “The black hearts of automobiles” as to “the body/unaware and cooling against the dash.”

A native of Ohio, Kevin Prufer received degrees from Wesleyan, Hollins and Washington Universities. His first two books, Strange Wood (Winthrop University Press/Louisiana State University Press, 1998) and The Finger Bone (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002) earned wide acclaim for their vision and versatility. The latter was praised by the American Book Review as “intellectually and imagistically complex” and by The Georgia Review as “challenging and provocative,” and The Bloomsbury Review named Fallen from a Chariot among the “Best Books of the Last 25 Years.” A fourth collection, National Anthem, is forthcoming in 2008 from Four Way Books.

Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2007 (with Sarah Manguso)

Ars Poetica

The bone in the ice cream, picked out, held
between the thumb and forefinger,

the startle of it, the catch in the breath,
the sick pit in the heart or stomach,

the queer blare of bone, of bloodspot
in the vanilla—the thought that this, perhaps

is where something twittered away—


When it melts, ice cream is a thrill of rivulets,
is a sweet, pooling thing.

but the bone is blade-like
at the edges. Where did it come from?

Bird bone, finger bone, hollow as a flute
and playable, bleached and smooth to the thumb-

caress. The bone in the ice cream is terrible


and aches the teeth. How the face hurts
when the mouth bears down

on the cool, the strange, the gruesome truth
of it. What left the bone in the ice cream?

What cruel hand or wing, lopped and swirled away?
What bird? What angel? Splintered pointer,

flute that sings the sweetness away.

From THE FINGER BONE (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002)

Air Disaster Over Kansas

Did a shining god put a kiss on the nose cone?
The airplane rocked on its wings, an engine droned

then coughed. A rotor stopped and would not turn
again. The gas tank burned

and someone saw a creature on the wing
scraping long talons over the singed

flaps, gray head tucked low. I drained
my drink and called the stewardess. The plane,

she said, is going down. Will you have a last
and final scotch? I would. I gave her all my cash

for which she thanked me, backing queasily
away. The others sat uneasily

craning their dull necks to the windows
as the hungry creature bit the wing. Although

it was little comfort, it occurred to me
through the stink of smoke and gasoline,

that America loves a doomed and falling
populace as much as it loves anything.

From FALLEN FROM A CHARIOT (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005)

Ode to Rome

The poem about the fall of Rome
drops stones in my water glass.

++++++++++++++++++There is an ache in the back of my throat.

The poem about Rome has a shell in its beak,
it feeds my ear, is what my ear

++++++++++++++++++++++asks for. Here is the end

of Rome in a pasta dish. Here, the last of the buildings
on a silver fork, the last

++++++++++++++++++of the street lamps

in the sugar in the well of a coffee cup. When the sun sets

and the poem, on its nest in the dark,

++++++++++++++++++++++++++adjusts its bird eyes

my throat contracts. A thousand winters where the grass grew
over the avenues. A litter of statues.

Without cities,

++++++++++++++++I don’t know what to say to myself, I cannot

whisper my ear to sleep.

++++++++++++++++++The ode to Rome

is a whimper of feathers, a scurry of black wings.

From FALLEN FROM A CHARIOT (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005)