Interview with Alison Prine - On Steel, Advice, and Psychotherapy

Alison Prine’s debut collection of poems, Steel, was chosen by Jeffrey Harrison for the Cider Press Review Book Award and was released in January 2016. Her poems have appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, Harvard Review,  Michigan Quarterly Review, and Prairie Schooner among others. She lives in Burlington, Vermont where she works as a psychotherapist. Read more to see how Alison spends her days.

Tell Tell Poetry: How many hours did you spend on your collection?
Alison Prine: Impossible to say. Many, many hours over years.

What was the most difficult moment, line, poem, or section of your collection? What made it so difficult?
The most challenging part for me was choosing and ordering the poems.  The poems that were most important to the collection were painful ones.  Initially I buried them in the manuscript, and it took many revisions to accept the book's intention.  

How many unpaid hours do you spend on supporting poetry?
I spend maybe ten hours a month supporting other poets through coffee/ poetry dates, workshop meetings, correspondence around one another's work, reading poet colleagues' manuscripts, etc. I am a part of two long standing poet workshops.

What does a normal day look like for you? How do you spend most of your waking hours?
I write most mornings. I have set up my day job (psychotherapist) hours around my preferred writing hours. Fridays all day are for poetry.  I use Fridays for revisions, submissions, reading poetry and writing about craft, setting up readings, etc.   

What allows you to keep writing, even when you don’t want to?
I always want to write.  I accept that a significant amount of the writing isn't good.  I like to imagine I need to write through the bad stuff to get to the good.  I find even my bad writing helpful.  

How do you define literary success?
When I write a very good line.  When I write a good poem. Reading and writing poetry that satisfies me is one of the times I feel most alive.  Of course I love the validation of publication, too. Having a book of my poems in the world for these last few months has been wonderful.  I think of it like this: The writing itself is sustaining, like a meal, I find it nourishing. The fellowship of other poets and writers is quenching, like the drink. Publication is the dessert; sweet and decadent and sometimes, if you are not careful, a little sickening.

What would you do if you didn’t write?
I have another career that I love, but without poetry I don't think I would do anything as well.  

What is the most memorable writing advice you’ve ever heard?
That it was not necessary to get an MFA or have connections to academia to be taken seriously as a poet.

What are you currently working on and where do you see yourself and your work in the next 5 months? 5 years?
I just keep writing my poems and trying very hard to make them the best that they can be.  I would love to see the work I am doing now form itself eventually into another book and for that book to also find its way into the world.  I hope my best poems haven't been written yet.