Deri Pryor: Poet Interview

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2014 April PAD Challenge countdown: 8. I'm always surprised by just how close we all are--often without knowing it. For instance, I drive up and down I-75 at least once a month, often stopping at the Richmond, Kentucky, exit 87. Little did I know, one of our Top 25 poets actually lives there.

Deri Ross Pryor

Deri Ross Pryor

Deri Ross Pryor is a writer of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. She has been creating stories since she first learned the power of words, long before she knew how to read or write. Born in New York and raised in Florida, she now calls Kentucky home. She is a recent graduate from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English/Creative Writing and is now working on her MA in English at the same university. Deri has won several college-level writing contests and has been published in Eastern’s Aurora Journal, Pluck! Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture, Kudzu Literary Journal, and Still: The Journal. To pay the bills, she works as a copywriter and journal editor for a non-profit trade association. Deri lives in Richmond with her two beagles and inadvertent cat. Learn more at: www.deri-ross.com.

Here's her Top 25 poem:

The Farmer's Wife, by Deri Pryor

He sits in somber twilight,
the flickering television glow
his best company now.

He fingers a tiny gold circle
in calloused and cracked hands,
ached with work and waiting.

Under the elm trees, flowers grow over the gentle mound.

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Where are you located?

Richmond, Kentucky.

Who are your favorite poets?

I love so many it is hard to nail down. When I discover a new poet I have not read before I immediately declare I have found my favorite – until the next discovery. Poetry has not always been such a passion for me as it is now, so I arrived “late to the party” so to speak, so I am still learning and discovering new favorite poets and poems all the time.

I was recently introduced to the amazing poetry of Ruth Stone, who I am in awe of. I love the musical and poignant style of Nikky Finney, 2011’s National Book Award winner for Head Off and Split (and who I’ve had the honor of studying with). There are so many amazing poets from Kentucky that I’m in love with: George Ella Lyon, Frank X Walker, James Still…the list goes on.

As a reader, what do you like most in poems?

I like poems that are straightforward but with strong subtext -- but not so mysterious that a clear theme or message is impossible to decipher. I like poems that are not afraid to stare the darkest part of humanity in the face, poems that can be slightly disturbing in a way that makes the reader step outside their own comfort zone and think.

One of the most startling poems I’ve read is “Child Beater” by Ai. It was an instant favorite. Another one is “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke. Some find those types of poems are hard to swallow, but I feel they are important.

What were your goals for the 2013 April PAD Challenge?

First of all, to write every single day. I’ve done the challenge in the past and fell into the habit of letting a few days go by and try to catch up. Since I work and go to college full time, it is hard to find time, but I think not writing every day defeats the point of the challenge (to me personally) of making time to write every day, to be serious enough about the craft that I’m willing to forgo that favorite TV show or a that extra hour of sleep.

Secondly, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I tend to pull back a little, dance around things that are painful to me or that I worry will be too disturbing to others, but, again, I think that also is not in keeping with my personal challenge of writing as my true self. I once remarked to a friend that my poetry, actually my writing in general, leans towards the dark and sad. She replied with the old adage “you write what you know.” I had to think about that for a while.

While I am not necessarily a dark and sad person (well, mostly), I have suffered through difficult situations, and have seen others experience pain and loss such as what I refer to in “The Farmer’s Wife.” Many of the poems I wrote in the challenge were unlike anything I had written before. It was quite liberating, actually.

What's next for you?

I am in the process of revising a number of my poems that deal with the cycle of dysfunctional relationships in the hopes of having a chapbook published in the next year or so. I am working on my MA in English and then plan to go on to do an MFA in creative writing.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer's Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World's Problems. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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