An Interview with Santino Prinzi
If you’ve read our previous issues, you’re no doubt familiar with Santino Prinzi and his gorgous prose poems. Santino graciously agreed to do an interview with us, and we’re delighted to have him.
RLB: Santino, thank you so much for stopping by to talk to us. Our readers want to know about this thing you do so well, this thing we love to publish, the magic that is prose poetry. Can you tell us what attracted you to prose poetry? What does it do for you?
SP: I stumbled across prose poetry during the second year of my undergraduate degree in English literature and creative writing at Bath Spa university. I was studying a module called ‘Sudden Prose’ coordinated by the invigorating poet Carrie Etter, and if she can’t get you enthusiastic about poetry then no one will. I was never one for poetry; I liked reading it but not writing it, but Carrie changed this for me by exposing me to prose poetry. Prose poetry feels different to me than normal poetry. The power behind prose poetry for me is its ability to evoke strong emotions without sentimentality, and as a writer I find it refreshing being able to write prose poems as I’m able to both tap into my own thoughts and feelings without being too sentimental. The power behind prose poetry lies within the images the poet uses to bring these emotions to life.
RLB: Agreed. And that’s one of the things that grab us in a good prose poem–strong imagery. Could you share your process for writing a prose poem? Do you start with an idea, a feeling, an emotion? A title, or maybe a prompt of some sort?
SP: It’s difficult to describe my process for writing a prose poem without thinking about my process for writing flash fiction. I know when something I write is going to be a flash fiction or a prose poem due to a couple of reasons. The first is, with a flash, the story and the character are there in my head, but with a prose poem there’s no story in mind, no character either, only a feeling, an impression, and it’s something I cannot shake. All writing comes from the writer and their experience in some way, but for me my prose poetry is more personal than my flash fiction because they begin with emotions I cannot express and, unfortunately, seem to happen when I experience feelings of sadness or disconnection. Hopefully I’ll write some more hopeful prose poems one day, but prose poetry has always been there as a way of expressing what I cannot do through a fabricated character.
RLB: Maybe that’s part of the magic with prose poetry, that it comes from a deeper place. I think the form itself encourages a freedom we don’t find in fiction or even lineated poetry. What makes you decide that a piece needs to be in prose poem form, rather than a lined piece of poetry?
SP: The honest answer is, as a writer, I don’t understand lined poetry. Why do I put a line break here? Do I want to split it into stanzas? How about enjambment and the rhythm? These are all things I appreciate in the reading of poetry but cannot, yet, work out for my own writing.
Those features distract me from getting onto the page the feelings I’m trying to capture. I’ve always like prose, and I believe prose has its own rhythm, its own musicality, and can be poetic. Why not have a poem as a block of text? The form allows me to use poetry to put to paper my thoughts, feelings, and inspirations without getting hung up on technicalities, allows me to focus on the words and the imagery without thinking about the amount of syllables in a line.
RLB: Good point. And all the more reason why someone who maybe feels overwhelmed with the idea of writing a poem might find prose poetry more approachable. Any tips for someone new to the form who would like to give it a shot?
SP: Firstly, read prose poems. Of course, read Unbroken journal because it’s a great place to start. I’d also recommend reading anything by Gary Young (especially his collection Pleasure), Linda Black, Killarney Clary, and Nin Andrews, and Russell Edson. Carrie Etter’s Sudden Prose blog (suddenprose.blogspot.co.uk) is also a good place to look.
Secondly, whenever it strikes you, do it. Prose poetry for me is somewhat therapeutic. I would say the majority of my writing is about disconnections, but prose poetry lets me get to that space when I’m feeling that disconnect, rather than a scenario I can imagine a character to be in. So when I experience that feeling myself I get it down, along with the images floating in my mind.
Read to feel the rhythms of the prose, the pulsing of the images, and allow yourself to swim in the emotions evoked. Then dry yourself down, pick up a pen, and think about you, how you feel, and what you want to say.
RLB: Solid suggestions, Santino. I can’t wait to check out Carrie Etter. What are you working on now? What will be seeing from you in the near future?
SP: I’m always writing. I’d love to publish a chapbook of flash fiction so I’m currently compiling one from published and unpublished works and will, hopefully and when it’s ready, find a home for it. As a part of my studies I wanted to learn how to write some longer fiction, so I’m currently planning and researching a novel. Whether or not it continues to grow and be written beyond my undergraduate degree is questionable, but I like the characters, I like the plot, I like how it’s structured, and, most importantly, I like writing it (when I get time), so we’ll see. Prose poetry and flash fiction always holds a special place with me. More imminently I have various pieces forthcoming for publication, including in CHEAP POP, Ink Sweat and Tears, and Litro Online. If you’re interested about my work or want to know more you can follow my website (tinoprinzi.wordpress.com) or follow me on Twitter (@tinoprinzi)
RLB: Awesome! We’ll be following your work, for sure. Santino, thanks so much for taking the time to share with us, and giving us a peek into your writing process. Your words are beautiful and inspiring, and now I feel like going and writing a prose poem. Lovely! We wish you a wonderful 2016, and the best of luck with all your projects.
Guys, if you haven’t read Santino, you can check his amazing prose poems out in our Issue 5 (September/October 2015), our Issue 6 (November/December 2015), and also be sure to go read his Tesselation, in our current issue—Issue 7.
And watch for more of our Author Interviews coming soon!
SANTINO PRINZI is an undergraduate student at Bath Spa University studying English Literature with Creative Writing. His flash fiction has been published both online and in print, including the 2014 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Eating My Words, the 2015 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Landmarks, FlashFlood Journal, Short Story Sunday, and others. Check him out at www.tinoprinzi.wordpress.com.