Friday surprise: connecting with Pearl Ketover Prilik

IOB would like to introduce you to the multi-talented Pearl Ketover Prilik: author, poet, and editor of two international poetry collections.

PKP: I always see things on a multiplicity of levels: my point of view, what I imagine is “the other’s” point of view, what perhaps is some objective reality and how all of this fits into some grand scheme of things.  So that being angry at another human being is virtually (no pun intended) impossible. In fact during some eight hundred (I mean literally!) hours on analysis  I was often chided for not “exploring my anger.” I believe most strongly that anger is an understandable but completely nonproductive emotion – in personal relationships as well as in large global conflicts such as war – which inevitably at some point lead to peace with between the poles of which lie a trail of senseless death.  There are few exceptions to my inability to anger ;those involve the red outrage of which I am fully capable combined with an urge bordering on compulsion to speak up and take action when someone commits a grave injustice against an innocent, or I am called to action when there is an imbalance of power or extreme unkindness.  Perhaps, because I truly believe that all is connected somehow, I cannot tolerate as a potential part of myself such ugliness and must do whatever I can in my power to stop its course or at the very least to strongly bear witness.

IOB: Beyond The Dark Room, An International Collection of Transformative Poetry. One review contains this  description: “This book could be your gateway through healing to hope.” How is that?

PKP: The simple answer is that I believe that poetry is a window into the unconscious. Since I was a child I have found writing to be tremendously cathartic and organizational when dealing with stress and in working through intrapsychic issues.  As a practicing clinician, I often found that poetry was a medium which permitted articulation of certain felt understandings and explorations and have both written poems to patients and encouraged them to write on their own.  There is a freeing quality in the rhythm of poetry, in the ability to express experience in a multiplicity of layers that is quite simply lacking in everyday, linear language.  The poems in Beyond the Dark Room describe the various stages in the journey from trauma through empowerment and ultimately to a place of either transformation as the subtitle implies, transcendence or in many cases to acceptance of circumstances which cannot be altered but where perspective can be radically transformed.  I believe that poetry is not so much an ‘art form’ although undoubtedly it is, but is also a variation of communication using a deeper level of thinking and allowing for the articulation and the ultimate so-called working through of difficult issues.

IOB: Several authors contributed to Beyond the Dark Room.Please tell us about the poets. [IOB full disclosure: ina Roy is one of the poets whose work is included in this volume]

PKP: The poets who contributed to the Beyond the Dark Room are perhaps a grouping of the most dedicated, talented and, quite frankly, delightful human beings I have encountered.  For a complete listing of all the poets involved please visit Beyond the Dark Room’s page:

Beyond the Dark Room on Facebook

There is also a biography of each poet at the end of the book. There is a great deal of diversity in terms of where people live, from the country-side in Australia, to Canada, back across the “pond” to the UK, back to various points in the United States.Despite the diversity, there is a  unifying commonality of  poetic vision, a sense that we are all somehow ‘connected’ on what I like to call this “blue marble,” and that somehow we met at a poetry site and decide that this project was one in which we had a deep personal interest.

IOB: What was your role, Pearl, in conceiving, organizing, and publishing this collection?

PKP: I am the principal administrator of a the Facebook group/page for poets.  This group came together initially as a social group comprised of poets who knew each other from Robert Brewer’s  “original”  (before the latest updates) Poetic Asides blog which I often refer to as “The Street.”   We had become familiar with one another’s work through various challenges and many of us had been writing and commenting on each other’s works on a more or less daily basis for years.  Last year one of the members floated the idea of perhaps writing a collection “someday.” Frankly, in my ‘other life-time’ as a teacher of English responsible for perhaps 150 students’ writing on a daily basis, putting together an anthology of poems with some forty adult poets didn’t seem an insurmountable challenge.  I simply selected out a heaping handful of popular prompts from the Poetic Asides blog and we voted on ten which became the ten chapters of that book. I had to get permission from Robert to use the prompts which apparently were “owned” by Writers’ Digest.  I went as high as the new editor and suggested the idea of an anthology.  Robert was then able to get permission for us to use ten prompts.  Poets simply self-selected those that they thought were their best examples of these prompts that had been shared on the blog.  I wrote an introduction, asked Robert if he would write a Foreword, and kept following up with him tracking him down in his extraordinarily busy life. Many of the poets are wonderful photographers and we chose from a collection of submitted photographs using Survey Monkey which one of the participating poets set up and tracked to select an especially beautiful photograph for our cover. One of the other poets Michele Brenton’s husband Andrew is a printer/publisher and agreed to print the book and off we went, in what felt like a collective effort that mirrored my philosophy of all being connected very satisfyingly.

The second project, recently published, was a bit different.  I floated the idea of a collection perhaps about abuse or trauma and the incredibly capacity that human beings seem to have for moving “beyond” such assaults to their sensibilities.  (I am always awed and have the deepest respect as a human being and a therapist for the ability that some individuals have for not only surviving but thriving beyond trauma and all sorts of life challenges.  A small but vocal minority of poets took an immediate dislike to the project and at times it seemed to me!  Of course, all of this was sorted out with a wonderful open, vigorous dialogue and led to the twenty (twenty-one including myself) poets that decided to participate in the latest anthology.  I created a separate page for communication and voting on various stages and off we went.

Since I was interested in the interplay between the therapeutic value of the potential collection and the entertainment/educational value, I used some of my understanding and observation about ten typical stages that individuals most often pass through after trauma– and it was these ten passages (Stunned, Anger, Fear, Shock, Depression, Empowerment, Calm, Trust, Confidence, and Love/Happiness/Fulfillment/Peace of Mind) that became the chapters.  I wrote the introduction and solicited someone who was primarily involved with trauma to write the Foreword from a professional list-serve of psychoanalysts.  I was absolutely delighted when Dr. Nurit Nora Israeli responded and we are both still reeling from the synchronicities in our experience, perhaps most notably the fact that Dr. Israeli was involved in a workshop involving loss and moving “Beyond”  and is a poet in her own right using some of the very same words in her own poetry.  Our group included some staggeringly talented photographers who submitted photographs for our cover upon which we voted in almost one voice for a view from inside a dark room onto a beautiful flower garden taken by Jane Penland Hoover [IOB: more of Jane’s work can be found at her blog] that seemed painted to describe this collection.  Another of the poets, Laura Hegfield [IOB: more about Laura here], who herself is a beacon of inspiration in living her own personal challenges with grace, altruism, and sparkling beauty suggested some noted writers who might want to take a look at the book – they did and returned some wonder-full reviews – a portion of which you quoted as part of one of your questions.

I can say without braggadocio that I am extraordinarily proud to be part of this wonderful collection and that it has been one of the joys of my life to be able to collect, organize, and synthesize the poems of this talented and essentially kind group of poets into an anthology that will be dedicated toward bringing hope and light to the dark corners of others.

IOB: Is it possible to see an excerpt of the book somewhere?

PKP: [here is a link to the book] Beyond The Dark Room edited by  Pearl Ketover Prilik

It is difficult to excerpt poetry – except for the introduction and/or foreword which would seem self-serving and not particularly descriptive of the extraordinary talent and individual voices of the collected poems.  As far as where the book can be acquired, it is easily accessible on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the US and the UK.  As part of our agreement as a collective of writers we again chose a charity to receive all of our royalties directly.  In the case of Beyond the Dark Room, An International Collection of Transformative Poems  all royalties are being donated to Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).  This organization was voted upon and chosen by an overwhelming majority as they have a mental health branch as well as medical services offered worldwide.   It is our hope that Beyond The Dark Room… will serve as agent of healing for those in need.

IOB:  In addition to an editor, you are a poet in your own right. You share many of your poems on your blog, Imagine; where else can  readers find your poems and writings?

PKP:  I have recently been published in several online and print publications.  I suppose that it would make some sense, since I am now comfortable with the ins and outs of independent publishing to collect my poems and publish them in a collection of their own – I’m not quite sure that I’d know how to work unilaterally without taking a vote on how the cover would look or goodness knows accepting any royalties that came my way.  Of course, I‘m only joking, but seriously, poetry began as a distraction, I had always written as a way of personally marking an occasion or event with my family, friends and/or patient,s and then as a way of decompressing while thinking about my “real” writing as a would-be novelist.  How delightful, to discover that I – while I have been searching for the “real writer” within – may have always been what I am only discovering that perhaps I am: a poet all the while.

IOB: You’re an author of a number of non-fiction works in your capacity as a therapist. How is your writing process different when you write professional non-fiction work from when you write poetry?

PKP: I believe I anticipated your question and so I’ll just continue.  Professional writing  is clean and easy:decide what I want to write, or accept the assignment offered, outline, research, check research, interview, add anecdotes, as I would teach children:

  1. decide what you’re going to tell them
  2. tell them
  3. tell them what you told them.

 Poetry, unlike other writing such as short stories and those novels simply comes from someplace else; I’m not quite sure where it is coming from, but most times what I write (and I mean no grandiosity here because there are no claims to quality)most of what I write comes to me immediately and is, if edited at all, edited as I go – I more often feel than I am “transcribing” the writing of someone else – in fact if I should forget to save something – what I was writing is often gone as a dream. I claim no ownership of the poetry I write, for I do not know from where it comes.  It holds no stress, because of this lack of ego involvement – instead it contains limitless surprise and relief of stress.   This is the kind of non-personally directed poetry I’m writing nowadays – greatly stream of consciousness – whose stream I am not certain – but definitely filtered through my own consciousness.

IOB: Would you share one of your poems with us?

I recently had this poem published in a wonderful print literary magazine titled “scissors and spackle.” I’m not quite sure where the poem came from and why it is one of my favorites but it is. I hope you enjoy it as well:

Girls in Plum Sweaters

what can girls in plum sweaters
be expected to know of loss
as they pass the shovel among friends
unorated letters on pretty stationary drift
in the wind – as earth hard-hits the coffin
inside sweatered pruning friend on white satin
outside they, fresh as dropped stitches
from a single skein of yarn
creating a forever hole
in matching plum sweaters,
dirt under fingernails
cold wind in their fresh washed hair

IOB: Where do you see your writing heading in the future? How can we help you achieve your goals?

PKP: I think it is the height of lunacy that I have not edited the two novels that I have completed. Both of these books, through my nonfiction connections have been read by major NYC publishing house editors with kind helpful comments even though they passed.  I was thrilled by their readings and their encouraging words and then SET THEM ASIDE!  My writing goals, the epitome of this chapter of my life would be to get my novels edited and published.  I think that this wonderful blog could be helpful to me and I am certain to others by providing a forum where partners could cheer each other on and provide a framework and focus for their daily personal goals such as the healthy competiveness of the NaNoWriMo challenges.  I am not suggesting the I would need anyone to read my work or I them, but the simple fact that I was in a sense “responsible” for editing a set number of pages of words a day and that I was not alone in this endeavor would be extraordinarily motivating.

I want to thank you Andrea, and Ina, for this opportunity. and for this wonderful blog which has the potentiality of being a major resource for so many writers.  I wish you everything that you hope to achieve and I already know that you have and will continue to bring as much joy to others as you have brought to me.