About the Author: Kirun Kapur '97
Place of Birth:
B.A. Amherst College, Religion and Art History
M.A. Boston University, Graduate Creative Writing Program, Poetry
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
I came for the conversation. Originally, I was determined to go to Columbia. After growing up in Hawaii, New York City seemed like the perfect antidote. However, I was lucky enough to visit Amherst, where I was interviewed by both the incumbent Green Dean and the Green Dean-in-training. The three of us had the most incredible conversation. We covered Christianity in Japan (I had just finished reading Shusaku Endo’s beautiful book, Silence), the Simpsons, the beauties of Hawaiian pidgin, Tori Amos and the tyranny of socks (if you’ve grown up in the tropics, you will know what I mean). The conversation was so nerdy and joyful. It ranged and sparkled over every imaginable subject. I couldn’t have articulated it then, but I was captivated by that kind of omnivorous, generous intelligence. I thought, “I want to talk to people like this for the next four years” and, by some miracle, I got my wish.
Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst:
There were many, but probably the very first class I took with Professor John Pemberton III, which introduced me to many of the questions I’m still asking in my writing.
Most memorable or most influential professor:
Again, there were many, but I’ll say Professor Natasha Staller, for her beautiful Russian hats, high standards and her insistence that I follow my true passions.
Awards and Prizes
- Selected for NBC News “Asian American Poets to Watch,” 2015.
- Winner of the Antivenom Poetry Prize for Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist
- Winner of the Rumi Prize for Poetry, from Arts & Letters
- Poetry Fellow, Vermont Studio Center
- Poetry Fellow, MacDowell Colony
- Winter Poetry Fellowship, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown
- Laura Ayres Snyder Poetry Prize, Department of English, Amherst College
- Mead Fine Arts Fellowship, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
- Armstrong Poetry Prize, Department of English, Amherst College
An impossible question! Today, I’ll say Elizabeth Bishop’s, Complete Poems and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red.
So many—Bishop, Crane, Ghalib, Carson, Montale, Faiz, Walcott, Gluck and more.
Tips for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Read more. Write more. Revise it again, even when you think you can’t.
Follow your interests and your instincts, especially the weird ones.
Nothing is wrong with you if you are plagued by self-doubt. You will learn to write with it (or from under it).
I’ll second my friend Mark Vanhoenacker (whose wonderful book, Skyfaring, was September’s feature)—find a good friend, not only to write to, as Mark suggests, but to tell you (gently) when your work isn’t what it should be and to have faith in you when you doubt yourself. Your friends will prop you up and cheer you on, talk you off the ledge and read your ten thousandth draft. Their miraculous work will inspire you.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author:
I’ve been writing poems for as long as I can remember. I even wrote them at Amherst, though most of them remained under my bed in a shoebox. I began publishing poems in journals immediately after I finished school, but it took me some time to publish my first book. I edited the poems relentlessly, cutting out large sections, writing and rewriting. I gave up more than once. Eventually, I did send the manuscript out and in 2013, it won the Antivenom Poetry Prize and was published by Elixir Press in 2015.