Ralph Culver On Becoming A Poet And Writing In Vermont

Jun 25, 2015

Vermont poet Ralph Culver attended Goddard College in Plainfield in the 1970s and has called the state his home ever since.

He’s written poetry, fiction and a poetry collection called Both Distances. Tonight he joins fellow Goddard alum, writer Jack Pulaski, for the readings in the gallery series at the Athenaeum museum in St. Johnsbury. He joined VPR to talk about his writing.

“There’s a certain type of kid, if you leave him in a room long enough, he’ll take the alarm clock apart and try to put it back together again,” says Culver. “And if you left me in a room long enough, I’d just try to take my own thoughts and feelings apart and put them back together again.”

Culver says his home environment growing up also helped shape him as a writer. His father was a fiction writer and taught at the University of Pittsburgh and his mother had her PhD in English. “Our house was unusual in that it did not have a television set and I am very grateful to my parents for that,” says Culver. “And the place was full of books. I learned to read at a really young age. I just sort of naturally gravitated toward artistic expression. Words were a constant source of mystery and inspiration.”

Culver says he was first published at 8-years-old, in a kids magazine called Jack and Jill. “I’ve been a published author since I was eight, yeah,” he says, laughing.

Culver says he owns his own writing, editing and copyediting business in Vermont, so he does a lot of freelance work. “I also have a lot of regular clients and customers who come to me for copyediting and copywriting and that’s where the bread and butter is,” he says.

"There's a certain type of kid, if you leave him in a room long enough, he'll take the alarm clock apart and try to put it back together again. And if you left me in a room long enough, I'd just try to take my own thoughts and feelings apart and put them back together again." - Ralph Culver, poet

The writer admits he doesn’t have a daily writing ritual. “I wish I could say I did, and I know a lot of people who do and it seems to work out really well for them. I find myself most of the time trying to sort of squeeze in a couple minutes here and there to do some work …” he says.

Culver says a common thread in his writing involves exploring inter-relationships between people. “The dynamic between the individual and the natural world,” he notes.

"Our house was unusual in that it did not have a television set and I am very grateful to my parents for that."

The reading at the Athenaeum museum will feature fellow Goddard alum Jack Pulaski. “He and I have known each other for 45 years, but we’ve never actually done a reading together, and he’s a wonderful fiction writer,” he says. “Also, the gallery at the Athenaeum in St. Johnsbury is so beautiful. They have a really long history of great writers, great poets and fiction writers that have read there. I feel quite honored to be a part of that.”

Ralph Culver will be reading at the Athenaeum museum in St. Johnsbury with writer Jack Pulaski on Thursday, June 25.