Saturday, January 15, 2011

from Rattle

Review by Bill Neumire

by Nate Pritts

Cooper Dillon Books
3052 ½ Adams Ave.
San Diego, CA 92116-1501
ISBN 9780984192823
2010, 74 pp., $14.00

Recently, I checked out the new press, Cooper Dillon Books, and, after some perusal, I purchased Nate Pritts’ third collection, The Wonderfull Yeare. Why did I choose this title? Well, I found out that Pritts lives in Syracuse just as I do, though we’ve never met. Next, I found out that he graduated from SUNY Brockport, my alma mater. Too much of a coincidence for me to set aside. Pritts even thanks several former professors of mine in his acknowledgements: Ralph Black, Judith Kitchen, and Stan Rubin (the latter two moved to Washington state and started the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program).

Once I received the book and cracked it open, I read the epigraph from Thomas Dekker. Dekker’s original pamphlet, The Wonderfull Yeare, was a multi-genre account of the events of the plague year 1603 in which the word “wonderful” was meant to mean astonishing, not good. Meanwhile, Pritts’ book, a calendar of sorts, is composed of four seasons, and each season is essentially one long poem. Within a poem, lines and phrases manifest and re-manifest in new positions with new punctuation lending new meanings. It’s sestina or pantoum-like in this way, but less predictable because there’s no prescribed algorithm for where or when the language will reappear. But like Januaries and Julys in the calendar of a wonderfull yeare, lines keep returning. As a matter of fact, the book opens with the lines: “Each year it’s the same damn thing / a constant red ache.” As an example of this reincarnation, take this section from “Spring Psalter”: “Darling, I leave you the forever unblooming / twig half-sunk in spring mud (…) / Darling, darling, darling: my voice is a branch that would reach.” Later in the same poem this becomes: “My voice dissipates into hush & whiffs of light, / A twig in spring mud (…) Darling, darling: my voice is a branch that would reach,” and even later in the same poem it becomes: “Darling, I leave you the forever unblooming. / (…) / Darling, I leave you.” I must admit, I’ve never read anything quite like it. Whereas the sestina is almost always (whether or not intentionally) silly, the pantoum always fraught with simple redundancy. The fact that the repetition here is not predetermined allows Pritts to make the poems more impactful.

There are gobs of white space on these pages; the poems take up no more than 14 lines, and there’s always space within and between lines. These are very airy, intangible, poems, thought-emotion machines with little concrete anchoring. Pritts has said that he’s more comfortable writing in a series or collection as a whole instead of writing each poem extempore and compiling them. As a result, this is not the musical album with poppy singles; this is the album that feels like one long song. Because of its holistic composition, it’s a very fast and pure read. Nothing feels forced into place like an errant puzzle piece. Nothing’s struggling to fit the theme; it’s tremendously organic.

As for the individual seasons, spring, here, is not the season of life, but the season of doubt. It’s as though Pritts ignores the conventional symbolism of the seasons and starts over. As a matter of fact, there’s a plenitude of language about renaming later in the book. Following spring, the poems of “Endless Summer” are each four lines long and are typed vertically, ivying up the page. Ironically, “Endless Summer” is the shortest season of the book, composed of only six four-line poems. Next, “Sonnets for the Fall” is an assemblage of 14 poems, 14 lines each. They have the same white space and airy quality as the other seasons, but this time they’re arranged as sonnets, though without the conventions of rhyme and meter. They do, however, address the classic sonnet theme of romantic love: there’s a relationship between the narrator and the “darling.” These pieces then accumulate into a 14-poem season. You’ve got to hand it to Pritts–he’s clever with his own form and moves with acuity therein. And it can be beautiful, as the sonnets don’t begin and end; they roll into each other like an avalanche of fallen leaves. Lastly, there’s winter “& then afterward.” Some of the sections of “Winter Constellations” actually read like haiku. Take “(xii)” for instance:

Snow dropped in clusters,
staggered & jagged
We don’t matter a bit.

Yet other slices of the winter section reveal some of my linguistic concerns. They seem too easy, too unmoored. Take this, for example:

& first sunlight.
Snow continues.
I could never close my eyes to light.
But there was no light
& you looked like night.

It takes a hefty setting of groundwork to build a reader’s trust enough to accept the preceding lines. I’m not sure I completely felt that trust, though I must confess that I haven’t read Pritts’ previous two collections, Honorary Astronaut (Ghost Road Press) and Sensational Spectacular (BlazeVOX).

So, what’s at stake in these cerebral, yet emotional pieces? It seems to be an abstract struggle against meaninglessness, against “not matter[ing] a bit.” The context is a romance, a troubled romance with a “you” and a “we.” This is a tough and lofty project, and the hovering language doesn’t always feel warranted. Take this section as a second example:

Seasons of travail, happy seasons of agony, the look
of pain & anguish, that same transcience, the seasons
transient, changing, always holding on & then the fall

Certainly, this is plucked up and laid bare in front of you, but it’s representative of the risk this collection takes. On the other hand, there are certainly very poignant, thought and language-provoking sections as well. Here is a personal favorite from “Spring Psalter”:

Proclaim, with me, the dawning
of an attempt to ascertain the meaning, to figure out
where the wires plug in & what, then, might happen.
Reaching, wind-blown, imprecise lack, worry—
these are the many names of the sorry condition
I hope to define. But who can understand the complex
vestiges that limit us, the vast machinery of what
has gone trudging before. Determinant & co-determinant!

In order to be fair, we as readers and critics must have room for more than one poetics. We must meet each poet on his or her own terms. The narrator of this collection operates with a frailty of doubt in a land where negative capability is a passport. What are his terms? In an interview with Elizabeth Hildreth of Bookslut, Pritts said of his own collection, “I want you dizzy & confused right alongside me; I want you befuddled & awestruck while holding my hand. There is no medicine when one is sicke at heart, save ‘comforting speech.’ That seemed crucial to what I was doing in these poems.” Certainly, this book is worth its quick read, and I have no doubt that it will leave you befuddled and dizzy; will it leave you awestruck and holding his hand?


Bill Neumire’s reviews have appeared in the Cortland Review, Hiram Poetry Review, Pedestal Magazine, and Umbrella. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, Sugar House Review, The Toucan, and Cloudbank. He writes and teaches in Syracuse, New York with his wife and dog. He can be contacted at:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

from Typecast Publishing/Blondone

Favorite line: “I hope to define. But who can understand the complex that has / gone trudging before. / Determinant & co-determinant!” –from “Spring Psalter”

Nerds like me can now feel hip and trendy (in the poetry world, that is). For that large, large niche market that enjoys a little sixteenth-century English literature/post-modern mash-up, The Wonderfull Yeare by Nate Pritts is for you. While there are many aspects of this book that would be interesting to discuss (form, how it conforms to the shape of a “shepherd’s calendar,” soundplay, etc., this post is going to please all y’all that like to talk about nature vs. artifice. Can I get a “Hell yeah!” Elizabethan poetry nerds?

In this book, Pritts’ speaker puts his will against the power of nature and inevitability, occasionally resigning to it but not quite giving in. On a quest to find the “Determinant and co-determinant!” of why his romantic relationship is failing and what role he plays in it, Pritts attempts to re-order the seasons to save his romance from fading­––with the idea that if he can change nature’s sequence, perhaps he can change himself, or at least define himself.

But the speaker’s repetition of phrases show the seasons’ shifts still control the way he arranges even his thoughts, with the new seasons’ images bringing new associations to the author. For example, the falling of leaves makes the speaker wonder whether he is losing himself like a leaf from a branch––something he hadn’t uttered before. He asks whether simply naming something differently can change an outcome. Eventually, he seems to realize only poetry allows him this privilege and control, and even then, his thoughts are limited by the repetition of seasons and mistakes that recur in his life: “Every year it’s the same damn thing, / a constant red ache.”

In the end, even poetry betrays him; in trying to make sense of his “Memory separate from Imagination,” he must place the poems in chronological order by season. The book is divided into four sections, each after a season, so when the speaker is re-hashing an “Endless Summer,” a current one is leaving him in the dust, leaving him to rage over wasted time spent laying under stars. This section is probably the strongest (or at least equally as potent as “Spring Psalter”) and best shows the mind’s ability to circle the same event or moment over and over.

In ”(interlude 1)” of the section “Winter Constellations,” the speaker makes his most desperate attempt to control his surroundings:


Leaves & face wet from mist,

the silence in me, the silence of stars,

of all the miles that separate us.


I want the stars to move.
Above us, the brightest stars.

Here, to keep his love fixed and to bring her closer, he wants the stars to move based on his location. While this is clearly just a wish, the speaker is beginning to wear down, giving up his fight to manipulate nature to fit his own desire. Later in the section, he realizes his “desire’s inflexibility” and the world’s rigidity. It seems the two will always be at odds, and the poet constantly in a struggle to find new ways to think of the world, to find himself without redundancy, and man constantly fiddling with the time on the clock.

Fun Fact: Nate Pritts is the founding editor of H_NGM_N, an online journal and book series.

from Poetry Foundation

by Justin Taylor - A Dog Days Reading List

Nobody knows exactly how many books of poetry are published in the United States every year, but Maggie Balistreri is in a better position to know than most. Balistreri is a librarian at Poets House in New York City, a library and literary center founded in 1985 by the poet Stanley Kunitz and administrator Elizabeth Kray that focuses its collection exclusively on poetry books and poetry-related texts. Part of Balistreri’s job involves organizing the Poets House Showcase, a free annual exhibit that attempts to collect and display everything poetry-relevant published in a given year. Based on her work on several Showcases, she offered me a “best guess” of 2,100 books of or about poetry published per annum.

Now, keep in mind that this figure is a minimum, an at least.

For even the most dedicated, voracious reader of poetry—with unlimited time and funds—the feat of keeping up with it all is not so much Herculean as it is Sisyphean. Moreover, to even attempt the task would require adopting a reading practice based on sheer rapidity of consumption—a mode of reading totally antithetical to the values and desires that make us love poetry in the first place. When you start reading poetry in the same way that you read, say, a Twitter feed, whatever victory you achieve in terms of volume is going to be offset by a loss of depth, understanding, and probably pleasure too. At this point, the most relevant Greek won’t be Hercules or Sisyphus, but Pyrrhus.

Now that we’ve diagnosed our problem—and, in so doing, thoroughly bummed ourselves out—I’d like to offer a partial solution. I want to tell you about five books of poetry. That’s .0238 percent of the year’s output. Each one was published by a small or micro press during the last 12 months. Some were sent (or handed) to me by the publisher or the author, while others were purchased on recommendation or else pure whim. This survey is not meant to be authoritative, representative, or in any sense objective. These are just a handful of great books that I suspect you have not had the chance to see for yourself—whose authors and publishers you may not in fact even have ever heard of before reading this. But for the grace of serendipity, I might have just as easily missed out on them myself.

Call this, if you will, the gift of Sisyphus.

The Wonderfull Yeare (a shepherd’s calendar) by Nate Pritts
Cooper Dillon Books, San Diego; fall 2009

Each section of Nate Pritts’s slender, meditative cycle draws its form from a season—the long-lined poems of “Endless Summer” are laid out sideways, for instance, so you have to rotate the book to read them. The haiku-sized numbered sections in “Winter Constellations” accumulate like snowflakes gathering toward the fullness of a snow. Though thoroughly bucolic, nature is neither lamented nor venerated in The Wonderfull Yeare—it just is. Pritts’s world is rich, vivid, intimate, and somewhat troubled. Turmoil between an “I” and a “you” is evoked and alluded to, but never fully detailed. When the speaker addresses “you” as “Darling” in the “Spring Psalter” section, you can feel the warmth of two people sharing a small space. Later, in the summer, when “you lied to me under the stars,” we understand that the pronoun refers to the same person, but we also suspect that she’s not there. The direct address seems to have decayed to a conceit—he’s talking only to himself now, or to us, and we can’t help but hope she will return before the snows come again.

Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino
Sarabande Books, Louisville, Kentucky; late 2009

“These poems do not describe, or pretend to private information about, actual persons,” Petrosino warns us in the front matter. She’s wise to disclaim. “Fort Red Border” is an anagram

A word spelled out by rearranging the letters of another word; for example, “The teacher gapes at the mounds of exam pages lying before her.”

for “Robert Redford,” and a man called “Redford” stars, as the poet’s lover, in the titular first sequence of the collection. This sounds like a jokey premise, but there’s no stink of the gimmick about these poems. Petrosino’s lines are blades; her images possess the eerie über-clarity of dreams. As narratives, these poems outmatch much of the recent crop of “flash fiction” currently in vogue on the prose side of the literary aisle. (As if to drive this point home, a handful of the poems are in unlineated paragraphs.) There’s a lot to admire about these poems, but perhaps my favorite thing is their emotional complexity, which is perhaps to say “sophistication,” but not to say “seriousness.” Nobody names a poem “Secret Ninja” or “Mustang Bagel” for any reason other than to invite your guffaw, but Petrosino does funny with the same verve and ease she brings to angry, sexy, smart, and—one imagines—anything else she feels like doing or being. Her world is an exhilarating, refreshing place to be.

Sum of Every Lost Ship by Allison Titus
Cleveland State University Poetry Center; winter 2010

“Snow and after, each bidding / and restlessness turns the goat’s heart / fallow: long hours of ice and bluster: / asymmetry of wind.” So begins “Inclement,” a poem that seems to me to adequately represent the emotional weather of this lonely, bracing book. Titus’s poems are wintry catalogs of the ruined and missing—a former automotive plant, a dead-letter office, “Instructions from the Narwhal,” patron saints of the most obscure things imaginable (“the larvae in its wooden chamber”; “the wheelchair’s rusty pedal”), and several motels. A section in the middle, “From the Lost Diary of Anna Anderson,” explores the inner life of a woman best known for claiming to be the lost Duchess Anastasia of Russia. Though she had many supporters, her claims were never verified during her life, and were in fact disproved some time after she died—in the United States in 1984, at age 87—but Titus’s interest pre-dates all of this trivia. The diary is set in Berlin in 1920, when Anderson was confined at Elisabeth Hospital after a failed attempt to drown herself in a river. At the time she was known solely as Fräulein Unbekannt, which translates to “Miss Unknown.”

The Drunk Sonnets by Daniel Bailey
Magic Helicopter Press, Northampton, Massachusetts; late 2009

Daniel Bailey is this kid—not quite 26—who had one of those great-slash-stupid ideas that’s just perfect for the Internet: (1) write sonnets

A 14-line poem with a variable rhyme scheme originating in Italy and brought to England by Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, earl of Surrey in the 16th century. Literally a “little song,” . . .

exclusively while drunk, and (2) post them on a blog. The Drunk Sonnets remains available free and complete at, but I think it’s worth owning on paper. In fact, I’ve known about Bailey’s blog more or less since it was launched back in early 2008, but have never enjoyed his work half so much in its Web form as I have in this pale blue book, small enough to fit almost comfortably in the pocket of almost any jacket or pair of jeans, and therefore perfect waiting-for-my-train reading after a great hard night on the town. The poems are concerned with subjects ranging from the vicissitudes of love to how messed up the world is to how wasted the author is, which is to say that they swervingly plow that oversharing, oversincere land that is the sharecrop acreage of all world-class drunks. The sparingly punctuated poems are frequently hilarious—never more than when they attempt to declaim wisdom. “HAPPINESS IS A LIZARD IN THE SUNLIGHT GETTING WARM / AND THEN IN THE NIGHT BENEATH A ROCK EATING FLIES / AND SWALLOWING THE MEAT OF THE TRASH OF THE DIRT,” Bailey writes in “Drunk Sonnet 14.” I’m not sure this fits on a fortune cookie, but it is beautiful. Oh, also, you might have noticed that the quote is in all-caps, the universally understood Internet equivalent of shouting at the person you are talking to. The entire book is in all-caps, and this extra tweak of affect might be reasonably understood as obnoxious, but you’d do better to regard it as an extension of the main theme. The guy at the end of the bar is a shouter, after all; how else will he hear himself over the jukebox?

Mean Free Path by Ben Lerner
Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, Washington; spring 2010

This is the odd book out on my list, inasmuch as Copper Canyon is the largest of the small presses under consideration here, and Mean Free Path is the one title I can reasonably assume you’ll hear about on your own. Lerner’s first book, The Lichtenberg Figures, won the Hayden Carruth award in 2003; his second book, Angle of Yaw, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2006. Nonetheless, I can think of no other way to conclude this roundup than with what is sure to be among the best collections published in 2010. The world of Mean Free Path is fragmented and recursive; the poems are scrambled transmissions whose only clear message is their urgency: “Pathos returns with a vengeance and painters / Pull grids apart in grief. Only a master / Only a butcher can unmake sense. The rest of us / Have axes to grind into glass.” The poems are charged with the full force of Lerner’s monumental talent, which begins with the finely chiseled line and extends to the architecture of the book entire. Images and phrases suddenly break off, disappear, and then later resurface in new contexts, colliding with or collapsing into one another, recombining to make themselves and the whole world new again, albeit through a process that bears an uncanny (and unsettling) resemblance to endlessly flipping through TV channels in the deep ditch of insomniac night.

Friday, April 16, 2010

from InDigest

What We're Reading:

Brad Liening:

I just recently finished The Wonderfull Yeare by Nate Pritts. I’ve been a Nate Pritts appreciator for years now: his sensibility and aesthetic are marked by wide dynamics and big emotions. He writes about other planets and heartbreak and joy in no uncertain terms, just look at the titles of his two previous full-length collections: Sensational Spectacular and Honorary Astronaut. Exclamation points abound. But when you traffic in such wild inclusivity, where do you go next? How do you surprise? Pritts delivers maybe his best book yet by going smaller. The poems in The Wonderfull Yeare (a shepherd’s calender is the subtitle) are sonnets and pastorals, broken and reconstitued, just like the speaker of these poems. We have a four-season cycle of heartbreak, loss, and perseverance. The overall narrative is hard to make out, is barely glimpsed as is shifts and morphs like light patterns through leaves. But the emotional narrative and journey is loud by being quiet, and it packs a wallop.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

from 360 Main Street

by Emily Hendren. Found here ::

The Wonderfull Yeare: a shepherd's calendar
Nate Pritts
Cooper Dillon Books, 2010
Review by Emily Hendren

Nate Pritts presents his third full-length collection of poems, The Wonderfull Yeare: a shepherd's calendar, with romantic reverence and unconventional, effective language and structure. He asks his reader to question what is and is not, to explore the duality of substance and existence (and non-existence), and to search for reason among doubts of time and space, love and purpose, and fact and fiction. With meaningful words repeated and cast in circles, Pritts becomes an artist of storytelling and invites anyone who will venture on a journey through The Wonderfull Yeare.

Spring Psalter

The first of four seasonal sections opens with exalt and declarations of devotion befitting the section's title, Spring Psalter. The book introduces themes that trace the seasons, nature, love, and the inevitable—beautiful and torturous—passing of time. Arguably the most conventionally structured section, Spring Psalter invokes romantic language, stylistic mechanics, and repetition to begin the story. In the first poem, "Tulips—An invocation," Pritts uses both first and second person in simple present tense to suggest an immediateness and to connect the reader to the action. The lines "Rains come" and "A flimsy curtain separates" draw the reader into the moment as a participant in the scene rather than a distant observer.

Pritts also uses language to add a romantic sensibility to the text. Lines like "Darling, I leave you the forever unblooming ..." and "you: graceful passage from one something to the next" from the section's second poem, "Spring Psalter" (the section title’s namesake), build a sense of softness in the work and tenderness in the narrator. The reader is able to partake in the narrator's romanticism and may relate to notions of feeling a part of a larger whole. Pritts also uses his word choice to draw a parallel between the narrator's romantic love and Nature. The cooing line "Darling, darling, darling:" of the poem continues not with the expected, traditional declaration of love, but with "my voice is a branch," a line that models Pritts's quality of natural believability in his tone and voice. He is able to make the harsh unharsh, the untender tender because the narrator speaks with confidence, and in response the reader believes the unexpected turn in the line.

One of the most noticeable characteristics of the first section of poems is the crafted repetition of words and phrases, a technique the reader later sees carried throughout the rest of the book. Pritts's use of repetition becomes a mirror to the cyclicality of the seasons and human life, and adds a songlike quality to the poems, which seem to have verse and chorus. The closing line of the sixteen-page poem "Spring Psalter" reads: "But like a song, compelling, compulsive: / one more time, please, with feeling." In addition to the poems' musicality, lines that were originally statements reemerge as questions, suggesting the natural human tendency to doubt and creating a frenzy of deconstructed, pantoum-like poems. Even lines from separate poems repeat themselves within each other, so that by the end of several pages the reader asks if "hush and whiffs" were describing the voice or the dusk or the light. Yes.

Pritts also repeats lines that convey a state of being rather than specific imagery, offering the reader the freedom to interpret each line's subtleties. While a line like "I will be a long time in the air & a longer time away" does not give the reader a solid image to grasp, it provides, nevertheless, a beautiful suggestion to ponder. The very nature of Pritts's language parallels many of his lines' inquiries and invites the reader to ask questions in response.

Endless Summer

The second section, Endless Summer, furthers the feel of songlike repetition, but in a much more carefree, stream-of-consciousness sensibility. The brusque language, the missing punctuation, the enjambment and spacing of words and lines, and the poems' sideways-facing direction introduce the reader to the whirlwind that is love, lies and loss; the passage of time; and endless nostalgia. The romantic, academic tone of Spring Psalter is replaced by a narrative voice that manages to call himself a "fuck-up" eight times in one poem yet still remains endearing, if not tender. The juxtaposition of the narrator's self-flagellation with lines like "the light from stars moved so slowly & you moved off / forever" and "when I see you the trees will cluster green rage green trees raging / with love endless love & I'll never see you again" gives the poem a human quality; people—especially those in love—act in circles of emotion, often simultaneously demonstrating flaw and beauty, swearing while describing a star-filled sky.

(Sonnets for the Fall)

As he does throughout the first two sections, Pritts asks his reader to speculate the unspeculated; he asks his audience to imagine the season of dying and finality as a starting place for life. Not unsurprisingly, the poems in this section overflow with purposeful repetition and simple, beautiful lines. The section begins: "I want this to be the season / of distractions: waking up / I'm lost to myself breathing / & there's one less leaf in me." Like Endless Summer, this section lacks punctuation and lets words and lines flow closer to and away from one another.

As the title would suggest, the poems in the third chapter are sonnets—loosely. At first glance, none of the fourteen poems appears to be sonnets (perhaps why the title of this section is in parentheses), but with a closer look, the reader discovers that themes traditionally found in sonnets (time, love, and beauty) scatter the pages of this section. The reader also discovers that all but two (sonnets XI and XIV) follow the standard fourteen-line rule—though these poems avoid the traditional sonnet shape and structure, and almost all forms of rhyme or conventional rhythm.

Leaving behind traditional sonnet structure, Pritts employs his own tactics to draw in the reader and show the versatility of language. Lines four and five of sonnet IX demonstrate how a simple addition shifts the meaning and attention of the line: "chill in the air & it's making me / chill in the air & what it's making me." The final two lines of the same sonnet repeat each other exactly, a return to the final Shakespearean rhyming couplet and a gesture that suggests coupling as a theme of the overall poem: "& me & you naming everything / & me & you naming everything." Pritts again repeats the same line twice in a row in sonnets X and XI, heightening the cyclical characteristic of the already repetitive poems.

Winter Constellations

The fourth and final chapter of poems returns to a structure more similar to the poems of Spring Psalter. The lines of this section's work, while much shorter and broken into subcategories, remind the reader of the first section of poems with its punctuation, accented line breaks, and capitalization. Pritts also returns to the theme of smallness amid larger "somethings" when he states in the opening poem, "& then afterward," "We don't matter a bit," triggering bells of recognition of lines past describing the narrator's feeling as part of a larger whole.

The fourth section of poems also makes a return to happier days of love, times that seemed bleak through bouts of loneliness and lies in the middle sections of the book. Pritts takes the reader through the moments of coupled bliss and the inevitable sour times that follow, stating: "Our arms laced together / pointing together / over wind-tossed grasses," "Together in that first sun / so vivid," and "The stars are close; we try to hold together. / All this ends." As the journey of seasons unfolds its beauty and cruelties, so too do the strands of romance and relationships.

The book closes with poems that remain consistent with the repetitive, storytelling style, but with a bolder tone and much clearer imagery. The poem "morning, noon & night" captures the memory of a woman's life and characteristics in beautiful snapshots, declaring: "Her fingers in the air, on my chest, in the air," "I see birds cutting / through the air, see the air they’ve sliced through," and "Through clouds, I see sun / & my chest empties. / Her fingers soar through / & my chest empties." The imagery throughout the lines of the final section grounds the book's circles of language and reminds the reader that every story has a subject, and the subjects of this story are loss, woman, Nature, shepherd, man.

Nate Pritts will read at Court Street Gallery's Last Friday event on March 26th with Matthew Falk and Matt Hart. The event starts at 7 p.m. with music by Mike Galbraith. Cost is $3.00. For more information on Court Street Gallery's Last Friday event, visit

© Emily Hendren, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

from Unsplendid 3.1

part of Douglas Basford's preface to the issue, found in full here:

Nate Pritts's new book The Wonderfull Yeare may well involve tilting of the head back to unleash a torrent of sound, as we find towards the end of Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,

It became clear that it would be between an eighth and a quarter mile away; and this became remarkable to us because at that considerable distance we could nevertheless hear, or rather by some equivalent to radioactivity strongly feel, the motions and tensions of the throat and body, the very tilt of the head, that discharged it.

But it is not a sound that one would hear except when you hear a person muttering to himself, cursing himself for past shortcomings and bad decisions. The title comes from the Thomas Dekker masterpiece of 1603, a part-prose, part-verse chronicle of the plague in England, beginning with a tender portrait of the queen succumbing. Like Dryden's more famous Annus Mirabilis sixty years later, the title is the quintessential rosy-colored glasses: it's a year of miracles because things could have been worse.

The recursiveness of language in "Endless Summer" builds a stifling momentum, as in the second quatrain here (lines long enough to require turning the text 90 degrees clockwise, just for this poem):

endless & I said things like "If I ever see you again"
but I'll never see you again I never saw you again I made sure of that
& I circled the lake I went in circles the lake was endless it was
summer I fucked up too much time & I never saw you again & I

And here is a segment of the first of the "sonnets for fall":

& the whole world brand new again
& me & you naming everything

in an attempt
at an original relation

but I just can’t see myself
in me

Even though there is a time-worn tradition of punning on fall and The Fall, I find in Pritts great possibilities for the development of the lyric poem and of the sonnet as a record not of seductive progress but self-perpetuating sentiment, language repeating itself to such a degree not that it abrades meaning but that it instead leaves an abrasion that constantly reminds you of its presence, like a patch of scraped skin. Pritts is not afraid of the expressive, nor of what might appear to be embarrassing. In this way, he reminds me a great deal of Aaron Kunin (see The Sore Throat and others, being his binary hand alphabet "translations" of Maeterlinck and Pound, which thrive on Silvan Tompkins's identification of shame as the most visibly uncommunicative—and hence repetitive—of the emotions). Kunin might say, "I can say 'I' with more quotation marks around it than anyone on the planet," but together I think it's fair to say that Kunin and Pritts are the closest to the raw spirit of the Renaissance of most poets writing today. I say this with all admiration, not because they seem to be able to work back to a time before what Eliot—erroneously or not—called the "dissociation of sensibility" ended the Metaphysicals' rein. No, that distinction comes instead, I think, from the sheer risk involved in opening oneself and one's feelings to extinction.

This is where Pritts's best line of the book resounds: "Everything anticipates. My love." The semiotic and hermeneutic possibilities here are very 17th-century, as is the self-exposure. The ungrammatical breakage of the sentence into two fragments leaning against each other for support emphasizes the precedence of "everything," a kind of Wittgensteinian play on language predating the self? "Anticipate," it should be remarked, originally meant to take possession of. It is not merely that everything presages and prepares for the speaker's love, it also takes possession of it almost even before the speaker knows he loves.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

from the YMCA Downtown Writer's Center blog

This Brand New Treasure: Nate Pritts' Wonderfull Yeare
by Jack Davis

Yesterday, in an delicate box, perhaps a hundred years old, I found a copy of a book called The Wonderfull Yeare – A Shepherd’s Calendar by Nate Pritts. I may not have given it a second thought, but it was a book of poems.

And, as I thumbed through the leaves, the poet Pritts took me to another place; one of Chaplinesque nimbleness, dusky form and shadowed structures. Mr. Pritts sculpted golems of transitive vision with pinched flesh on bent knees in quiet prayer. And these prayers cast seed of private virtue and personal need to secluded places warm and moist.

He traced the cracks of reason and mercy with a voice as articulate as his perspective. Some poems, like the “Sonnets for the fall,” left lasting impressions in mourning mud. Nate proclaims that even the thinning light finds cricket sounds, but no leaves.

I must say it was a real pleasure to find this brand new treasure in that delicate old box. As the last several years have left us all on the cusp of some dangerously poor poetry, it is a delight that Nate Pritts has saved us a few pages of real art.

The Wonderfull Yeare by Nate Pritts has found print because it had a choice. Nate is going places, but don’t fool yourself, this book is about where he’s been.

Jack Davis is a DWC student, poet, and all around cool guy