Monday, February 1, 2010

What I'm Reading: Sensational Spectacular

25º and thick strips of clouds, sun sifting through

As some of you may remember, I won a copy of Nate Pritts' first book, Sensational Spectacular, in a Goodreads giveaway. I was unfamiliar with Pritts' work, but with the chance of a free copy, I was willing to throw my name in the hat. I must also admit that I was curious after seeing the promotions for his new book from Cooper Dillon on Facebook. So that's how marketing works! Little did I know there would be 500 or so other names in that hat and only a handful of copies to give away. Woo Hoo.

I've spent the last week or so reading this densely packed adventure. The book occurs in three parts: 1) Secret Origins, 2) Big Crisis, and 3) The Brave & The Bold. Parts 1 and 3 are composed of two short poems per page concerning the speaker and a group of friends, largely identified by a certain color (Red, Blue, Green) unique to each. Each of these small poems is titled with a colon before the first word of the title and after the last word in the title, providing a frame. In the table of contents, the individual small poems are not listed, so these titles are really intended as section breaks in a long poem called "Secret Origins" and another called "The Brave & The Bold." The poems in the middle section are titled normally and are almost entirely about the speaker, minus his friends.

I mentioned that Pritts' poems are slightly outside my comfort zone. They feel very youthful to me, and I do not mean that as a slight in any way. There is humor here, alongside longing and angst, and a definite sense of the conversational, everyday language spoken in plainspeak, but arranged with a whimsy. There is a fascination for hammers & tools, rockets & robots, and all things outer space. As I read, I felt like I was being allowed to overhear the intimate daily thoughts of a man not entirely grounded in the sludge & trudge of this workaday life. It grew on me.

Perhaps the sign of a poet's success is this struggle I feel to write about the poems. They stand for themselves. So, here is the ending of one of the short poems from "Secret Origins," ":Bowled Over:," in which the speaker explains how he and his friends "enjoy competitive games" like bowling and bird watching.

.........................................................My friend

in blue tries to see only blue birds, turning a blind eye

on birds of any other color. His bird watching totals

are staggeringly low. My friend in red counts
anything he sees in the sky as a bird: airplanes,

dandelion pollen, clouds.

And here's one of my favorites in its entirety from the middle section "Big Crisis." Notice the subtle use of sounds, although often askew from traditional placements. You have to read it out loud. (The lines are double spaced in the original.)

Requiem for the End of Time!

Assume there's someone else

pulling my strings, my mouth

opening to say the one thing

that will bring you back to me

but uttering nonsense instead.

Covered with cloud, I'm shaking

as my stupidity grows to silly

proportions. Yesterday morning

I saw the hooded man with the axe, yes,

I was led onto the stage & told to sing

my last. I inhaled & what I inhaled

turned me into a robot, my limbs

clunky & hollow, my chest filled

with gears & pistons where

breathing & love us
ed to be.

I have a glowing faith

that eventually I will leave this all in the past.

I love the way that last line extends longer than the rest, bludgeoning us with that feeling of wanting to move past what has hurt us. I remember studying last lines in a Form & Theory class with Miller Williams and this change in length being one of the closures presented. Pritts uses it quite effectively here.

Support Poetry and Poets: Buy or Borrow this Book Today!
Sensational Spectacular
Nate Pritts
Blaze VOX, 2007


Charlotte Pence said...

Thank you for this post and for the details here about this poet. What an interesting way to structure a book...I'm seeing more of this trend of a poem being on a new page but being part of the earlier page. Now it is interesting to me, but I can tire of a method if it's overused by a lot of poets.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Glad it helped, C.!