Friday, September 14, 2012

from The Lit Pub

I Feel A Song Coming On

09/12/12 by Joe Milazzo
Since this isn't a review, I think its OK for me to tell you some things about myself, not that I will reveal much. That is, if everything should work out, I won't be hiding or pretending, but I won't be telling you anything more than Nate Pritts, who names himself here and there in his book, is telling us anything about himself. Besides, what are we beyond what happens to us? Is there a child born in these pages? A marriage allowed to spoil, then molder? An abandonment, hitchhikes into irresponsibility? Bad faith and friendships broken by the blunt ax-edge of passing time? Sure; maybe. And this is one of the reasons why I want you to read Big Bright Sun, so you too can squint into the realizations that stream out, center and edge, from these poems.

They sing, the poems in Big Bright Sun, and they sing in such a way that you might imagine someone singing along. Rising and falling in them all feathery with soft blacks, withdrawn, a Cure fan and true believer in operatic Disintegration mope. Only occasionally slipping hits of Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me ecstasy, even though those indulgences aren't easy to admit to, much less confess. There are exclamation marks blossoming everywhere in Big Bright Sun, and affirmations embracing their own vulnerability. I never doubt this person, or his voice, even in its "awesome!"-ness, or take his excitements for ironies. This is delight, being absolved from cringing at escape pods and deflector shields borrowed from Star Wars and lines like these:
as if the past was something
that just happened yesterday & the future
will be something like a tin saucer landing in your front yard.
I can smile at lines like those and mean it. Which is not to say Big Bright Sun is a book defined by ease. Work has a place in these pages. I mean, I can say that I like Big Bright Sun because, in hoping from, poem to poem, that I will like whatever I read next in its pages, I find in me who is capable of such enjoyment... not untrammeled, certainly not unadulterated, sometimes even ragged and wraith-like, but nevertheless a person who can admit "I can."

So, yes, there's happiness in the book, but much of the time, that happiness assumes the form of some haunting. Is happiness really just an intense desire to be happy? Could it be that happiness has an accomplice in nostalgia, that longing for moods that were once more intense, that broken if healing recall not of any specific feeling, but the capacity to feel at all? One poem in Big Bright Sun is entitled "Monday, Monday", and cycles, line by line, though an entire year of what might be beginnings but speak more in the language of false starts. "Monday, Monday"'s form is a kind of whimsy, but the words themselves are sad, sometimes even desperate. Inside this charm is heartbreak, and you don't even have to crack the former open to find the latter.
I make a sandwich. I drink grape juice. I peel an orange.
Today I am a lute in a window & there is no breeze.
Today I am a window with a lute in it. No breeze.
I am a breeze not blowing: over there: a window, a lute.
I peel an orange. I eat.
Is this a chronicle? What are we peering into? Maybe you can read these as letters, open but one-sided. Or postcards (which hardly anyone remembers), chatty but also somehow abrupt, in the way people who are moving on often must be. The someone singing all over Big Bright Sun is tracking and covering a specific distance, a distance that looks like hope, that weird blend of expectation and endurance. If Big Bright Sun has a refrain, I have to paraphrase it: "This is how far I am from being the person I want to be."

Big Bright Sun is also making notes for a map. A map whose meridians and isotherms and orthogonals all point to how achingly between becoming is. Becoming hurts, but becoming doesn't suck. I mean, becoming is too elastic, too organic — which is maybe another way of saying "necessary" — to bend back on itself to the point where it breaks. Yet there's no way becoming doesn't accelerate as you grow older. The poems here understand so much about aging, and they act out that understanding on our behalf. (There are selves who long pre-date us who believed the sun would not take its radial course unless impelled by sacrifice.)
The sun, for instance, is a big idea.
A big, doomed idea. It burns itself out
trying to keep us happy & warm.
Please realize that this is my goal too [. . .]
Maybe you will weary yourself on Big Bright Sun's endless waning summers, its spectrum of 70's shag carpet colors (oranges and purples), its gardens and aviaries, its transcendent imminences, its incandescence, how pleased these poems can be by their own analogies and tropes, their flourishes, their long sentences staging grand productions crossing line breaks and the gulfs between stanzas on beautiful deus ex machina crescendos of "and " and "&", their reliance on the comforts afforded by the notions that experiences are "things," enumerable, convertible. Me, I'm comfortable with it all keeps me cozy in my awkwardness. And because Big Bright Sun hums and rumbles with so much that is, yes, good, the fan in me will be rooting for the fan in you to make your own big deal of its sounds and its sympathies, throbbing like the high numbers in a pair of good, clamping headphones, or the black light in that room that will always be yours.

So, like this someone calling to us out of Big Bright Sun's pages, let's respond by resetting ourselves in sensation. Doing so is not giving into a siren's song. Rather, its recognizing that some songs are living only for singing along.
I know the flowers will sing in the loud sunlight
& what they sing will sound so right it won't matter if it is.
What are we joining? Since it is no use in injuring ourselves with speculations, let's return to noticing these worlds whose lives don't really need us, for maybe they aren't all that indifferent. Maybe they just propose an attitude that we can't name but, in our trying to describe it, can free us from needing ourselves.

from So & So Magazine

Review of Nate Pritts’ Big Bright Sun (BlazeVox 2010)

Vincent A. Cellucci

    Three things attracted me to Big Bright Sun before reading it: presently I am attracted to all subjects sun and I am also aware of Dr. Pritts’ far-reaching H_NGM_N publishing community.  Thirdly, I do visually judge books, and Marc Brotherton’s “Subvertor” used as cover art with Geoffery Gaztza’s design fuse to make a very flattering form for this collection of poems.  Pritts’ book is a big book too, shining exactly 90 pages of poetry.  There is a safety in this Big Bright Sun that many readers will admire while pleasantly basking in its warmth.  But a subject such as the sun requires a higher poetic SPF for repetition, the idiomatic, and sentiment.  Please indulge me while I make a few sun-as-verse subject investigations and “answer” (as if there is only one sun) in review (you’ll see):

    Why complicate the sun?

    Pritts’ Big Bright Sun is written in a state of admiration and poetic simplicity that the ancient Chinese poets would have lived and lauded.  Don’t get me wrong; it is very American.  You won’t find any Apollo allusions, alliances with Plato’s Forms, or overt astronomical jargon in Pritts’ pages—the most complicated poem on the natural subject being “Phase Study.”  He does contemporize this state with the technological.  The most effective poem to this extent is “Everything is a File”, where Pritts admits: “I’m compiling sunlight.”  The poem ends with one of the most effective images in the entire book: “a directory of sunlight appended to the me/ blinking slowly, like a cursor: Hello, world.”  This is also the poem where these two subjects get blatantly juxtaposed, and the more generous thesis could be created and supported involving society’s transition from a heliocentric to technocentric universe.  If that’s the premise of this volume, BBS needs more poems like “Data Viewing Device” and “Future Shock” and less like “Three Birds” and “So Many Happiness”—although this poem contains a brilliant moment where Pritts identifies the human inability to count the types of happiness as heartbreak “just like flight is the heartbreak of birds.”

    Why complicate verse?

    Pritts established the motif of the lonely astronaut before BBS, projecting the title metaphor of his second book, Honorary Astronaut (Ghost Road Press, 2008), in this collection’s “Black Bear.”  Just as astronauts are the pioneers of space, the poet is the pioneer of language.  The appeal of the idiom makes it attractive but it must be complicated if writers as meaning makers are going to say anything “new to-day” (Emerson quote from BBS epigraph).  Simple repetition (e.g., colors in “Dear Hello” or “Will I see you in September”) causes this BBS to sometimes flicker and potent examples of Pritts relying on idiom can be read in the book’s penultimate poem “Daisy”: “whatever happens to you just happens to you” or “that one plus one is still one/ & do unto others but I just don’t know.”  Just as light contains the spectrum, idiomatic representations must be complicated before they reveal their light; otherwise language dims on idiom like “a fire burns in my heart” (“I would like a bed in the wilderness”). 

    Pritts produces some formal complications in “Monday, Monday” which pairs a date and a weekly line for each month of the calendar year (presumably 2006 to get the dates and Mondays to add up).  The poem also includes some legible cancelled text and blanks.  “Future Shock” is composed of another interesting form, delineating a series of poems from feud fragments.  Pritts has a powerful penchant for series poems (discussed more below) that are intensifying resonances, reminding me of Hayes or Hass. 

    Isn’t truth simple? 

    Pritts’ poetic sensibilities are evident in the titles of his poems.  The [bracket titles] turn titles technological, and repeated titles (i.e., “All my poems”) align poem orbits around BBS.  There is also an open-ended Personism prevalent in this volume; poems like the numerated series EMERGENCY POSTCARD TO YOU are warm attractions.  In earnestness and intent, readers can spot Creeley and New York School sensations.  Mostly the title EMERGENCY POSTCARDS TO YOU and the implications of a revolving Personism in this collection reflect O’Hara, a comparison attributed to Pritts’ poetry before this review.

Differentiating it from O’Hara’s, both ends of Pritts’ Personism are open.  My absolute favorite conceit streaks the various “me(s)” a person embodies.  Here Pritts gets into a subject much larger than even the sun.  Or maybe equal.  Yes.  Let’s say equivalent: the amount of “me(s)” that flare to the surface from our individual cores.  Now that’s an image that reminds me of this cool new video released by NASA.  In “That Me”, Pritts writes: “I’m convinced we step out of ourselves/each moment, splitting off/ to become this me or that [me].”  This review rockets past the stellar ending of “That Me” only to instead preview its complementary poem, “You Machine.”  Here, the lover charges as defibrillator: “& when my heart stops there’s only one machine,/ held tight to my chest, that can restart it.”

    Is it not truth if it is sentimental?

    The brightest failure of the personal could be identified as sentiment.  Sentiment burns in writers.  How much oxygen does the sun’s sentiment require? The quantity for a person? Or a writer— signifivice.  The most sentimental lines conclude the final stanza of BBS’s title poem: “Still hoping for forgiveness/ in the shine of the sun, I’m trying to do right/ by the people I love.”   Trajectory is the tragic flaw of these lines: the open-ended Personism Pritts has been developing slips and digresses to sentiment best reserved for family.  Acting as my own antithesis: there is an appealing sentimental moment in “Can’t Stop the Signal” (a luminous poem where the poet informs the onomatopoeia of “beep”ology) which reads: “I miss myself/ most of all.”  This line is successful sentiment because it reminds readers and writers of something they wrote.  The shade of the line can be observed as disappointing because there isn’t a shining moment in this book that Pritts picks this line and re-informs it with his Personism and “me(s)” conceit. 

    Big Bright Sun’s dedication is to “you.”  I inferred this open-ended Personism applies to one of “me(s)” that I most regularly think of as myself.   I think it’s no dark secret by now that I’m writing about the sun too and I may have taken a less personal approach to this review if the book wasn’t so directly expressed to the Personistic “You.”  BBS has my compliments: Pritts eagerly directs his voice to all sun-worshipers and Big Bright Sun exudes some prolific rays.  Grab your semiconductors. 

Vincent A. Cellucci  wrote An Easy Place / To Die and he is the founder of River Writers, an Exceptional downtown Baton Rouge reading series.  For more info: please visit Vincent. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

from HTMLGiant

Nate Pritts’s Big Bright Sun celebrates witness, of one’s self and the self’s relationship to the world.

All of this is, frankly, // too much. When the bright red fire truck / zips (brightly) by I want to yell, “Here / is your emergency!” The red stop sign / sways gently in the bright wind not working // as usual. Today is still today. Time, / though brighter, passes normally. The difference // is that I can see exactly what I’m doing.

- From “Bright Day”

The speaker wants desperately to be the emergency, raison d’ĂȘtre for the fire truck howling through the streets. He wants to be causal event for the world. Is that personal? Duh. But aren’t we all simultaneously experiencing subjective emergencies, elevating them into global dilemmas?

Melodrama / is when you act like the stakes are higher / than they really are. God! Maybe / if we all pray for the same thing at the same / time then what we want to happen will happen.

Don’t you want to scream?

I do. The problem is there are no outside solutions: firetrucks to put out our problems. This is an argument for a society that seeks simple answers. But it is the us that are in control. We can’t blame the world. We can only take responsibility for how we interact with it. I’ve been told to stand in doorways / during but what about afterward. / Afterward is it ok to come in?

There is excessive celebration in these poems, which accumulates and lends itself to another level of meaning: desperation. To be consistently emphatic about everything (there are a lot of exclamation marks) is a psychological device employed by the self as a coping mechanism. It’s like the old dictum: If you force yourself to smile all the time, you will eventually become a happier person, or, if you want to be a happier person, just surround yourself with happier people. But Poetry Prozac the art is not—

Maybe we should see other people.

Just ten years from now, all this will be the past.
We’ll be so high above everything
in our flying cars & metallic jumpsuits.
We’ll be so hard to reach, no one
will be able to hurt us & there’ll be no disease
so we won’t be able to hurt ourselves.
Doctor, what I’ve been feeling just hangs on.
Give me any stupid reason to stay in bed
& I’ll do it. Don’t tempt me.
You wouldn’t like me when I’m tempted;
I get stuffed so full of desire I’d smash
my whole life just to get at you.

- from “Future Shock”

The world, both for its beauty and emotional spectrum, is overwhelming for the speaker, who is (and excuse me if I’m propagating a cultural myth about poesy) a person with a heightened sense of perception. When the speaker turns toward himself or other people, there is violence. The only way to approach the situation is by mediating past versions of the self and projecting it into a future world. But time is at the centre of presence, and the present is the only tense for being, which is at the core of this meditation. But isn’t a purely positivist version of reality just a lie? Rhetorical question—

Happy Day

This morning as I stepped outside, right
as my tender toe touched the tender ground,

my whimsical but determined theme song kicked up
& since then everything has gone decidedly my way—

no pianos dropped from second floor windows
to knock me flat & give me cartoon-style ivory teeth,

no potted plants dropped one-two-three, bright
white lily then sunny sunflower & finally

the pinkly clustered chrysanthemum, to fall & shatter
upon mine big soft head, birds & stars sprouting from the soil

like ideas scatted & thought better of; no threats,
no menacing, no inconveniences major or minor

dost me befall & so surely this must be the best
of all possible worlds. Honestly, I woke up stupid & sore

afraid thinking of my nil prospects for the future as I stared blank
into the grayscale sun. This is the unhappy world I’ve made,

I thought: no pictures on the wall, nothing but leftovers
in the fridge. I had to think of all the me’s

I’ve shaken hands with & bid farewell to over the years
& I had to wonder what they’re waking up to,

what’s on their living room walls. But
since then, everything has been perfectly fine!

Life is grand! Sensational! Spectacular! Nothing is going
horribly, disastrously, irreparably wrong.

The velocity of Pritt’s verse is unusually ecstatic— ecstatic but not frantic. In addition to his adept ability to surprise with double meanings that often occur through enjambment, his control is apparent in the stanza breaks and the attention paid to the individual line as a single, self-embodied unit. Furthermore, the use of antiquated diction, code switching, the excessiveness of language and repetition, build an artificial optimism that continually breaks down throughout the book. When the language breaks, when the poems become self-reflexive and aware, is where the project and speaker are most honest. The coping mechanism is false. The world is not beautiful all the time. It’s sarcastic. It’s a lie. But by the time we realize it’s a lie, Doctor Pritts got us. It’s not the speaker’s lie, it’s our lie. We totally bought the cake. We ate the whole fucking thing. I feel terrible. I’m so happy, I’m sad.

This book asks all kinds of questions, not about itself or the poet or literature, but what the hell we are doing with our selves. Big Bright Sun is stuffed with all kinds of pomo metatextual, ars poetica, etc… but what is it in service of? That’s the affect. The problem for me is that you can see through what’s happening early on in the book. That’s not necessarily a global problem for the text, as it’s a fulfilling read, but perhaps how I am today as a reader. The entirety of the book is not as necessary as its argument (in its artifice). “Happy Day” appears a third of the way into the book. It’s not that the first third was necessarily empty, but it feels fragmented, like a buildup that disappoints… particularly in comparison with the poem, “Happy Day”… which as a single, one page poem, is a complete work. I may be asking a lot out of books these days, perhaps because I have so many new ones I want to read, but the first 33 pages seem unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, they are filled with moments, pleasures, but aren’t pages I’d come back to read again.

A fire burns in my heart // which is just to the left of where I’m standing, / where I’m wondering, hoping something // I’ve said makes the kind of sense that saves.

There is a series of expectations the speaker hopes to appeal to, but we are constantly discrediting him as he continues questioning his own authority. He is telling us about how troubled he is, an equal trouble to our trouble of trying to sort out his troublemaking. Double trouble.

I realize / what I’m saying makes no sense but I’m saying it. // I’m as troubled by my tone as you are. I’m not sure if I take myself seriously. One thing is certain: I am // not one of those stop signs you speed through! / I am a dangerous intersection; you should use caution when approaching me!

I’m reminded of Chelsey Minnis, who I admire a great deal— or at least the bravado Pritt’s employs when he explores the pathetic fallacy of self determinacy that dislodges all sincerity. The point is not to take the speaker at his word. That puts semantic weight on the poet, not the poem. Is that a problem? Because the speaker can credibly witness the world as an event, can delve into the complicated depths of human emotion, and can construct arguments about the psychological state of American individualism, we are left to wonder why he explicitly and transparently discredits his poet-self as fabrication. We already know the poet (speaker) is not the person. But when we are repeatedly pushed to recall this knowledge, we are pushed out of the poem.

To make the person I write about more interesting / & also complex, I pretend he is a me / who is crazy-sad about a lot of things really. I recommend this to anyone who desires success.

The last line is straight out of the Chelsey Minnis playbook, “If you want to be a successful poet”. Half this book is about questioning the efficiency of the speaker in terms of “success”, both through the work as a meta-device and via the content. The better half explores the fragmented struggle of emotionally coping with the fragmented psychological state of contemporary life. Fortunately, the better half is so good, it’s worth the book (your time). In relation to this book, and maybe a little more, I agree with Werner Herzog, who I quote, “I think psychology and self-reflection is one of the major catastrophes of the twentieth century”. I am much more impressed when the disassociated self no longer takes precedent over the world.

There’s joy all over the streets of today
because my blue eyes can see it
in big smile faces stuck silly on people
going somewhere in cars, traipsing
to anywhere they weren’t at before
which is always always
a much better place

We can hear it in the voices of angels
when they sing it over guitar, over drums, over
over & over: Heaven is whenever,
a time to hold out, not a cloudy destination,
& it’s only their crooning that makes us
believe it.

- from “Big Bright Sun”

and I believe it.


Jake Levine is poetry editor at Spork Press, a director at Summer Literary Seminars, was a Fulbright Scholar, or is a Fulbright Scholar, received his MFA from Arizona in poetry, is the author of a few chapbooks, one of which you can buy from Spork Press. He is currently in and from Tucson, but is about to move to Montreal. He got third place in the Phoenix Zuni Elementary Geography Bee when he was in fifth grade. He used to be Co-Chief of Sonora Review. He made bagels in Lithuania for the first time since the Holocaust and is a big fan of Arizona despite its politics.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

from NewPages

Big Bright Sun

Poetry by Nate Pritts

Review by Dan Magers

When reading the poetry of Nate Pritts, one gets the sense that his drive to write poetry originated from the ecstatic strain of the Beat Generation, namely through the poetry of Philip Whalen and the Ginsberg of “Supermarket in California,” as opposed to the more apocalyptic strain personified by Burroughs and Ginsberg’s “Howl.” This is the strain that has it that all of nature and even some man-made objects are imbued with a holy light and the possibility of transcendence. This is a source of yearning and salvation for Pritts, as he writes in the first poem of his fourth book, Big Bright Sun, “There are literally / hundreds of roses I could pick today // or leave for tomorrow & the evening / of a different year, the purple evening.” In the book, this is especially true of the sun:

What could be wrong? There is right now a big yellow orb
hanging overhead &, no, it won’t fall &, yes,
it is beautiful; everything around you is beautiful. You

is beautiful. You is stunning, shocking the whole world

The sun offers a visible, ever-present demonstration of beauty in the world, and for Pritts, offers clarity, even the possibility of transcendence. The last three lines give us the speaker’s other sense of worldly relief, the “you” of these poems, the beloved who is there (and sometimes not), alternately giving rise to calm and burning desire. The poems work to subsume the mundane instances of life beneath the sun’s radiance. This is a rallying point for Pritts, “I never want to live in a society that forgets // the sun is in the air,” he writes early on.

This is easier said than done, as life has a way of getting in the way of enlightenment. “Suddenly, / you’re waving to everyone you see, / hopping mad when they don’t say hello back.”

The poems continue from their effusive beginnings through tours of quotidian frustration, which also characterize the poems:

All around me the fabric frays, threadbare
& laundered one time too many.
But I read the label so carefully …


My neighbor is hammering
his porch back together which is the inverse
of that endless summer I spent pissing everybody off
& could feel the nails slowly pulling out.

Through these movements between effusion and frustration we start to see how Big Bright Sun operates. The moments describing the sun, the flowers, the beauty of the world—often wedged in the middle of complaint—suggests the idea of mindfulness, or meditation to combat anger and frustration:

I do not feel colorful or round or various.
But it is safe to assume some kind of correspondence
between outer states & inner,
isn’t it?

The poetry will abruptly shift attention from complaint to the beauty of the outside world for moments that yield a sense of meaning, beauty, purpose, and the possibility of transcendence.

Put differently, these are forced moments. Adjectives are tacked on (“the sky is the same brilliant blue / as the sky on any sunny-outside day, a brilliant brilliance”), as if the actual thing cannot be adequately conveyed without them, or that the author does not trust the reader (or himself) to realize their specialness. The idea of “forced moments” is fraught with negative connotations—that work is not organic, or filled with artificial appendages. But Pritts’s use of them is intentional, as someone who practices mindfulness is using it intentionally.

As in real life, the use of mindfulness or meditation often comes at a point of greatest anger or frustration, and often the poems unfold similarly. Unlike certain kinds of anger or rage that have a clarifying or cathartic effect, the anger and frustration in Big Bright Sun is often helpless, and reflects more closely and honestly the life of adulthood. The result can sometimes be jittery and sometimes disconcerting.

Pritts realizes this, and his poems are often filled with humor in these situations, and he adds into some of his poems a sense of the ridiculous and excessively petulant:

...I will go away,

live in a cave & use my own breath as money.
When someone discovers me in my island cave
they will say something like “Loneliness

is expensive,” & I will breathe deep to pay myself back.

A sense of failure looms in these poems, but this is not a book of failure—for what life ever lives up to one’s expectation for it? Instead, Big Bright Sun is very engaged in the trenches of life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

from PANK

Big Bright Sun By Nate Pritts (A Review By Brian Fanelli)

Blaze Vox [books]

100 pages, $16

Nate Pritts begins his fourth collection of poems, Big Bright Sun, with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “But for me the earth is new today, and the sun is raining light.” For Emerson and other transcendentalist writers, nature was a source of relief and comfort, but in Big Bright Sun, the fragmented, juxtaposed images and landscapes, especially the sun as its brightest, are often oppressive and a reminder of fleeting moments and failed relationships.

Pritts’ variety of forms in his fourth collection is impressive. The poems range from fragmented lyrics, to couplets, to journalesque lines, especially in the poetic sequence “Monday, Monday.” Though the book contains several different forms, the poems do have a fairly consistent speaker, a man who frequently ponders lost love and fleeting moments throughout the collection. His turmoil is highlighted best through the sometimes jarring landscapes and images Pritts wove throughout the collection.

One of the most striking strengths of Big Bright Sun is Pritts’ ability to depict a sense of longing for past experiences, and his meditations on failed relationships. However, there are times in the book where Pritts captures the excitement of new love, including in the poem “EMERGENCY POSTCARD TO YOU (1).” The speaker’s lover serves as relief from a ho-hum office job, especially as he thinks about seeing her in the sunlight “of anytime.” But by the poem’s sequel a few dozen pages later entitled “EMERGENCY POSTCARD TO YOU (2),” the speaker has grown impatient, due to the “luxury” of seeing his lover “in the sunlight of anytime/at every single any-given moment of the day.” And by the end of the poem, the speaker is “furious at the leaves skittering around” and waiting for the phone to ring, for a voice to say hello.

There are other poems that also successfully capture the theme of regret and soured relationships, including the longer narrative poem “An Instant in Time.” Similar to other poems in the collection, “An Instant in Time” features a speaker who is stuck on the past, who empties a “glove box of old letters,” who stares at a photograph of an old chair and misses his lover. In the same poem, Pritts uses nature imagery, as he does in other poems, to highlight a relationship gone wrong. July’s heat has “turned stale,” and November’s haze is “stifling.” Tiger lilies are depicted as “burning, lolling orange tongues/streaked yellow, curling & mute.”

There are times when the tone and voice of the collection is a little less self-loathing and unstable and the poet is not afraid to poke fun at himself. In “a three-dimensional person,” the speaker jokes:

To make the person I write about more interesting

& also more complex, I pretend he is a me

who is crazy-sad about a lot of things really.

At times, after reading a slew of poems with unsettling, disjointed images and landscapes reflective of the speaker’s emotional turmoil, I wanted to read more poems like “ a three-dimensional person,” poems with a change in voice and tone that provide some levity to the book.

What Pritts reminds the reader, however, is that there is beauty in ugliness, even in misery, and in everyday, often ignored scenery. He highlights this point best in the poem “Beautiful Nonetheless.” Here, the emphasis is on landscapes not always thought of as beautiful, including “yellow-headed dandelions poking up where they don’t belong” that are labeled “pretty.” Even thorny flowers that make the speaker sneeze, that could well be weeds are also dubbed “beautiful nonetheless.”

Pritts concludes the book with “Big Bright Sun,” a poem that features more fragmented lines and juxtaposed images. But, like Emerson, the speaker hopes to find some salvation in the sunshine, as he confesses, “Still hoping for forgiveness/in the shine of the sun/I’m trying to do right/by the people I love.”

Big Bright Sun successfully showcases Pritts’ ability to write in a variety of forms, while still maintaining a fairly consistent voice and speaker throughout a collection. His images sometimes leave a reader feeling uncomfortable or unsettled, but they serve well in capturing his speaker’s shifting and often unstable state of mind.

Brian Fanelli is the author of the chapbook Front Man. His poetry has also been published by a number of journals and websites, including Young American Poets, Chiron Review, Word Riot, Boston Literary Magazine, Breadcrumb Scabs, Indigo Rising Magazine, and Blood Lotus. His work is also forthcoming in the Pennsylvania Literary Journal. Visit him at

Sunday, May 29, 2011

from The Joe Milford Poetry Show

90 minute interview & reading segment on The Joe Milford Poetry Show, 5/28/2011, focusing on Big Bright Sun & new work from Sweet Nothing & beyond.