Thursday, December 16, 2010

from The Collagist

http://www.dzancbooks.org/the-collagist/2010/12/15/big-bright-sun-by-nate-pritts-blazevox.html

-Jeremy Benson


Meanwhile, and in turn, Nate Pritts, Hart’s collaborator on the chapbook, "FEELINGS, Assoc." and his editor at H_NGM_N BKS, takes his own collection, Big Bright Sun, the way of the Sound of Young America contingent. The New Sincerity of TSOYA and its host Jesse Thorn is characterized by an un-ironic appreciation of all things "totally awesome"—it’s a waste of time to ironically like Chuck Norris because he’s a pretend badass, but you’re encouraged to like him if you’re actually impressed and awed by roundhouse kicks and food-processed protein shakes on Saturday morning infomercials. Whereas Wallace’s New Sincerity focuses on all segments of the feelings chart, TSOYA’s leans toward exuberance and ecstasy. "Our greeting: a double thumbs-up. Our credo: ‘Be More Awesome.’ Our lifestyle: ‘Maximum Fun.’ Throw caution to the wind, friend, and live The New Sincerity," proclaims Jesse Thorn’s "Manifesto for the New Sincerity."

The big bright sun is Pritts's double thumbs-up, an emblem of the positivity that TSOYA so enthusiastically promotes. In "The Existing Situation as It Presently Exists," "There is right now a big yellow orb / hanging overhead &, no, it won’t fall &, yes, / it is beautiful; everything around you is beautiful", "the luxury of seeing you in the sunlight of anytime" ("Emergency Postcard to You (1)" ), or from "Bright Day," "Today is the / brightest day today / could possibly be!", and on and on, at an average of every other poem or so.

On the other hand, though? It is awfully difficult to tell exactly how genuine those suns are, one after another, like a lie told over and again to pressure it toward truth. The doubt creeps underneath "Happy Day," "Life is grand! Sensational! Spectacular! Nothing is going / horribly, disastrously, irreparably wrong." And, at least compared to Hart, Pritts’s speakers are much more aware of themselves (Self-consciousness of all forms also eschewed by the hardcore New Sincerity of Wallace):

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.

But Pritts’s poetry allows the sunshine to be both appreciated and despised. Not so much ironic, but ironically un-ironic, drastically sincere in its duality. See the first lines of "Azalea,"

Someone said azalea
& someone else said lily & I said

don’t make me choose they’re both so
pretty....

And later in the same poem: "I’m not really hungry / or I’m starving, it’s so hard to tell." Pritts’ flip-flopping duality and variability is meant to stand for and evoke a very genuine emotional response: just like Hart’s aloof similes.

Effectively, each writer has repurposed strategies that, in more cynical hands, would be used to disrupt and confuse the delivery of sentiment. By doing so, Hart and Pritts wield their sentiments with a refreshing and clever individuality found only in the most sincere expressions. It’s an attitude, a style—and a movement—that I gratefully welcome.

Monday, November 15, 2010

from JMWW

http://jmwwblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/review-big-bright-sun-by-nate-pritts-reviewed-by-callista-buchen


Big Bright Sun, Nate Pritts’ fourth poetry collection, is full of layered images, the gathering of a world and encounters with it, through all of its turns and slips. Here, the speaker encounters a sometimes oppressively bright landscape. His striking idiom and sense of selfhood, his simultaneous fascination, faith, and distrust in language, his commitment to poetry, and, I think, to a kind of poetic grace, pull us forward along the journey. What sustains, what matters, what is lost and realized, are crucial concerns of Big Bright Sun. The remarkable collection looks to poetry, the self, the sun, and not least of all, to the significance of the words like “hello,” for discovery, warning, and resignation.

Unlike the usual three-section poetry manuscript of the moment, Big Bright Sun is a collection undivided. The poems themselves organize and pace the book, with the weight of everything embedded inside the poems. They don’t require structure imposed by section numbers or titles, but rather move in a way that is organic and satisfying, and allows the pieces to speak to and about each other, drawing and expanding images and themes not just line to line, but poem to poem to poem.

Although the collection lacks explicit structuring, it includes various types or categories of work, like poems that begin with the phrase “All my poems,” the three “EMERGENCY POSTCARD TO YOU” poems, and several poems with bracketed titles. Pritts synthesizes from different chapbooks or other projects effectively. The thoughtful distribution of the pieces provides the reader with touchstones, with moments to breathe and reset or moments of great urgency and speed. This mingling of modes and patterns, even of voices, allows us to see what the sun refuses to hide in shadow, to feel the brightness articulated by the speaker. The arrangement of the poems, the way they become a coherent collection, is a major achievement that allows the book, as well as the individual pieces, to fully resonate.

Through this arrangement, the significance of language and its relationship to action (even inaction or almost-action) and performance, not to mention poetry, is one of the speaker’s central preoccupations. From the beginning, Pritts’ highlights the role of language, unpacking what is inside the words we use and read and write. For instance, in “Dear Hello,” the collection’s opening poem, the speaker considers

there are
isolate flecks everywhere, there is me

talking to you now everywhere
& in my talking is me walking to catch
the bus in the snow or fireflies in pines

or it is evening & the now purple sky
knows I am going to hoard some silence
because I want to throw myself

into some more now (17)

Embodied in the speaker’s talking, in his language, is his action, including its many potential variations, regardless of time and space. Or, perhaps it is only almost-action, the action that simply could’ve been. Talking doesn’t seem restricted to memory or time, or even to recognize them.

The next poem, “For My Mind is in Constant Baffle,” highlights the importance of the sun and explores the communicative nature of organized language, as well as the power of the language to create: “This text depicts love, beauty & thunderbolt. / Is my text your text? Can we say it together / & will the true sounds in it sound true” (18). The speaker urges new recognition of the sun, and urges the reader to understand this impulse, including the way there are things the speaker himself doesn’t understand yet. This isn’t just the speaker’s world or the speaker’s sun. Rather, as he puts it in “I would like a bed in the wilderness,” the speaker is “wondering, hoping something / I’ve said makes the kind of sense that saves” (35). Language offers the possibility of redemption, but only through meaning, which requires something beyond the words themselves. Poems like the brilliant “Foreshadowing” (68) go even further, exploring not only language, but also the nature of personal narratives and how we (mis)read them.

In a similar way, the speaker’s conception and articulation of selfhood runs through the poems of Big Bright Sun. Pritts crafts a remarkable voice, rhythmic and sound-conscious, that also creates a stunningly developed persona with whom the reader connects. Pritts chooses an idiom that is at once relatable and essential, while still refreshingly unique. These poems have both voice and vision, and it is here that the self reaches for the self and for this self (selves) to be understood.

The speaker relies on the negative, on the opposition to the self, to find “how the ‘me’ may be revealed by the ‘not me’” (74). In other poems, the layers or versions of the self, and the distance between them, become clear. For example, “Good Luck!” begins, “Though I’m sitting here hunched over, my innermost self reclines / on my couch about five miles away & between us is roughly // three tons of dark air” (76).

Throughout the book, I’m particularly impressed with the “All my poems” pieces. Scattered across the collection, they offer insight into the making of poems that encounter self, brightness, and destruction. The “All my poems” pieces give the poems themselves a voice, filtered through the speaker, and suggest the kind of intensity the speaker wants (or wants to want) for his language. I think we sometimes try to dismiss writing on writing or poems about poems, but Pritts gets us invested and takes these ars poetica moments further, past or through art into living, into construction and personality and what it takes. My favorite is “All my poems…” (70), which is a hard poem to excerpt since the whole piece is tight and arresting, with the right bravado and humor and craft, each line building the previous. Deceptively simple and far from simplistic, the poem demonstrates Pritts’ mastery of voice and project:

& they order three separate meals,
breakfast, lunch & dinner,
& those poems eat a little from each plate
because they live a whole day
in, like, thirty seconds, man, & these poems
call your girlfriend right in front of you

In Big Bright Sun, the speaker is a “Dangerous Intersection,” the crossroads between versions of the self, between time and truth, experience and memory, between poem and sun and self. But there are lacks, even here, even where so much seems to converge with such speed and intensity. After all, says the speaker, “You can count how many chairs in a room / but not how many happinesses / & that is the heartbreak of humanity” (78). The collection rings with this insight and voice, with lines and forms that live with pain and past and present, “like this now kind of hurts thinking of that now,” like “In Los Angeles they have earthquakes / everyday but you learn to compensate. / You learn to work with what you have” (31). “All of this is, frankly, // too much” (28), says Big Bright Sun, but we must hear it, feel, and be overwhelmed, to witness what won’t stay dark.—Callista Buchen

Thursday, October 28, 2010

from Poetry Foundation

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2010/10/i-am-a-dangerous-intersection/


Criticism
I am a dangerous intersection

Big Bright Sun by Nate Pritts is nothing like a shiny orb that warms the earth. There’s actually a “dystopian tone” to Pritts’ poetry collection, and if the sun had a dark side, this would be it. Pritts’ poems move at a hummingbird clip, but Melissa Broder of the Rumpus doesn’t recommend whizzing through this intersection:

Like in his last book The Wonderfull Yeare, Pritts is a facile layerer of images. We get fake animals, a broken sparkleheart, a lute in a window, and flora galore. Ultimately, though, it’s the cadence of the voice that engages the reader. Slant rhyme, and skillfully enjambed couplets and tercets, are the real shakers.

He writes:

…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!

The jittery hummingbirds of extreme hopefulness shake
their wings right off. My wings have long since shaken off.

Oh to be the site where accidents are bound to happen!

By calling himself a “dangerous intersection,” the speaker questions the relationship between poetic self-awareness and the physicality of living. Big Bright Sun is a textual record of mistakes made and insights gleaned; yet knowledge alone is no catalyst for human transformation. Without action, even epiphany is only information. This is a voice that knows its part in self-destruction, but the brakes are broken.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

from The Rumpus

http://therumpus.net/2010/10/black-hole-sun/

Black Hole Sun

by Melissa Broder


Nate Pritts is a facile layerer of images. We get fake animals, a broken sparkleheart, a lute in a window, and flora galore. Ultimately, though, it’s the cadence of the voice that engages the reader. Slant rhyme, and skillfully enjambed couplets and tercets, are the real shakers.

The only person more dangerous than a dark-hearted man is a dark-hearted man on a sunny day.

There is a dystopian tone to the poems in Nate Pritts’ Big Bright Sun, a Thom Yorke-inflected paranoiac vibration. “…this new century has early // declared there is no truth / in advertising, which means, no, // I do not feel colorful or round or various” he writes in “Sad Tree.”

But it’s not the vertiginous buzz of technology, ads, or even information proliferation that are the oppressive forces in this collection. Rather, it’s the sun weighing heavily on the speaker.

Pritts’ sun functions in a few different ways. It is the teaser of time, more ancient than all of us and bound to outlive our little shenanigans. It is the spinning world, capable of sustaining both nature and the modern inventions of man. And it is the sun itself–beautiful, but cloying when one is melancholy. In “Dangerous Intersection” he writes:

…Bright birds line up

on the bright phone wires by the bright
bright clouds. 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…

In some capacity, saccharine light feeds Pritts’ voice like a solar-powered engine, propelling it forward. But what is synthesized is despair, a sped-up crying. The voice has no time to stop for “and,” employing ampersands instead. “…one bird shoots out, wings arc & flash, / & then, again, from inside, a bird & it’s full of light, // wild in love, angry at earth & then, from the heart” he writes in “Three Birds.”

Like in his last book The Wonderfull Yeare, Pritts is a facile layerer of images. We get fake animals, a broken sparkleheart, a lute in a window, and flora galore. Ultimately, though, it’s the cadence of the voice that engages the reader. Slant rhyme, and skillfully enjambed couplets and tercets, are the real shakers.

He writes:

…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!

The jittery hummingbirds of extreme hopefulness shake
their wings right off. My wings have long since shaken off.

Pritts could have chosen any number of birds to embody the “extreme hopefulness” of youth: a dove, a sparrow, a baby chick. It’s the frenetic energy of the hummingbird that mirrors Pritts’ speaker’s manic melancholia. He has arrived at a place on the flip side of the heart, where velocity remains urgent but optimism is absent.

By calling himself a “dangerous intersection,” the speaker questions the relationship between poetic self-awareness and the physicality of living. Big Bright Sun is a textual record of mistakes made and insights gleaned; yet knowledge alone is no catalyst for human transformation. Without action, even epiphany is only information. This is a voice that knows its part in self-destruction, but the brakes are broken.