Thursday, December 16, 2010

from The Collagist

-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

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.