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 Rising and falling in them all feathery with soft blacks, withdrawn, a Cure fan and true believer in operatic Disintegration mope.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.