Right Now More Than Ever by Nate Pritts
H_ngm_n Bks, 2013; 91 pp
Reviewed by Mark Allen Jenkins
Nate Pritts’s poetry regularly exhibits an overwhelmingly positive take on his experiences, something absent from most contemporary poetry. They’re not greeting card company surface level reactions, but are instead grounded in contentment. In his most recent collection, Right Now More Than Ever, his poems playfully long for meaningful engagement in the world around him.
Many poems in this collection use non sequiturs (“Not Blocking the Exploding” “Frost at Midmorning”) and surrealism (“Welcome to Paradox” “Ghost Officer” “There has Always Been a Great Darkness”) to add language level playfulness. Some even use a mixture of both. For example, “Life is but a trigger” begins “Engagement Protocol,” “so what happens/ happens in the roots// or happens in the air” and considers life’s binaries: “You amplify every moment/ make it colossal/ make it as small as it really is.” The poem ends with “friendship & loneliness/ are my favorite two colors.”
Initially, “Feelings, Associated,” is a descendant of Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” as it instructs readers to “Tell me where I’m going when I rocket//this Syracuse into shimmering Poem, when I bracket/ your You with my Me, take in the Cincinnati// with a big heaving breath.” This use of city names to evoke both places without trying to capture the essence of either through historical landmark, event, or even person sidesteps the traditional use of place is a creative leap. Does it matter if a reader knows much about either city? Not really. These place names, then, allow readers to insert their own Syracuse or Cincinnati. The soon poem shifts to ars poetica: “Pour the colored chemicals in a vat & see what blows./ Chart the dark from one galactic suicide to the next.// What are these words worth?“ This poem’s speaker is exploding with enthusiasm, which readily transfers to Pritts’s readers as well.