from The New York Times, "10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014"
A gothic extravaganza featuring alligators, avalanches and medical devices left inside bodies, delivered largely in long, musical free verse lines. Poetry at full boil, poured with deliberate abandon. —David Orr
from Publishers Weekly...
Prufer (In a Beautiful Country) suffuses a landscape of strange, near-apocalyptic Americana with off-kilter religiosity and consciousness of mortality, featuring statesmen, children, lovers, a dying father, and the scepter-like presence of a young daughter. "Then the sun came up and all around there was nothing but garbage," Prufer writes. "In the flu-infected city/ the schoolchildren sleep/ while overhead, the lead-inflected/ sky begins to weep." Strangeness abounds, where surgeons leave instruments inside patients' bodies, birds of prey feed on fishermen, and childhood experience morphs into surreal memory. "There ought to be a word/ that suggests/ how we're balanced at the very tip of history/ and behind us/ everything speeds irretrievably away," he says, and it's this sense of ever-revised and ever-so-distorted historicity that gives these poems the tenor of a fable or story passed down generations: "In those days, you could leave your child at the city's edge for the wolves... Here are your pills... three little bugs in a paper cup." Through the backward glancing, Prufer uncannily circles to the present, letting it recede to make way for an alarming future: "All night long/ I watched the tracers fall... so I could see/ the Tetons' row of jagged teeth,/ the Great Lakes winking/ like mirror shards/ or fields of Kansas wheat,/ lustrous in the magnesium glare."
from New Books in Poetry...
Churches is a collection that dazzles with sound and macabre landscapes where anything is possible . . . Prufer is a poet that you can trust with your mind. He may bring you to the reaches of subjective reality but you always return somehow more whole and with a greater understanding of the human conditions of suffering, grief, love, and fear. [Click for the review and accompanying interview.] —Jennifer Fitzgerald
from Library Journal...
Multiple Pushcart Prize winner Prufer creates stunning scenarios that observe the world from surprising angles. An avalanche victim imagines skiers overhead, a hospitalized father makes churches out of hand gestures, a train porter dying in the heat of a bomb blast recalls a baby son dying of fever. As if to clarify that perspective matters, Prufer pens this lovely line: “How darkness makes beautiful the same fire daylight ignores."
The poems in Churches are composed of materials that, in lesser hands, could become prescriptive and moralizing. But what makes these poems so ephemeral and tough is the way Prufer lets his stories and subjects speak for themselves, eluding any attempt we might make to reduce them to their constituent parts. In their lack of finite meaning we are left to make those meanings and morals for ourselves; these poems mirror a world wherein the concrete particulars of the drama are clear but the overall purpose is not. It would be a mistake, of course, to view Churches as a mere instructional manual for writing effectively about the events of the modern world. It is, at its core, a work of art, and the skill and technical subtlety that build that work of art are immense and deeply satisfying. It sidesteps completely the question of relevance, offering an irrefutable answer in its place. [Click for the complete review] —Jeremy Bass
from Kenyon Review Online...
I’ve got a stack of about fifty new books of poetry on my desk, too. Among the riches, I might single out Kevin Prufer’s Churches for its polyphonic capabilities in the personal and the political. His rigors aren’t showy or merely technical but are embedded in the difficult social narratives he tells. —David Baker
from Cafe Review...
Many of the poems in Churches, by Kevin Prufer, are full of fire, smoke, and broken glass. Their speakers often find themselves in a world figured as a womb of violence, forced to face—without the solace of religious abstraction, and often under the harshest of conditions—human mortality. Out of these wombs is born, for the reader, a necessity to contemplate the role of faith in our attempts to survive and understand the harm done to us by circumstances, or by others, but also to consider that the harms we suffer are often of our own doing. These poems frequently illustrate the failure of the coping mechanisms that we have come to rely upon in a post-Nietzschean world where religious faith is either absent, or, even worse, destructive. [Read the full review] —Christopher Hornbacker
from Ostrich Review
A beautiful, lyrical, exploded reality . . . . Dazzling yet terrifying. —Rachel Rinehart
from American Microreviews
Kevin Prufer’s sixth book, Churches, weaves narratives past and present into graceful, sprawling poems. —Daniel Heffner [Read the full review]