In a Beautiful Country

 

Advance word from Library Journal
Pleiades editor-at-large Kevin Prufer nails our sense of loss in a nation numbed by mall sprawl and horror movies, even as the military builds up and up.

Advance word from Publishers Weekly
Death or violence occurs in nearly every poem in Prufer's latest, enabling and sometimes forcing the poet to locate what is beautiful in what is otherwise tragic. "You were burning so thoughtfully in the field," he writes in "The Failure of Parents to Survive Their Children," "like a horse who,/ running from a flaming barn…sets the grass afire/ as he passes through it." Prufer proves himself a master at maintaining an emotional distance from his images--"he is far away, and, anyway, this is only a dead girl"--that renders them as stark as they are gorgeous. Though Prufer, on rare occasions, can be so clinical with an image that it feels like little more than "a picture in a book," the timing and precision of his lineation and enjambment keep each of the book's four-poem sequences operating at a pitch that is always crisp. By peppering traditional and formal verse throughout--rhymed sonnets, artes poeticae, love poems, an elegy--Prufer attempts to locate a form and a place for violence within the history of poetry, the effect of which is most moving when this violence is woven into a strand that is personal, political, and so close one feels one can touch it.

from American Poet: The Journal of the Academy of American Poets…
Kevin Prufer's arresting fifth book examines the possibilities of and for love within a deeply complicated cultural moment. A natural follow up to the themes in his previous collection, National Anthem, the poems of In a Beautiful Country are meditations on one's connection to faith, love, and country— and the loss of all three of these ideals.
    In the poem "To the 20th Century" Prufer personifies the period, ending on a stark note:

    And if it finds no comfort from your visit,
      put a pillow to its mouth, and, so, be done with it.

Poetic tradition is also front and center in the collection; in terms of subject matter, Prufer critiques a romanticized view of art while asserting it as an essential value in our country's history. Also notable is Prufer's skillful use of traditional form; the presence of rhyme, meter, sonnets, and artes poeticae creates a complex and rich collection.

from The Georgia Review
The big question remains: what can poetry do in a degraded world? At the end of the present century, an anthologist may provide the answer, but for now one can only predict that Prufer's unsettling prophecies will have staying power. There is no other contemporary voice quite like his, and I believe that, taken as a whole, Kevin Prufer's prognostic backward gaze may someday prove to have shown us where we were going before we got there.....  —Judith Kitchen

from Field: Contemporary Poetry & Poetics
Kevin Prufer is one of the most vital poets on his generation, saying important things about our culture in fearless, eloquent ways.  —David Walker

from Notre Dame Review
Among the best poets in the USA....

from Rattle
An absolute mesmerizing pleasure to read [...] rich with images at turns beautiful, disturbing, vivid and voluptuous. —Nick DePascal

from Houston Press
Prufer ... daringly writes beautiful verse (sometimes using traditional forms, even rhyme schemes, in this day and age!) about devotion and ugly self-deception, making large claims about our new century, the recently deceased last century, the wars we are waging, and the manipulation of our affections by the mass media and our own government.  —Hank Hancock

from Notre Dame Review
Since Fallen From a Chariot (2005), ... Kevin Prufer has gone on in National Anthem (2008) and the present volume to complete an impressive trilogy of post-9/11 books that demonstrates how a deep vision and an often stunning lyricism need not be incompatible in poetry. Marie Howe spoke of the “courage and compassion” of his poems in National Anthem, adding that his poems “should be read on Fox News and CNN.” The poems in In a Beautiful Country would be too much for either, but his treatment of love and art in the context of contemporary history and the imperatives of moral witness should be read in our hearts. Prufer is an absolutely necessary poet.

from California Journal of Poetics
Kevin Prufer’s fifth collection of poetry, In a Beautiful Country, depicts a startling landscape that is eroded by war, violence, grief, and alienation. Prufer populates this landscape with a variety of voices–a merciless God, a grieving son, a war veteran, and speakers alternately buried alive and witnessing decay. The wide vocal and thematic scope of this collection speak to Prufer’s breadth of vision, something he addresses directly in the poem “Distant Strangers” when he urges the reader, “Take a catalog, if you’d like, / though the color reproductions / can’t quite capture / the scope of my enormous project.” The enormity of his project does not startle the reader as much as the moments when Prufer transforms familiar images into unsettling starkness. In his country of charred trees, falling angels, missiles and bombs, and perpetual snowstorms, “boys idle in pick-ups / while a spring rain dots their windshields / with a million tiny bombs.” Over the course of the book, the poems themselves become the angels that “crashed through the trees, / so the yard was a scatter / of bent, failing bodies.” —M. Zobel

from The Bloomsbury Review
Kevin Prufer is one of our best poets from the younger generation who still believe in the pure power of the lyric, the rhythm, and the force of the voice. His poetry sheers the top off any fancy notions of restless form to reveal simply what is crucial in poetic experiences where language sings off the page. Poems such as “Transparent Cities,” “Little Paper Sacrifice,” and “In a Beautiful Country” speak to an audience who understands what great poetry does. This is one of the best books of 2011: Kevin Prufer’s poems dwell in a world that spins off into many dimensions where writer and reader meet in the magic of poetry.

from Mixer
Prufer shatters images of the loving, darling and angelic, and tosses them like broken shards of glass to be crushed under the feet of their traditional definitions.  —Allison Harden Moen

 

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