In a Beautiful Country

Kevin Prufer. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-1-935-53611-6
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. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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