cover image National Anthem

National Anthem

Kevin Prufer, . . Four Way, $15.95 (82pp) ISBN 978-1-88480-083-2

Anyone with doubts about the place of politics in poetry should have this book thrust in his hands. Prufer (Fallen from a Chariot ) makes the political personal and the personal political, all in the service of sinuous, moving free verse. He has a rare gift for bringing the inanimate to life on the page. The American West becomes a drifter on a raft, his chest “brown and flecked with hair,” and the title poem begins with a shopping center calling out like a lover. Elsewhere, ancient Rome, its empire in slow, steady decline, is found “curled on a pew, asleep,” a haunting parallel for contemporary America. Poetry—a possible source of salvation?—is a boy locked in a car's trunk, screaming and refusing to die. And there are people in these poems, too: a speaker who writes love notes he describes as “empty and vaguely/ sad.” Dead children, soldiers and those left behind in an evacuation speak and are spoken about. An absurdly large parachute falls over a suburb, and the speaker writes letters to his lover while trying to find his way out from under it. Near the end of the book, Prufer writes, “I don't know what to do/ with the doomed, the chilled over and gone,/ but drink until my fingers become twigs.” This powerful collection, Prufer's fourth, is an ongoing elegy for a dark time in American history(Feb.)