National Anthem / Edition 1

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The poems in National Anthem, the fourth collection of poetry from critically-acclaimed poet and critic Kevin Prufer, are finely-studied short films about America in the 21st century. Set in an apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic world that is disturbing because it is uncannily familiar, National Anthem chronicles the aftermath of the failure of imperial vision. Allowing Rome and America to bleed into one another, Prufer masterfully weaves the threads of history into an anthem that is as intimate as it is far-reaching.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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...This powerful collection, Prufer's fourth, is an ongoing elegy for a dark time in American history."—Publishers Weekly

"The America of Prufer's fourth collection is an empire in decline, a medicated landscape ("snow / like little tranquilizers all over the yard") peopled by pilgrims to shopping malls. The book opens with a panoramic vision of the aftermath of apocalypse—"expired" cars, silenced TVs, coffins "unmoored and happy with the storm"—but ends intimately, with a child's memory of his first encounter with death; the thin wire between political failure and personal grief runs taut throughout. In the eerie centerpiece poem, the suburbs are sealed under an enormous parachute, its nylon shimmering; icicles line the seams and crash into the streets, and the narrator walks for days, never finding the edge."—New Yorker

*Verdict:* This book is dedicated to the poet's father and traces, movingly, that tenuous connection. Recommended for contemporary poetry collections. *Background:* The author of four books of poetry (e.g., *Fallen from a Chariot*) and coeditor of the important anthology *New European Poets*, Prufer here continues to grapple with human suffering, smudging the border between real and surreal in a kind of imagined poetry of witness: two strangers comb a ravaged war site in search of food, a man who personifies the American West sleeps on a raft, Caesars fill the hospital beds. In the title poem, the speaker waits in a parking lot while his companion finishes shopping: "What was the body but a vessel, and what was the store but another,/ larger vessel?" Often, things are inside of other things: a body inside a car trunk or a man beneath a spread parachute that covers an entire neighborhood. At the core is a boy's fear of the unknown: "My brother cried at dinner when he learned/ one day he would die. I picked at my food/ and wanted to be a chip on the wall/ or a spot that would not wash away."—Ellen Kaufman, Dewey & LeBoeuf Law Lib., New York, Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781884800832
  • Publisher: Four Way Books
  • Publication date: 4/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,335,050
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

KEVIN PRUFER is the author of Fallen from a Chariot, The Finger Bone, and Strange Wood. He is the editor of PLEIADES: A Journal of New Writing. He is the recipient of an individual fellowship from the NEA, three Pushcart Prizes, and two George Bogin Awards from the Poetry Society of America. He is on the board of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC). He lives in rural Missouri. 

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